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Since my first residency in London, I have given interviews and held talks about my work on my climate change book, about a woman who is in a relationship with an abominable snowman. I have been on the entire front page of the newspaper for the first time in my career. Right now, I just have to focus on finishing the book. I am on a plane to London and it feels almost secretive. The second part of my residency is a conference at Free Word Centre for artists and scientists involved in climate change issues.
This morning, I visited Charles Dickens house. He changed the social norms of his time through his sophisticated political prose. After that, I went to Free Word Centre to partake in the event, “Weatherfronts – Climate Change and Stories We Tell”, which is a “Tipping Point” event. Mingling is difficult, especially in a foreign language, but writing has two sides, the inward-looking and the outgoing, which commands the skill of being on a stage. Everyone is accommodating and the room is humming with animated conversations about climate change, a subject few others engage in because it is so depressing. I jot down anything and everything I can use in my book. Chris Rapley, a Professor of Climate Change, says that the climate conflict is basically like an internal conflict that we don’t like to address. Another says, “We burn things to be happy – it feeds of our romantic love to burn fuel, but what if we lost our love?” A researcher remarks, “The meaning of life is to proliferate, and it always has been.”
I have to present something at the conference, which represents sustainability. I have brought a small, unripe apple with me from Denmark. I say that we should get away from regarding isolated objects and begin to see that everything is part of a bigger system. Sustainability is complexity. We eat a vegetarian buffet on compostable plates and I talk to an engineer, who believes that if we don’t extract natural gas from fracking there will be a new economic collapse. Later, while we have cake and coffee, I speak with a sociologist who is researching peoples altered ways of smalltalking about weather. Near the end of the conference, we have all reached a consensus that something must be done. But when I return, I know that over half of the people I associate with on a daily basis would be indifferent to the topic of global warming. Before I leave the conference, I am unable to suppress the question as to whether what we really need is a climate dictator? Not because I really believe in dictators, as there are certainly many disadvantages to dictatorships, but because democracy simply is not optimal with regards to the threat of global warming. As one of the day’s speakers, John Aston said, “The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.”
I visit the James Lovelock exhibition at the Science Museum. When Lovelock’s Gaia theory was announced, it fed the hippy movement’s view of nature to the point of providing a context of religious proportions. That evening, I have my own event at Free Word Centre along with my translator Martin Aikin, who has been translating bits of my upcoming book. Also here, the audience reacts positively to my abominable snowman. It certainly gets these spectators laughing as well.
Then I’m homeward bound, once again on a fire-breathing plane. I will soon be at another residency in Denmark, where it’s all about writing the book. I call my Danish editor because I am afraid that I won’t be able to write a good book. She advises me to view the whole thing as two separate projects. One project is to write the book, the other is to talk about it.
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For the launch of Realistic Utopias – a collection of new writing on our rapidly changing world – we asked Mary Woodbury to take us through the history (and future) of books exploring our environment and climate change.
Listen to five new stories and poems from emerging writers that take a personal look at our rapidly changing world. Reflect on whether words can help inspire us to take action.
Read a new collection of five stories and poems from emerging writers that take a personal look at our rapidly changing world. All five pieces are inspired by discussions that took part during our Weatherfronts event, and aim to spark further change.