I have blogged before about Clara Hume’s book Back to the Garden, which Moon Willow Press published in late 2013. Clara Hume, an author local to British Columbia, begins the novel in the Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho, just over the border from the Thompson-Okanagen-Similkameen-Kootenay regions of BC. In Back to the Garden, a group of characters just barely surviving on an Idaho mountain takes a trip to find loved ones who had left a few years before and not come back. They rig up an old wagon for their trek. The story shows what North America would look like after climate change’s affects have halted our more modern civilization’s activities, such as manufacturing, travel, entertainment, and other things we take for granted. The novel’s main characters are survivors of disease and a multitude of other disasters having taken place in the world, but they are the generation that has watched the last of the world as we know it crumble, and they must learn to survive in a new wilder world. The novel focuses on the characters’ personal ghosts and demons, and their path toward redemption as they try to cope with losses that have presented themselves on both a micro- and macro-scopic level.
While apocalyptic, the novel is thoughtful and speculative. One of the story’s main characters, a Harley biker we know only as Buddha, reflects at one point on his growing up in British Columbia. A big guy, he misses the way that food used to be more abundant. He promotes the idea of potlatch, which he knows from both his mother (from the Haisla Nation), as well as his father’s church’s similar idea of potluck–that these cultural events represented the idea of sharing food and other resources, which, as he keenly observes, is not always the way of humans. He becomes a strong voice in the new world for caring about they neighbor as you would yourself. Another character, Caine, relates his brother’s tales about the black bleakness of the Boreal where the oil sands were mined.
Another book, John Atcheson’s A Being Darkly Wise, is set in the Boreal forest of British Columbia, with strong influence from the Dunne-za (the real people). In Being, a group of K-street and environmentalist/activist types from Washington D.C. travel on a wilderness survival trek to one of the most isolated areas of northern BC with a mysterious man named Jake. The novel is set in the present day. Unlike Hume’s novel, where people need to adapt to climate change in the future, Atcheson’s novel gathers people to adapt to the idea of where we’re heading now. In an interview, John Atcheson said:
I do think we are on the cusp of something big: an epochal shift caused by humanity’s post-evolutionary relationship with the Earth. This is a temporary situation – nature will have her way, ultimately – but it is having profound consequences.
To understand this, we must start some 3.8 billion years ago, when the first life forms emerged on Earth, and a magnificent experiment began. We humans exist – tenuously – because at this precise moment, the carefully wrought balances of energy, material, chance and time produced the one physical world and climate that allows us to survive and the ecosystems we rely on to prosper.
All the magnificent life forms we take for granted; all the exquisite natural systems that make our oxygen, provide our food, and feed our souls are a product of that 3.8 billion year journey.
So here we are, gifted with that most miraculous – and fragile – gift, a world conducive to our existence. Yet in what amounts to micro-seconds in geologic time, we are now wiping these precious gifts out like a flashflood roaring through time. Some life forms will survive this massive destruction; we might even be among them. But it will be a poorer, meaner and less prosperous world for the creatures who do manage to survive it.
Previously published at BC Rainforest. Reposted with permissions.