Climate change and the stories we tell: A collection of poems and stories by writers responding personally and creatively to the scientific and emotional realities of climate change. Featuring work by: Sarah Butler, Zena Edwards, Justina Hart, Emma Howell, Nick Hunt, Darragh Martin, Sai Murray, Selina Nwulu, Stevie Ronnie, Dan Simpson, Sarah Thomas, David Thorpe Forewords by: Peter Gingold, Director, Tipping Point.
Excerpt from “For the Greater Good”–David Thrope
Carolita was hurrying down the path to her apartment when she was intercepted by her neighbour.
“Oh! They’ve cut me off for the rest of the month! I went O-D on my water account. I must have left a tap running. What shall I do?”
Despite her need to make her appointment Carolita stopped. “Poor you. Do you have enough to last?”
The elderly woman waved at her rainwater butts. “Just, if I’m careful. I know there has to be enough for everyone but…”
“That’s why they measure everything. You’ll be alright.” She obviously wanted some kind of absolution. Carolita felt her shame. Carolita had never run out. She began edging away. “Don’t forget – it’s for the greater good.”
She ran inside to be there for her call. Sensing her presence, her home immediately informed her that the call was waiting. She breathed a sigh of relief. The serious but concerned face of an anodyne young woman formed in the centre of the room where it hovered.
“Hello Carolita. How are you today?” came out of the corner speakers.
“As well as can be expected.”
“I’m Beryl. From the Department of Resource and Population Control Appeals. I’m very sorry to inform you that your appeal has not been successful. We have looked at it in the light of the new regulations and found that you have presented no new evidence to persuade us to change our judgement. If you wish to provide any further evidence we will be happy to look at it again. Remember, although to you the decision is not satisfactory, it is taken for the greater good.”
The face vaporised. It had never belonged to anyone. Carolita was well aware that Beryl was a consensus fiction.
Carolita sank to the floor.
After a while she realised she was staring at the chair because it was where Amas used to sit.
Later she found herself stuck on the path from Leafy Towers because on the grass just there was where Amas had once sat playing with his Suki doll.
In the work canteen a single tear dripped into the creamy whirl atop her morning latte.
It struck her that the future would always be like this unless she did something. She called her mother. She was in the middle of jam making. “The law is the law. Really Carolita. You don’t think a person examined your appeal do you? It’s all done by algorithms. Like everything else these days.”
“I can appeal again,” Carolita said.
Her mother’s pencil-tight lips spoke to her in a way words could not.
“They shouldn’t be able to take my son away like this.”
The pitying look continued. Carolita knew this was her mother’s way of saying move on.
“But where should I move on to?” she thought.
The answer was all too clear. She let her mother get back to sterilising jars. She tried to stand but fell against the edge of the canteen table. A colleague rushed to steady her.
She scuttered out, heading towards her boss’ office. To reach it she had to cross the atrium, passing by the aeroglass wall that formed one side.
The hairs on the back of her head prickled as she became hyper-aware of the restless pressure of the forest garden pushing against the glass from the other side. It crackled with life energy, thrusting from the moist soil and sprouting into fruit and leaves, pressing at the outside world as if earnest to escape. Chilli peppers, beans and cassava were overhung by bananas, vines and lemon trees in a fug of warm, steamy air.
She spotted one of the Bionauts in her blue overalls, toiling away. She envied her, recalling how once she had wished to be one of them, living inside that cloistered world, her worthy perspiration thoroughly blended into the water cycle of the self-contained arcology. That little, pregnant Eden.
Until along came her gorgeous, sexy Javienda and then their darling Amas – whom, if she were a prisoner of Biosphere 4, she would be unable to touch for an entire year. So instead she applied her analytic skills in the support team.
Each day she pedalled to and from the Science Park from Horningsea, between the colourful houseboats bobbing on the River Cam and the endless greenhouses of the condominiums. Each time she counted herself among the blessed.
For five years.
She knocked on the door labelled George Galanis, Director, and entered without waiting for a response.
George gazed up from his work through his luxurious grey eyebrows which he promptly raised when he saw the state of mind presented by his long-time employee. “Carolita.”
“Forgive my intrusion like this, George,” she began.
He sat back. “You must have a good reason…”
“I need to request a leave of absence.”
Carolita sat on the chair opposite him. “It is an emergency. I’d also be grateful if you could authorise me to travel to Barcelona.”
He stroked the leaves of a succulent on his desk. “This is about your partner isn’t it?”
“He’s been…” The word would not manifest on her tongue. “He’s been de-. De-”
“Sent away?” offered George.
“And little Amas too!” She had not wanted to cry in front of him. She did not want him to mistake her behaviour for an attempt at emotional blackmail. Surely he must know her better by now? But she felt she could take nothing for granted any longer.
George leant forward. “Marcella told me about this. The rules regarding who may stay in the country have been adjusted…”
“And Javienda fell foul of them. But he has been living here for six years! And we have a child.”
“Yes it is unfortunate. What is their reason?”
“His work can be done by a British national. And they wouldn’t let us marry because our joint income is not high enough.”
“I sympathise. I suppose you have appealed?”
She fixed him with her steadiest gaze, awaiting his response. He sighed. “There is a reason for the legislation. The climate and harvest forecasts indicate the country will soon be unable to feed the current level of population despite our best efforts.” He held up his hand to stop her speaking. “You know all this, Carolita!
It’s simple arithmetic. Those beyond the criteria–”
“But it’s so unfair!”
“You are only saying this because your rational judgement – for which we employ you I might add – is clouded by your emotions. I’m sorry. If I made an exception for you, I would have to do it for everyone.”
The door slammed behind her. Cycling home, her attitude to the view had changed. “Fuck the government’s one planet living push. Fuck the greenhouses sprawling over the countryside,” she muttered to herself as her legs powered the pedals. “Fuck you solar power, fuck you AD towers. What’s the point if you can’t support everyone?”
A decision took shape in her mind. Javi had come from Senegal without a pass. He had Senegalese friends. If she were to tell anyone her plan it would be one of them – Youssou. She would tell that snitch Marcella nothing – nor her mother. She would only worry.
On arrival home the apartment asked her if Javienda and Amas were expected back. No, she told it. They wouldn’t be back for a while. “I’m sorry,” said her home.
“I hope everything is all right.”
“No,” she said. “It’s not.”
“Oh,” said her home. “Would you like a nice cup of tea?”
Amas yelped with pleasure to see her, and Carolita smiled through her tears. They held out hands towards each other, mingling in no-space, the same space occupied by Beryl only hours earlier.
“Are you all right, sweetie? It’s not too hot there is it?”
He shook his head and his long golden curls whisked across his dark face. Of course it wouldn’t be.
“Can I hold you soon, mummy?”
She gritted her teeth and nodded. Firmly.
Javienda scooped him up and plonked him on his cross-legged knees in front of the camera. “How’s it hanging?”
“I miss you so much. Both of you.”
“Yeah. I miss everything. It sucks. Big-time.”
“Are you managing all right?”
“Sure? You’re taking care of Amas aren’t you?”
“You can see.” He asked the boy, “You’re okay aren’t you?” Amas nodded vigorously.
“I feel so helpless,” said Carolita.
“Don’t. The money you send helps.”
“I wish I was there.”
“I will try,” said Carolita. “I am trying.”
Selected Writing Credits
- Passive Solar Architecture Pocket Reference (ISES/Routledge, 2017)
- Solar Energy Pocket Reference (ISES/Routledge, 2017)
- Best Practices and Case Studies for Industrial Energy Efficiency Improvement (with Oung, K. and Fawkes, S. UNIDO, 2016)
- A London Conversation: Business Briefing on Green Bonds (Fifth Estate, 2015)
- The One Planet Life (Routledge, 2015) on sustainable agro-ecology and housing
- Earthscan Expert Guide to Energy Management in Buildings (Earthscan, 2013)
- Earthscan Expert Guide to Energy Management in Industry (Earthscan, 2013)
- Investors’ Guide to Photovoltaics (Do Sustainability e-short, 2012)
- Investors’ Guide to Low Carbon Vehicle Fuels (Do Sustainability e-short, 2012)
- Earthscan Expert Guide to Solar Technology (Earthscan, 2011)
- Earthscan Expert Guide to Sustainable Home Refurbishment (Earthscan, 2010)
- Wales for Africa (WAG, 2008)
- 80 publications on sustainable technologies (CAT Publications 1992-2007) (editor/writer)
- How The World Works (Two-Can, 1992)
- The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union (Eclipse Books, 1990, 1995)
- Fifty Pink Elephants (2017) – Writer, Bruised Media Group
- Calon Cymru (2017) – Director, short for Calon Cymru Network
- Rock of Ages (22 short films) (2014) – Producer, National Botanic Garden of Wales
- The Water’s Edge (2011) – Special Thanks, Short, Cup of Tea Films
- The Fastest Forward (1991) – Co-writer, Comic Relief
- Young Robin Hood (2017) – in development, Cyberium
- Hybrids (2016) – in development, Cyberium
- Doc Chaos (1985) – (Co-Writer) Limehouse Pictures
- Danny Lion Tamer (2002) – (Script Editor) Brown Bag Productions
- Plot! (1999) – (Writer) MOMA Wales
- For The Greater Good, in Weatherfronts (Free Word Centre/Cambria Books, 2017)
- Stormteller(Cambria Books, 2014)
- Hybrids(HarperCollins, 2007)
- Doc Chaostv series, 1984-8 (Limehouse Pictures), (co-writer) and comics series (Escape 1984-8, Vortex 1989)
- Captain Britain(Marvel Comics, 1981-3, 1995, 2009, 2010, 2017) (co-writer)
- Doc Chaos: the Chernobyl Effectnovella (Hooligan Press, 1988 and Cambria Books 2012)
- Satirica(Cowboy Logic Press, 2008) – two short stories, including Perfection, a short story about, well, a drug that makes everything perfect.
- Syndicated satirical and comic scripts and columns (Public Servantsand Managing Hell, 2005-06)
- Theeditor of about 90 graphic novels (for Marvel Comics, Fleetway, Titan Books, HarperCollins, Macdonald-Futura, 1987-2000).
- Dr Who short stories (Marvel Comics, 1981-3)
Selected Media and Tech Experience
- Director Cyberium (cyberium.co.uk) (“design and content for the real world”), 1999-date, with around 100 clients (50% digital products, 50% research & writing). Web and multimedia development, design and content. (1999 to date)
- Admin Officer Calon Cymru Network: forwarding ‘one planet’ development in rural Wales with policy steerage and a feasibility study on the first ever ‘one planet’ neighbourhood on the edge of a town. (part time: Sept. 2016 to date)