Mad Maggie and the Wisdom of the Ancients

Rather than aiming at overt eco-fi or cli-fi markets, Rod Raglin‘s novels use romance, action or mystery genres to feature normal people confronting urgent environmental issues. “Preaching to the converted doesn’t enlist new members in the battle to save our planet. I attempt to write entertaining books that appeal to a larger spectrum of society.”


Maggie was beginning to understand now. If she could cure the lawyer with natural medicines from the forest, then perhaps he would see there was more value in preserving this habitat than working on behalf of its destruction. The Ancients didn’t explain stuff but eventually, it made sense. Made sense to a crazy person anyway.

Rod Raglin is a journalist, publisher of an online community newspaper, photographer and writer of novels, plays and short stories that address the human condition and serious environmental issues.

 

Most of the books I’ve read written under the emerging genre of environmental fiction (eco-fi, cli-fi) fall into two categories, a dystopic future of environmental degradation (hopeless) or a heroic undertaking, technological or societal, that will radically change civilization before it’s too late (unrealistic).

My approach is different in two ways. First, the characters are normal people engaged in contemporary life who are confronted by an important environmental issue they must address. Secondly, since the environmental issue is a subplot, I don’t specifically market my books as such, but as popular genres like romance, action, or mystery.

Preaching to the converted doesn’t enlist new members in the battle to save our planet. I attempt to write entertaining books that appeal to a larger spectrum of society.

One of my series, ‘Eco-Warriors’, includes five stand-alone novels, each with a strong element of romance. I chose to emphasize romance because this genre dominates the consumer book market – larger than mysteries and speculative fiction (sci-fi).

As well as being the most popular genre, 90 percent of romance readers are women who can bring about huge benefits for the environment. They purchase or influence the purchase of 80 percent of all consumer goods, including home furnishing and products, houses, vehicles, computers and stocks. A woman that’s sensitive to environmental issues could influence the purchase of an energy-efficient vehicle, products from recycled materials, even stocks in a sustainable industry.

When writing environmental fiction, the choice doesn’t have to be between depression or delusion. In all the Eco-Warriors books, as well as my five-book ‘Mattie Saunders’ series, contemporary characters are addressing current environmental issues and coming up with realistic solutions.

The quote above is from Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients, the third book in the stand-alone Eco-Warriors series, and a love story between two disparate characters, a brilliant though somewhat anal-retentive corporate lawyer whose personal and career mantra is “the will to power”, and a free, uninhibited spirit who practices natural healing on a secluded island in the wilderness. It’s a story about protecting wild things and wild places as well as the devastating effects of mental illness and the stigma society still inflicts on those affected. It’s a story about compromise, tolerance and understanding and how these feelings spring from love and are nurtured by it. It’s about mystery, secrets and power that abounds in nature and within ourselves.

Maggie talks to trees. Dieter talks to corporations.
Maggie embraces mystery and flirts with magic. Dieter adheres to logic and the doctrine of Nietzsche.
Dieter’s client wants to destroy the trees. The trees want Maggie to protect them.
Dieter has terminal cancer. Maggie is schizophrenic.
Maggie says she can save him, if he’ll save the trees. Dieter thinks she’s crazy, but what choice does he have?
A week together alone on Deadman’s Island changes everything for both of them.
Is it madness? Is it magic? Or is it love?


You can buy Rod’s novels online and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

1.8

1.8 takes a critical view on the approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil that enter the ocean every year”. Katrin Spranger‘s piece powerfully uses performance with oil itself to bring home the global impact of pollution and waste on our oceans and wildlife, visually depicting how much crude oil we consume and release daily.


Juxtaposing beauty and ugliness, the physical properties of oil and the marks being left on canvas create a metaphor for humanity’s struggle and highlights the tragic awareness of our inability to control the effects of environmental destruction. Whilst some marks quite literally depict a ‘carbon’ footprint, most other marks witness traces of a fight with a slippery liquid material that could not be controlled.

Katrin Spranger is a visual artist working on the intersection of sculpture, jewellery, and performance, exploring dystopian narratives that engage with environmental issues including the depletion of natural resources.

 

Formed millions of years ago, yet only used for around 200 years, fossil fuel reserves are emptying very quickly. With current and expected future levels of usage, oil reserves are in decline and cannot meet our population’s needs in the long term.

Global consumption of crude oil, based on the 2021 world population breaks it down to 1.8 litres per capita per day with the forecast of an increase.

1.8 takes a critical view on the approximately 706 million gallons of waste oil that enter the ocean every year. With over half coming from land drainage and waste disposal; for example, from the improper disposal of used motor oil, the other remaining parts come from offshore drilling, production operations and spills or leaks from ships or tankers.

Oil spills present enormous harm to deep ocean and coastal fishing. Oil spills at sea can kill large numbers of seabirds and have the potential to wipe out entire populations where these are small or localised. Oil can stick to birds’ feathers, making them lose their water-proofing and potentially leading to hypothermia. When birds try to clean their feathers they ingest oil and are likely to become poisoned. Birds can be cleaned, but this is laborious and expensive. To rehabilitate a single bird takes up to 45 minutes.

Apart from the problems of offshore oil drilling, mining and oil spills, an additional tragedy is that, unfortunately, much of the world’s plastic has ended up in the ocean, where, dispersed by currents, it becomes virtually irretrievable, especially once it has fragmented into microplastics. Computer models suggest that seas hold as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles. Some are the product of larger pieces breaking apart; others, like microbeads added to toothpaste or face scrubs, were designed to be tiny.

To take the viewer on a rigorous journey to visually depict how much crude oil in the form of plastic products and carbon emissions we consume and release on a daily basis, the protagonist of the 1.8 performance wears a feathered jewellery piece with the exact amount of 1.8 litres of oil hidden under their wings. Their performance follows a trajectory, starting from a beautiful, immaculate state of being with slow, majestic movements, onto more struggling gestures and emotions of reluctance to accept loss, to an eventually uncontrollable mess, leading to the inevitable, horrific death. Juxtaposing beauty and ugliness, the physical properties of oil and the marks being left on canvas create a metaphor for humanity’s struggle and it highlights the tragic awareness of our inability to control the effects of environmental destruction. Whilst some marks quite literally depict a ‘carbon’ footprint, most other marks witness traces of a fight with a slippery liquid material that could not be controlled.

1.8 aims to assess and rethink our daily oil consumption in the form of trying to consume fewer plastic products and packaging materials, and ultimately reducing our environmental footprint at scale when traveling and commuting on a daily basis.

Art direction and jewellery: Katrin Spranger
Performance artist: O.K. Norris
Styling and costume: lambdog 1066
Videographer: Louis Thornton


You can explore more of Katrin’s work at her site — and look out for details of the 1.8 Recycle Workshop Series:

“Of all plastics used, worldwide just about 9 % is recycled. As a matter of fact, even when trying to cut down on packaging materials, consumers not always have a choice when shopping, as items usually come wrapped and packaged in non-recyclable materials. Whenever it is not possible to reduce consumption, we may consider re-using and transforming such materials to reduce waste.

“Following my 1.8 performance piece commenting on crude oil consumption, I am going to run a series of workshops in 2023 that inspire action and provide practical solutions to dealing with ‘waste’ products. Each participant will be asked to collect and bring 1.8 kg of plastic and crude oil waste products to the workshop where we’re going to assess and explore those materials. During the workshop we will recycle and transform the materials using various processes including heating, melting, pressing, cutting (for example heating plastic bottle caps) in order to co-create new artworks such as jewellery pieces or objects. The aim is to create work that does not resemble the materials that it was made of.”

There are a limited number of workshop places, so if you would like to take part, please email spranger.katrin@gmail.com to express your interest.

To explore some of the issues Katrin addresses in her work, see:

Sustainable Stand Up – Tackling Climate Change with Humour

At times it can feel frivolous, or even treacherous, to keep laughing. But let’s not let the bastards get us down in the mouth, eh? Humour is forever a massive asset in the quest to maintain sanity and joy, and to speak truth to power.”

With her improv background and a course from the Sustainable Stand Up initiative, writer and editor Sally Moss created an online comedy routine with insights for how we can communicate climate change with humour and compassion.

“Even something as passive as watching TV can use loads of electricity … When I bought a TV, I made sure I bought the smallest one I could get. I feel really virtuous, but my film nights are screwed. Never mind Jaws, even Titanic needs a bigger boat…”

Sally Moss is a writer, editor and researcher exploring creative ways to encourage regenerative living.

 

 

I love comedy, intentional and otherwise. For those of us with a keen sense of humour, it’s vital we find the fun and trumpet the absurd in life.

This surely applies more than ever right now?

True, current times might best be described as an almighty car crash of converging social and environmental disasters. At times it can feel frivolous, or even treacherous, to keep laughing.

But let’s not let the bastards get us down in the mouth, eh? Humour is forever a massive asset in the quest to maintain sanity and joy, and to speak truth to power.

Humour formed a core strand of the Zero Carbon Improv pilot project I co-delivered in community contexts in Liverpool a few years back. Participants learned to improvise, in pursuit of…

Acceptance / realism 
- Accept where we are and work from there. Or rather, here. (‘Yes, and...’)

Imagination / inventiveness
- Find new possibilities, grounded in the new reality. (‘Yes, and...’)

Present-moment quality of life
- As a result, increase spontaneity, reciprocity, reward, fun.

And recently, I decided to go further: to (try to) write stand-up material that examines sustainability without making mass extinction feel like the better option. Or, as Belina Raffy puts it, ‘tackle ideas that matter with humour and compassion’.

Belina is the founder of Sustainable Stand Up, and she led the online course I opted for.

How was it? Great – high standards, but very accessible, and with huge amounts of encouragement. Yes, you could do it too!

The end result for me was just over five minutes of much-redrafted stand-up, delivered online to a supportive audience of course participants’ friends, course alumni and fans.

In brief, here’s what I learned from my first attempt at sustainable stand-up: 

  • Notice what’s delightful
 
  • Keep it personal
 
  • Don’t waste words
 
  • Don’t skimp on the set-up 
  • Find what connects us all. 

These insights transfer well to many other forms of climate communication (and just as often to our personal lives).

I’ll continue to look for ways to fulfil these comedy commandments in my work and play, and to connect with others keen to do the same.

You can watch my set on YouTube


You can find out more at Sustainable Stand Up, and about Sally’s work at Sally Moss Editorial – including the Zero Carbon Improv project. 

Standing Tall, 2022

“We decided that what we could do was to let the trees and the space know they were not alone … in community, communicate to them how deeply they are loved, and to be with them through their impending violation. Action in this sacred sense transcends human politics, bypasses it.”

With composite photography and video, Jennifer Leach — Director of Outrider Anthems, and supported by eco-scenographer Andrea Carr, Outrider Anthems Associate — documents and witnesses creative community resistance to the corporate felling of 112 trees and the sacrifice of a city’s green lung for more concrete.

‘They say that in time we will forget. We will become accustomed to the new environment. No. We learn to endure. We do not forget.’ An Outrider Anthems community intervention on Reading Golf Course, where 112 numbered trees, and countless smaller others, are to be felled to make way for a profit-motivated housing estate. We gently bound each doomed tree with a tie of white muslin, thus making visible what the developers and Reading Borough Council wish to keep invisible: a mutual community of powerful trees and all their interconnected ecosystems, earmarked for destruction. Our human community, having had our record number of planning protests ignored, stand in solidarity with the trees.

Jennifer LeachJennifer Leach is a poet, writer, performer and storyteller whose wild work, forged in the fantastical reaches of deep imagination, brings to life new stories for our strange times.

 

This intervention began with a community desperately trying to safeguard its health, three times resisting a merciless building on one of urban Reading’s few green lungs. It was once agricultural land, then a golf course — until the golfing members handed it over to developers for a princely and undisclosed sum. In almost every way it is an inappropriate development, and yet on the third time of presenting it to Reading Borough Council, and with barely an alteration to the previous two applications, it was suddenly supported and passed. The community had objected with a borough-wide record number of objections, and our distress at the Council meeting was in itself distressing.

The meeting, with its clearly preordained conclusion, was a brazen travesty of the democratic process. The required green links — crucial to the bare survival of species — was, the developer suggested, “hypothetical”. The development, with its 223 largely luxury housing, was going to “improve traffic in the area” and the developers, the Council openly stated “are the ones with the money and they can do what they want.”

“It’s called Capitalism.”

This space is local to me, and in the post-golfing period in which it has rewilded, it has become very special, both to myself and to many members of my community. It is so rich in nature, and in magnificence, particularly in the hundreds of specimen trees that grow in the space. 112 trees are to be felled for the building of the houses, and each tree is unique, each is glorious. They have been categorised by the Council as ‘B – of moderate quality’, ‘C – of low quality’, or ‘U – unsuitable for retention’.

The democratic process was stretched as far as it could be, and appeals were made to central government, but the housing development will go ahead.

Andrea Carr, Associate Director of Outrider Anthems, and I as Director asked ourselves what we could do at this point. Andrea brought her ecoscenographic thoughtfulness and experience to the question, and we decided that what we could do — and we felt it was exceptionally important — was to let the trees and the space know they were not alone. We knew we could and should, in community, communicate to them how deeply they are loved, and to be with them through their impending violation. Action in this sacred sense transcends human politics, bypasses it.

I had the privilege of photographing every one of the 112 trees, and each one of them shared something of their intimate selves with me; they became a gift to me. Andrea came down on the weekend of 1st May and we spent two days measuring out and cutting vast reams of plain white muslin. On 1st May — Beltane in the old Celtic calendar, and a day traditionally associated with the great celebration and honouring of nature — we met with many members of the community and, armed with white muslin and site maps, we spent the day binding each one of the 112 trees to be felled. We stood tall beside them and photographed ourselves standing tall, in solidarity with the trees.

We have conjoined the action of this day with excerpts from the Reading Borough Council planning meeting, to create a composite film entitled Standing Tall. It is currently being screened as a part of the Ecostage contribution to World Stage Design 2022 in Calgary. It hurts to watch it, and it moves. We hope it will be widely shared, and that it will contribute to a changing world in which the sacred spaces and elements of nature become honoured and respected as they once were, and in which the hubris of a capitalist economy finally crumbles under its own insatiable greed. We hope it will inspire others to bear public witness to the non-human victims of human violence, and to stand in love and solidarity with them.

Click on an image to see the full-size series of photographs Jennifer took of the 112 trees.

And you can view more of the intervention with Andrea and watch the videos Jennifer made here at the Outrider Anthems website.

Community: Still from film, Standing Tall


You can find more work at the Outrider Anthems website, and sign up to their mailing list to hear about and support their future projects. And you can explore Jennifer’s work as a writer and artist at her own website.

Art at Net Zero Festival London

“The transboundary nature of digital art has allowed me to participate in fifteen international art shows during September.”

Selva Ozelli has been busy making art shows and interviewing artists, museums and international NGOs to support Net Zero Festival London and its aims to be a catalyst towards a net zero, equitable and resilient future. 

“Our planet needs everyone to work together, including the public, policymakers, academia, artists, business, community, civil society, NGOs and museums.”

Selva Ozelli is an environmentalist working as an artist, writer, international tax attorney and public accountant, who has curated a climate change art shows with various organisations.

 

Running parallel to the United Nations General Assembly — holding its 76th annual meeting between 14th and 30th September in New York City to bring countries together at a critical time for marshalling collective action to tackle the global environmental crisis which has worsened the COVID-19 Pandemic — the Net Zero Festival London aims to cover the full breadth of the green industrial revolution. I have prepared a new art show and collaborated with artists, museums and an international NGO on three themes.

Theme 1: Green, fair and resilient recovery from the pandemic

2021 – The International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development – has witnessed the rapid spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of Covid-19, as well as a new coronavirus variant, with multiple mutations amidst the worst wildfire season. But then, akin to pollution and corona, the transboundary nature of digital art has allowed me to participate in fifteen international art shows during September, with the theme of a sustainable and resilient recovery from the pandemic with my ‘Art in the Time of Corona’ series of art shows that were published by CUHK Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change

Theme 2: Road to  COP26

200 of the world’s leading health journals released a joint statement pleading with global leaders to cut greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, which they say is the greatest threat to public health.

New World Health Organization Global Air Quality Guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants, some of which also contribute to climate change. Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to human health, alongside climate change.
   
Ambitious climate action has now become a matter of urgency according to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
. Especially since the initial NDC Synthesis report showed that the world is not on track to reach the Nationally Determined Contributions in accordance with the Paris Agreement to address climate change.

With thousands of companies now committed to delivering net zero emissions and the UK set to host the critical COP26 Climate Summit this November, the Net Zero Festival will provide both invaluable practical guidance on how to navigate the economic and technological shifts that are already underway and an exploration of how to accelerate decarbonization strategies towards a green recovery from the pandemic. My Net Zero Festival Booth is here.

Theme 3: Whole of society climate action

Our planet needs everyone to work together, including the public, policymakers, academia, artists, business, community, civil society, NGOs and museums. Ahead of Net Zero Festival London, I interviewed Viviane Gosselin for TiredEarth. Viviane, Director of Collections and Exhibitions for the Museum of Vancouver and a member of the Advisory Group for the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice, explained “I just want to stress that it’s clear […] that social and environmental justice are interconnected.”


Net Zero Festival London runs from 29th September to 1st October and aims to cover the full breadth of the green industrial revolution. You can find Selva’s digital art shows the festival here. Selva’s Art in the Time of Corona, was originally published by CUHK Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change.

In the UK, The Lancet published the joint document, Call for emergency action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity, and protect health (4/9/21).

Selva’s interview with Viviane Gosselin, Director of Collections and Exhibitions of the Museum of Vancouver and a member of the Advisory Group for the Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice, is published at TiredEarth.

Pole to Pole

“Unaware of last night’s events, the next day our friends resume their journey. Once again, the powerful ocean currents drag them ever southwards…”

In Alan Hesse‘s comic book, Pole to Pole, Captain Polo leaves his disrupted Arctic home, seeking better hunting grounds. Unbeknown to him, he has onboard a mysterious stowaway with his own agenda.

Pole to Pole


Alan Hesse is an author-illustrator, educator and conservation biologist inspired by nature’s majesty and fragility and the need to protect it and who believes that education should be fun.

Pole to Pole is Book 4 in my series of graphic novels about climate change, but it can be read as a stand-alone book as well. In Pole to Pole, Captain Polo the climate change bear (main character) once again leaves his ecologically and climatically disrupted Arctic home in search of better hunting grounds. Unbeknown to him, he has on board his trusty little sailing boat a mysterious stowaway with his own agenda, and before he knows it Captain Polo finds himself on another rollicking adventure in which he unwillingly travels far to the south, visiting different locations and meeting all sorts of colourful characters.

Through each encounter, Captain Polo sheds light on different, sometimes little-known aspects of climate change effects and also solutions. Thus we learn about the effects of permafrost melt in Siberia, how warming temperatures are undermining the Sámi reindeer people and the Christmas tourist industry in Finland, and what the mysterious scientists locked into Iceland’s Hellisheidi Carbon Fixing Plant are all about. Captain Polo has an opportunity to explain the difference between climate and weather to a refreshingly open-minded climate denier he meets in Ireland, and he later gets interviewed by a climate-conscious reporter on Senegalese national television.

Polo’s final encounter is with multi-billionaire oilman and arch-villain Tex Greedyman, a meeting that quickly turns sour as our hero shares his views on fossil fuels and renewable energy in his characteristically blunt manner, a conversation that lands him trussed up in the hold of Greedyman’s luxury yacht, destined to be sold to a circus at their next port of call…

The idea behind all of my Captain Polo books is to deliver factual, up to date key information on climate change effects and solutions around the world in a novel, engaging format that draws upon the elements of fiction and storytelling to facilitate understanding as well as provide pure entertainment. The result is my 4-book series of Captain Polo’s adventures, non-fiction graphic novels targeting 9-12-year-old kids but actually also enjoyable and informative for adults. I decided to write graphic novels about this topic when I realized, about four years ago, that I actually knew very little about climate change. The news at the time was largely confusing, and certainly overwhelming. I decided that the best way for me to gain a clear understanding of different aspects of climate change, and crucially also help others to do likewise — especially children — was to create a graphic novel about it.

Climate change has become a multi-faceted topic that touches upon all sectors of society, industry and even culture. I dedicate my series of graphic novels to gradually explore these aspects, overturning one rock at a time to uncover the basic facts, in the hope of helping my readers increase their environmental and climate awareness, understanding of key terms and concepts, and above all feel a little more empowered on how to deal with it all. As such all the Captain Polo books hold positive messages, actionable, concrete tips on how we can all make a difference to protect and restore our natural environment.

Pole to Pole will be available in print and ebook. It will also be available in black and white, as a paperback colouring book. This is an experiment and will have a separate listing (which I haven’t set up yet); I’ve never done anything like that before and I’ve never seen a colouring comic book, but given the detailed images and the textual / non-fiction content (the same as in the regular book) I am betting that colouring in this comic book may well have as much educational impact as reading it, if not more!


Pole to Pole is available now on preorder and will be released on February 27th, International Polar Bear Day. 

Carbon Choices

“Even where I live in Scotland, I am aware of the changing climate around me.”

In Carbon Choices, Neil Kitching moves beyond our frustration with the lack of action to tackle climate change and nature loss over the past 30 years to set out the practical ways that governments, businesses and individuals can change now.

“Coming from Scotland, host of the global 2021 climate conference, Carbon Choices tells the most remarkable story on planet Earth. How one group of sociable animals came to emit 40 billion tonnes (40,000,000,000) of an invisible gas each year, changing the chemistry of the atmosphere and the oceans, and steadily destroying the environment and life support systems that we depend on. We have unwittingly driven the world into a climate and wildlife crisis by the endless extraction of raw materials and our excessive consumption – primarily by wealthier people and countries.”

Neil KitchingNeil Kitching is a geographer and energy specialist who has witnessed climate change’s creeping effects and whose book Carbon Choices addresses common-sense solutions to our climate and nature crises.

I wrote Carbon Choices from a frustration that I had known about the devastating impact of climate change for 30 years but failed to see sufficient action by politicians and others to tackle it. So many people were not taught about climate change at school, nor about the loss of biodiversity. In my own small way, I hope to change attitudes and bring about the changes that are required.

Even where I live in Scotland, I am aware of the changing climate around me. There is less snow, and when it does fall it doesn’t lie for long. There is more winter rainfall and more torrential rain in the summer months. I witnessed the big damaging flood in Perth in 1993. There are also more landslips blocking railway lines and roads. In the UK this is all an inconvenience; in developing countries, particularly those that are already semi-arid, these changes can be catastrophic for people and wildlife.

Originally I thought I would write a book when I retire. But it gradually dawned on me that this might be too late. The announcement of the global climate conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November 2021 spurred me into action and I wrote Carbon Choices in six months whilst holding down a full-time job. The words literally poured out of my head.

This popular science book will fill any gaps in your understanding of climate change and nature loss. It lays out the solutions, including a green action plan for government, businesses and individuals. It will motivate you to change your behaviour and maybe inspire you to campaign to change business activity and government policy.


Carbon Choices is available to buy on Amazon, or you can order a signed copy from the authorThere is further information at the Carbon Choices site. 

You can follow Neil on Twitter @carbonchoicesuk