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.

Trinity

“I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for resolution and clarity … but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.”

In Trinity, Oliver Raymond-Barker‘s camera obscura images combine with commissioned texts, offering complex, interconnected narratives of land and histories of spirituality, protest, control.


Martin Barnes: ‘Raymond-Barker’s photographs function as the opposite of photographic journalism for he knows that conventional visual description does not allow for the evocative and lingering impact he seeks. His subject is the atmosphere of the place, its spiritual history across time, and an uneasy combination of awe in nature with the nascent threat of an unfathomable destructive force’. 

Nick Hunt: ‘He wanders enraptured, ruptured. The sunlight breaks upon him. On the shore he falls to his knees with the immensity and stares upon the awesome light that floods the shadows of the world. The god of love is everywhere. It is all a marvel. He closes his dazzled eyes and the world appears in negative, the black sky and the white trees, the incandescent veins of leaves, the bleached water opening to some great revelation’.

Oliver Raymond-Barker is an artist using photography in its broadest sense – analogue and digital process, natural materials and camera-less methods of image-making – to explore our relationship to nature.

 

Trinity is a journey into landscape. It explores the complex layers of narrative embedded in the fabric of the land and engages with histories of spirituality, protest and control.

I made the work during residencies at Cove Park Arts on the Rosneath Peninsula in Scotland. The images originate from 20 x 24-inch paper negatives, exposed in a custom-built ‘backpack’ camera obscura — a tent-like structure designed to allow creation of large format images in remote locations. I see this as an anti-camera, one that does not strive for the resolution and clarity of traditional photo-mechanical devices but instead seeks to capture the essence of place whilst also providing sanctuary for the artist.

From early Christian pilgrims who voyaged to remote corners of the British Isles such as Rosneath during Roman times, to its current occupation as home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident, this remote peninsula has been the site of diverse histories.

Amongst these is the story of St. Modan, the son of an Irish chieftain who in the 6th century renounced his position as an abbot to live as a hermit. He journeyed to this remote peninsula in search of sanctuary and sought to use the elemental power of nature as a means of gaining spiritual enlightenment.

Today, however, the peninsula is dominated by the presence of military bases HMNB Faslane and RNAD Coulport, the home of the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident. Existing alongside these sprawling sites are the small, temporary constructions of itinerant activists protesting against the military presence — locations such as the Peace Wood bear traces of their occupation.

The project weaves together these disparate yet interconnected threads, to form an immersive body of work, made on the boundaries of the photographic medium.

From Trident by Oliver Raymond Barker

I walk through the darkness. The heavy straps of the pack bite into my shoulders, fine rain enveloping me as my head torch illuminates a tunnel through the gloom. Miles pass this way.

In the half light I weave an uneven path down to the shoreline. The slow process of unpacking and setting up is akin to a conversation with an old friend. As my body goes through the motions of pitching the camera the light is rising and the tide approaching.

I crawl into the dark void of the structure, leaving my damp boots and previous self behind. My senses become attuned to the new darkness. I reach up and pull back the crude shutter: the structure is flooded with light and the image begins to resolve itself.

All energy expended, my whole process, pivots around these precious seconds when light fuses time onto the latent canvas before me.

I stretch up and close the shutter, stowing the paper away in the now resounding darkness. Unnoticed in my reverie, the water has begun to lap at the edges of the tent. I swiftly pack up, my body and mind already occupying a new space, treading a path towards the next moment…’


Trinity (Loose Joints Publishing, 2021) is available for pre-order now, and will be published in December 2021 in a handmade edition of 200 copies: 68pp, 250 × 350 mm, with 35 photos and texts by Martin Barnes and Nick Hunt. Printed hardcover with black boards, comprising two stitched booklets with images and texts on six different papers.

You can read Beneath What Is Visible, A Vast Shadow, Oliver’s ClimateCultures post about the creation of Trinity, with extracts from the texts and some of his images.

The Puma Years: A Memoir

“There are more than a million heartbeats … nothing is like mine.”

In her discovery of a remarkable rainforest community of people and animals, Laura Coleman explores the meaning of love and rescue against backdrops of deforestation, illegal animal trafficking and forest fires, and the work of a pioneering charity created by young Bolivian volunteers.


Whiffs of scent slam into me, choking me, before they fade, replaced by others, sweeter, thicker, heavier. It hurts to breathe. To think. The greens grow darker, the smells more sickly, rotten, the trail more overgrown, the sky nothing more than a memory. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place that has its own heartbeat. Millions of heartbeats. I picture people jostling for space on the London Underground that smells of sweat and humans. There are more than a million heartbeats there but they’re all like mine. Here, nothing is like mine.

Laura Coleman is a writer, activist and artist whose memoir shares her life-changing relationships with rescued wild animals. She is the founder and chair of trustees of ONCA, a Brighton-based arts charity that bridges social and environmental justice issues with creativity.

In my early twenties, I found myself living in London, my life a loop of commuting and corporate meetings. Tired of tight, tailored suits and lacking direction, I quit my job and set out for South America. Two months into my three-month trip to Bolivia, I was bloated, sunburnt, lonely, and ready to go home. But a flyer about an animal welfare charity – Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY) – encouraged me to stick it out, and soon I was en route to “el parque” in the Amazon basin.

I found an underfunded, understaffed, dilapidated camp, along with suicidal howler monkeys, megalomaniac semi-wild pigs, toothless jaguars, and many more animals who had been sold on the pet trade, abused and abandoned. I also met a timid and terrified puma named Wayra who I was tasked to learn how to “walk” outside of her enclosure. Within days, all I could think about was going home. But after several weeks of barely showering, being eaten alive by bugs, and doing work that pushed me to physical and emotional exhaustion I’d never known, I deliberately missed my flight back to England and spent the next two years learning how to trust Wayra, and the jungle – and myself.

The book is set against a backdrop of deforestation, illegal animal trafficking, and forest fires, and I really wanted to find a balance between exploring what happens when two desperate creatures in need of rescue find one another, alongside the universal context of working on the frontlines of environmental destruction. At its heart, the book is a love story, about kinship and community. In Bolivia, I discovered how the love that exists between humans and animals, and place, and home, can be just as important and powerful as any romantic love. This is what I wanted to share when I wrote the book.

I also, of course, wanted to support the work of CIWY. Over twenty-five years ago, a group of young Bolivian volunteers set up the NGO and created the first ever sanctuary for rescued wild animals in the country. Over the years Parque Machía has provided safe homes in the cloud forest to thousands of rescued animals, and to countless people. However, this year CIWY’s land lease contract with the local municipality is not being renewed and plans for the site are uncertain. The dedicated staff who live there have the painful job of relocating hundreds of animals to another of CIWY’s sanctuaries on the far side of the country, with no financial support from the government, costing over $400,000. Money from The Puma Years has gone towards starting construction in Jacj Cuisi, but it is going to be a long journey, needing global support in order to transfer all the animals at risk by the end of the year.

And this last year has seen devastation on so many fronts. Covid-19 has meant that, due to the cancellation of CIWY’s volunteer programme, a handful of exhausted staff have been doing the work of caring for over five hundred animals – something that would normally be done by hundreds of volunteers. And the fires in 2020 were the worst they’ve ever seen, so I don’t know what the future holds. There are countless small NGOs in the Global South struggling to hold on through devastating times. So any donation to CIWY or another Black, Indigenous, or POC-led project will support people working on the frontlines of environmental disaster and justice. What has been so overwhelming, since my book has been published, is the incredible amount of financial and emotional support that has come in from around the world and I want to thank everyone who has been in touch with either me or CIWY. Your support makes all the difference!


The Puma Years: A Memoir is published by Little A and you can buy it from Bookshop or Amazon or as an audiobook on Audible. And you can watch the online book launch on 3rd June 2021, hosted by Persephone Pearl at ONCA, with Laura reading from her book and discussing the work of CIWY in conversation with Tania ‘Nena’ Baltazar, founder and president of Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY).

You can find out more about the work of Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi and opportunities to donate or to sponsor an animal, and explore Laura’s website and the work of ONCA.

Melt & The Hispering

“Both books speak to my ongoing need for connection and intra-veloping with the growing world. They explore how I experience what I breathe, how water, soil and grasses unfold from me and I from them.”

In melt and the hispering, Sarah Hymas encourages us to rethink, blur, mix up, remake the stories we’ve been told.

In the unfathomable dark
of my closed eyes
microscopic life surfaces
to feed on digested sunlight

(‘Moist’ from melt)

Sarah Hymas is a poet, performer and artistbook maker focusing on the sea, its ecosystems and its interdependence with people, and the impacts of climate change and pollution.

In the first lockdown of 2020 I was one of many writers wondering how publishing a book was going to work in a pandemic. melt was originally due to be published in the spring of 2020. Eventually appearing in December, it is the outcome of four years of reading, living and writing around my encounters with the ocean, its currents, ice melt, plastic debris and many other of its upwellings. the hispering, by contrast, popped out over four weeks in April / May 2020. Rising from a thirty-year-old experience, it demanded my attention during the world’s rupture, an almost obsessive revisiting, retracing and retelling of what had happened to my twentysomething-year-old self in West Sussex, Donegal and some strange netherbridge strung between the two.

In part the books seem quite different: one poetry, exploring how line, space and image can fold and unfold across oceanic movement; the other a pamphlet of prose-poetry-like glimpses of a dreamt / dream-like meadow. Still, they both speak to my ongoing need for connection and intra-veloping with the growing world. They explore how I experience what I breathe, how water, soil and grasses unfold from me and I from them. Both books play with folklore, social history, a desire for belonging, a fear of disconnection and strive to embrace what is unknown or weird or threatening with an open spirit.

They both play with form, restless in the flat page conventions of a book. As a maker of artistbooks I’ve been playing with how text can break from the dimensions of a page, how it can stretch across pages, and how pages and folds can ask unexpected things from readers. Both books ask for reciprocity: between book as object and reader as subject, or vice versa.

They reflect a life-long fascination with how imagination upholds our worlds, how what we dream, in waking or in sleep, feeds and enriches thinking, doing, seeing. I’d hope that anyone who opens their pages also finds new worlds opening up to them, within and without of themselves; and is encouraged to rethink the stories they’ve been told over the years: the true and imagined ones, the scientific and historical ones, the personal and collective ones, and to remake them, to blur them a bit, mix them up and shake out new possibilities for what might be to come.


More about the processes and obsessions that informed melt and the hispering can be found at Sarah Hymas – writer and maker

melt (2020) is published by Waterloo Press and the hispering (2021) is published by Black Sunflowers Poetry.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter and Facebook

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

The Wizard of O2

“Now you must be careful. The Wicked Weather of the West is a cunning shapeshifter.”

Quentin D. Young‘s comic-book, The Wizard of O2 re-imagines the classic tale to bring us back to the Land of Oz for a 21st-century adventure in science and magic, creating space for humor and hope in the face of climate catastrophe.


Scarecrow: “Now you must be careful. The Wicked Weather of the West is a cunning shapeshifter. For me, she came in the form of a drought. Dried out the crops and put me out of a job!”

Lion: “For me, she was a fiery heatwave that killed the little animals. All the yummy ones too. Now I’m a starving performer, and Scarecrow uses the money to buy cat food!”

Dolores: “What about Tin Man? Where’s he?”

Quentin Young is a writer, climate communicator and emerging comic creator working creatively as a storyteller with the aim of reaching mainstream audiences on the issue of climate change.

What if Dorothy’s twister was a wormhole, and the Land of Oz was another planet? What would ‘Planet Oz’ be like today? And why on earth is it running out of oxygen?

These are some of the what-if questions I worked with when I wrote The Wizard of O2, a re-imagining of the classic tale that brings kids and grown-ups back to the Land of Oz for a 21st-century adventure in science and magic.

As with any retelling, I needed a reason to revisit the Land of Oz (other than my own fandom since discovering Judy Garland’s 1939 movie as a kid): Why tell the tale again, and why do it now? L. Frank Baum’s original novel was published back in 1900 and, more than a century later, the book has entered the public domain. The world has also changed a great deal. I realized the time was right to not only revisit the material but to do it through an environmental lens that would make the story even more pertinent in our current, climate-changed times.

Because I come from a screenwriting background, the project began as a screenplay for an animated short film, which I wrote ‘on spec’ to later pitch to film studios and production companies. I envisioned a charming animation with cute and colorful artwork worthy of a Pixar movie, and the climate narrative behind it would function by, first, connecting with audiences through an affectionate parody of Baum’s much-loved work. If the aim of the project is to get mainstream audiences thinking about something as depressing and anxiety-inducing as global warming, I wanted to make it easy for them to go there. I wanted to engage them on the issue by making it familiar, entertaining and, yes, ‘fun’.

On discovering the prohibitive cost of making an animation and the scarcity of producers willing to back an animated short, I opted to adapt my Oz satire into a comic book first. A comic was something I could manage myself while remaining in the pop-cultural category of mediums, which also includes television shows and video games. This was a parameter I had set for the project because, given the climate cause, I wanted the story to have ‘reach’. The visual medium of comics would also convey a brand of charm and whimsy that I thought was crucial to this project.

As many have said, climate stories don’t all need to be apocalyptic dystopias filled with doom and gloom. There’s a place for dark and gritty perspectives and, indeed, there are many climate storytellers producing valuable work in this space. But there’s also a place for whimsy, humor and hope, even in the face of climate catastrophe. Taking the lighter approach can actually help mainstream audiences, which includes both children and adults, to connect with an otherwise depressing subject. So, with the Oz story as my vehicle, I embraced comedy and eccentricity as a route into the hearts and minds of my readers.

My hope for The Wizard of O2 is that it reaches many people as a form of popular entertainment and, thereby, brings the climate cause to a new and wider audience. The comic is now published under my imprint, Truth/Dare Media: We’re a publishing startup that focuses on telling important stories through comics, audiobooks and other popular mediums. And our mission is simple: To help save the world through pop culture. If you enjoy our book and agree that it contributes toward this cause, please help us spread the word!


The Wizard of O2 is a single-issue comic book of 32 color pages. It is written and lettered by Quentin D. Young, an emerging comic creator and a represented script writer whose screenplays have been accepted for submission by leading Hollywood companies including Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Studios (formerly Fox), and Participant Media. The artwork is by Jean Lins, a comic book artist whose previous works include Dandara and Tales of Griot: The Mirror of Truth.

The Wizard of O2 is published as an indie comic by Truth/Dare Media (January 2021). It is currently available as a digital comic and can be purchased directly from the publisher, or through major online bookstores including Amazon, Apple Books, Kobo and Google Play. It has also been released on Comixology, an Amazon platform dedicated to digital comics and the world’s largest comic readership. The price is $2.99 or £2.49, though this may vary slightly between outlets.

Living with Trees

“Imagine these islands with large forests, small woods and a countryside dotted with trees, covering about a third of the land.”

Robin Walter’s new book, Living with Trees, traces our long associations with woodland since the Ice Age, noting what we’ve lost, celebrating our remaining ancient woodland and trees, and calling for a wooded future.


“Imagine these islands with large forests, small woods and a countryside dotted with trees, covering about a third of the land. Some of these forests are hard-working and productive, other forests might emerge from the return of wild nature and native trees; others might be small community woods gently managed for wildlife and people; each wood will make our land that bit more resilient to a turbulent world. Are we just dreaming? Is this sort of joined-up thinking possible?”

Robin Walter is a  forester and writer of nonfiction and poetic work on trees and the changes needed in the British landscape to deal with climate and ecological emergencies.

The impulse to write Living with Trees came in 2010 when the government tried to sell off the Forestry Commission forests, only to be met with determined resistance from people keen to hang on to ‘their’ woods. This passionate display of interest in our woods prompted the environmental charity Common Ground to explore this new upsurge of concern. So they invited me to revise their 1989 book In A Nutshell and we set to work visiting woodland initiatives around the country. In particular we sought out community projects with social and environmental agendas, such as mental health, education and conservation. This seemed an important aspect of woodland ‘ownership’ which the government had neglected, at their peril. The charity changed hands and work resumed in 2017 amidst a rising interest in trees and our natural world, aided by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 series.

The book is ambitious in scope — tracing our long associations with woodland since the Ice Age, noting what we have lost, celebrating what jewels remain (in the form of ancient woodland and ancient trees), and imagining a future with more trees in our lives. We also consider a wide range of tree presence, from the trees in gardens and parks, to the trees in streets and towns, to the woodlands and plantations in the countryside. Throughout this exploration we find a strong bond between people and trees, passionate, caring and heart-felt. The book considers how we can use this affinity with trees as a portal to a closer relationship with the natural world, reclaiming our rightful place within it.


Living With Trees by Robin Walter is published by Little Toller Books and is also available from his website. Robin is giving illustrated talks on the book, online for now but in person later in the year.

Fifty Words for Snow

“The snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas…”

Nancy Campbell‘s new book, Fifty Words for Snow, reflects on snow’s role in cultures around the world and the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity in a rapidly changing world.


Yuki-onna – snow woman (Japanese: 雪女)

Taoist philosophy suggests that when there’s an abundance of any natural matter, a life will come forth from it: the river will create its own fish when the water is deep enough and the forest will produce birds when the trees are dense enough. And so it follows that that a woman may be generated in the heart of a snowdrift.

Nancy Campbell is a writer and book artist interested in polar regions and water conservation, winning the Royal Geographical Society’s 2020 Ness Award for her research with Arctic and Scandinavian museums.

A few winters ago I rented a former Salvation Army meeting house in the north of Iceland for a few months. Since the snows of Siglufjörður don’t usually melt until April, I soon learned how the inhabitants of this small fishing town distinguish themselves from their neighbours in Ólafsfjörður, another small fishing town beyond the mountains. Folk in Ólafsfjörður do not clear the snow from the paths leading to their homes. In Siglufjörður the sweeping of snow is a social duty. I lived alone, and it was some distance from my front door to the road; the snow lay in waist-high drifts, and kept falling. I’d gone to Iceland to write about snow, but I found that snow had other ideas — it wanted me to do some physical labour. In his poem ‘Digging’, Seamus Heaney describes how his trade differs from that of his ancestors: ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them,’ he writes, using instead a ‘squat pen’. Now I had to put down my pen and borrow a shovel from my elderly neighbour Kristján. Then, of course, I cleared his path too.

Fifty Words for Snow is a journey to discover snow in cultures around the world through different languages. The climate is a prism through which to view the human world — just as language can be. Inevitably, a book about climate also looks forward, considering what we miss, as every winter many countries see fewer snowflakes, and some years now, none at all. Just as the ecosystem is changing, so are the languages that describe it and the way they are understood. When I began to learn Greenlandic in 2010 I discovered the fallacy of the many ‘Eskimo words for snow’, a popular concept that was dismissed by linguists in the 1980s. More pertinently, that same year Greenlandic was added to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. While many of the languages in this book, such as Spanish and Urdu, can be heard spoken around the globe, others, such as the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, are remembered mainly by elders in relatively small communities.

I started to write this book in September 2019 amid debates about Brexit and the climate crisis, while attending Fridays for Future marches in Germany. I finished it six months later, a week before gathering with other masked and silent Black Lives Matter protestors in the UK. The process of tracing a single theme across many languages new to me seemed a powerful way to overcome the borders that were going up around the world. Ironically, one of the first entries I researched concerned the photograph of boys in a snowball fight taken by Robert Capa in war-torn Hankou (modern-day Wuhan) in 1938. Within weeks, the location had become infamous for the outbreak of COVID-19. Even under lockdown in a pandemic, it was still possible to voyage around the world through dictionaries.

A snow crystal is part of the endless cycle of the water molecule: from its six-cornered solid state it becomes liquid and then gas, and thus a snowflake that falls on the glaciers of the Rwenzori peaks in Africa might melt and evaporate and later freeze again and fall in the apple orchards of Kashmir, and melt again and fall fifty times and more. Just so, a single unit of meaning — one word for snow — offers an approach to new places, a clear path of understanding to travel forwards along.


Fifty Words for Snow by Nancy Campbell is published by Elliott & Thompson (November 2020), richly illustrated with William Bentley’s early photographs of snow crystals. It is available from Hive or from your favourite independent bookshop

Follow @nancycampbelle on Twitter or Instagram.

The Wintermen III – At the End of the World

“You know, Tiny, it was sentiments like that that caused all the problems in the first place.”

In her climate thriller, Brit Griffin‘s future dystopia is a crucible for our moral choices today: how to find our way to be a better species in a world that’s already changed is a path of the imagination.


“You know, Tiny, it was sentiments like that that caused all the problems in the first place.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Things people would kill for. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Beaver pelts. Oil. You name it, buddy, someone says those words and then it’s mayhem.”

Brit Griffin is author of three near-future cli-fi novels and a writer of poetic/story musings, whose interests lay in reconciling with non-humans and exploring the human/creature boundaries.

It seems we are a species of excess. Appetites? Endless. Whether we are stacking buffalo skulls along the railway or the towering shelves at Amazon, it is the same human itch to want more. It might just be who we are — but I think many of us would rather not be quite so rapacious in our need and greed. So this is the moral conundrum I always return to in my writing: why do some people do the right thing, behave properly in the sense that they share, act with restraint and respect, consider others (both human and non-human), and other people do not?

I started working on the Wintermen series ten years ago. At that time, I was interested in dystopic scenarios because they act like a crucible in which we can explore the kind of moral choices and actions I am interested in. There are many literary crucibles out there to chose from: zombie invasions, natural catastrophes, fascism. At the time, I had a growing interest in climate change and the measures we needed to take as a species to avoid catastrophe.

So climate change became my crucible, and the Wintermen trilogy a means to discuss and ponder our relationship with the environment. At the time, my perpetual winter scenario seemed like a good frame for a book that explores ordinary people struggling with the aftermath of on-going climate disruption, breakdown and scarcity.

By the time I was working on Wintermen III: At the End of the World, it was clear that there was nothing speculative about a climate change scenario. The present, transformed into some sort of liminal space — the future concocted by the past leaving the here-and-now the odd man out. Existing in the present means we cannot re-write the future script, only make small but important edits to it. No rolling back the clock. Urgent mitigation only, no prevention. So in At the End of the World I wanted to think about simply behaving properly in its own right, not to save ourselves and our ‘way of life’, but to transform ourselves for a different way of being human.

In the liminal space of the story the question shifts from how do we prevent climate change to how do we find our way to be a better species in a world that has already changed? How do we begin to reintegrate ourselves back into the natural web, where can we look for the wisdom to guide us on the path away from desire towards ordinary, in situ joy?

This path, I think, is one of the imagination as much as lifestyle changes or the development of new and gentler technologies. Returning to those liminal spaces, the book begins to explore and chip away at the hard boundaries between what is and what should have been, reality and dream, science and magic — this is an area of exploration I will continue to wander in, looking for the signposts left by birch and wolf and wiser humans than myself about how our species can find our way home.


The Wintermen III: At the End of the World by Brit Griffin is published by Latitude 46 (October, 2020) and can be ordered direct from them as a print book or an ebook, from Chapters (Canada) or from your local, independent bookseller.

And you can hear a great chat about nature, winter and climate change with Brit Griffin and Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation, Karen McBride (author of Crow Winter, 2019).