Hey everyone. On October 8th at 7pm BST/2PM EDT I’ll be joining writers Anne Goodwin (Sugar and Snails), Craig Hallam (Oshibana Complex), Clare Stevens (Blue Tide Rising), and the indomitable managing director/editor Sara-Jayne from Inspired Quill for an online chat.

We’ll talk mental health (and illness) in fiction; the books that got it right, the ones that didn’t, and the stigma mental illness carries.

I’ve always been a believer in the mantra that stories are how we make sense of ourselves and the world around us. And, while I’ve been a fan Fight Club and The Silence of the Lambs, they are probably not the most accurate examples of mental illness ever put on paper. And that’s fine. Fiction books are not meant to replace a nuanced understanding of real world issues. On the other hand, how many people refer to psycho killers these days, or have a skewed idea of bipolarism because they read about it in a book or watched a movie?

So, join the discussion by clicking on this link->https://youtu.be/MWIgQZ2FPjY

Share your questions, bring up your favorite books dealing with mental illness, and let’s have a cool evening.

Something awesome happened recently.

I live next to a spot in the outskirts of Copenhagen called the Amager Commons, a 223-ha national park that is home to a number of animal and plant species. There’s falcons, hawks, owls, grebes, foxes, deer, tormentil, marsh orchids, and a bunch of others, some of which are protected by law. Amongst them is the humble Northern Crested Newt, which is about the size of my palm.

There’s much to love here. Copenhagen isn’t a large city, but it can tire you out. There are hiking and bicycle trails through the forest and a lot of my Instagram pictures are shot while walking through it and clearing my mind. It’s a place we need in a country that doesn’t have the awe-inspiring vistas of Norway or New Zealand, or the old-growth forests of the US and Canada.

Part of the Commons was rezoned at one point with the intention to knock down the vegetation and natural habitat and replace it with residential buildings. Since then, various nature protection organizations have been trying to stall development and, I’m suspecting, part of the reason why it took years for construction to begin at all was the public outcry and how this one case has always been brought up during communal elections.

Last year, the project started.

The nature protection organizations keeping an eye on the development argued that it went against nature protection laws. A court ordered the development company to cease until it could be determined whether construction was impacting protected species, which the company ignored and pressed on. I’ve had dealings with that company before and I can tell you they are a bunch of criminals that have outright lied in court in various cases and cheated to squeeze as much money as possible out of locals. Nothing ever happens to them because it’s a joint public-private venture that affords the company a certain amount of immunity.

Enter the newt.

The Friends of Amager club managed to get a court to put a stop to the construction by providing evidence that the endangered Northern Crested Newt’s habitat would be wiped out. Only catch was that the club had to pay a guarantee of 2 million Danish Kroner (roughly 320k USD) in lost earnings in case the developer appealed and won the case, and the club had to do so within 7 days.

We managed to get the money in 36 hours through Facebook-driven donations alone. The machines went packing.

Now, there’s a couple of things to note here. One is how capitalists can’t be trusted. The development company has been vocal in their intention to fight the decision “because how can a damn newt stop a multi-million project?” Companies don’t care about you, they don’t care about your well-being, and if they had it their way free-market style they’d turn the world into a huge slum if it meant more money in their pockets. Keep in mind, the guarantee that was asked for in court was 12 times higher and was based on false statements, which thankfully the judge laughed off.

The other is, piss off enough people and I don’t care how big you are. We’ll end you. It doesn’t take more than a newt to stop lying companies, after all.

I’ll put some articles below on how companies have been lying and cheating their way to contribute to the climate emergency throughout time. I want to make a point that any positive environmental action will always be facing one main opposing force; people sitting in a board room trying to take more resources out of the world than they are giving back to it. And they won’t care if it means your stress levels will go up because you only see trees on TV or that newts will be wiped out of existence or that the seas are emptying or that we’re all getting more cancer or that large parts of the world will become uninhabitable in a few years’ time. The only language they speak is stock prices and bonuses.

Also, just in case some smart-ass asks me if I have an alternative to capitalism that doesn’t involve murderous communism, I do. It’s called social entrepreneurship and my publisher, Inspired Quill, is a company functioning in this manner. Making money and not selling your soul to Satan are not mutually exclusive.

Being in nature is good for your health.

Walmart does nothing towards its zero net deforestation policy.

IKEA happy to use illegal timber, as long as someone else does the felling.

Timber barons straight up murdering activists protecting the Amazon forest.

Tesla, Facebook and others hiding their true environmental impact.

Koch Industries funding climate change denial.

I’m currently having a discussion with friends (partially driven by my last post-Do No Harm) about whether personal action counts for more than corporate responsibility when it comes to impacting climate change.

There is a difference of course between how much an individual impacts climate change and how corporations are reacting to what the individuals want. I can promise you Evil Corp would become green very fast if all its customers demanded it. Case in point, plant milk. Old hippies and vegetarians/vegans kept asking for it for decades and the market complied.

So, let’s talk about personal accountability.

Of the choices with the highest impact that an individual can have on the environment, switching to a mostly plant-based diet is near the top according to this oft-cited study (you can get a summary and a great visualization of the results here). It’s not at the very top of actions one can take, but I feel that it’s the most accessible compared to, say, choosing to not reproduce or living car-free which depends on your local infrastructure and a bunch of other factors (and there’s also green energy, which I’ll touch on in another post).

This impact calculator of various foods by the BBC and these statistics point to the same conclusion. Beef, dairy, and shrimps are having a huge impact in comparison to other foods. The lower you get in the food pyramid, the lower the environmental impact. Which is a shame, because I’m sure you love your steak as much as I used to love shrimps.

But, don’t worry. I won’t go into preachy vegetarian territory. This isn’t even a post on vegetarianism.

Look…Let’s be pragmatic. No one can change their habits overnight. It took me years of research to switch to a low-carbon diet.

But I feel that I can’t sit on my ass waiting for the world around me to get fixed. Things don’t work that way. Corporations want nothing but your money. That’s the hill they’ll die on. They will burn down the Amazon and turn it into pastures because there is a demand they are willing to satisfy. Hell, they’ll kill people to cater to the market. No one’s culinary preference is worth all this misery and destruction.

Could you consider changing your habits bit by bit? Say, go meatless for a couple of days a week or switch to chicken? Would you consider cooking seasonally? Transportation plays into the equation as well. Eating plants shipped from halfway around the world won’t help the climate cause either.

You and I are the market. We make the rules. The best corporations can do is lie about what’s good for you, like that time they convinced us that cocaine in soda was an intellectual’s drink, or that time they convinced us that we had to propose with a diamond ring, then made us pay out of the nose for one.

I’ll leave a few resources below on low-carbon eating, I hope you can get some use out of them. Please don’t wait for others to save the day. Start with yourselves. And please write to me with suggestions on how to minimize impact on the environment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What is a low carbon diet

Good guidelines for a low carbon diet

Low carbon recipes and how transportation and seasonality play into the equation

More recipes

Let’s get something out of the way.

While our future regarding climate change is precarious, things won’t shift overnight. If COVID taught us anything, it’s that there will always be deniers in times of crisis, even in the face of hundreds of thousands of dead. Even at government level.

We will not change to a zero fossil fuel, no food-waste, low footprint economy overnight. For the most part, successful governments are judged on stock market performance, GDP increases, and other metrics that have nothing to do with avoiding environmental disaster. I’d go as far as to say that they are conflicting goals.

One thing I hate is when people keep pointing out negatives about a system but don’t make proposals to change it. “It’s all capitalism’s fault” is a slogan, not a solution. So, here’s my suggestions about how to go about changing things;

Practice good judgement when buying stuff. I recently come across the Ethical Consumer website and I’m excited about how it ranks companies according to sustainability and fairness. Things such as electronics are a huge burden on the environment due to rare metal extraction methods and the chemical processes involved (not to mention the waste they generate).

I’ve mentioned before how the meat industry is a main contributor to climate change and there’s others who have catalogued the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. But, I get it. Not everyone can or wants to switch to a vegetarian/vegan diet. If you cut down on meat, though, to twice a week, congratulations. You’re doing more for your health and the environment than most people. No one’s asking you to become a soy milk-loving hippy from one day to the next. Meat tastes nice, I get it. Just make an effort.

Last bit. I won’t go into arguments against capitalism, because I don’t have a realistic alternative. I do think it’s the number one reason for ruining our environment. I also think its cousin, social entrepreneurship, may be a solution towards a lot of problems. In brief, SE uses capitalist methods to generate value and give back, as opposed to making a profit only. My publisher, Inspired Quill, funnels profits into LGBT+ and literacy programs. With my upcoming book, The Hush, we’ll be using some of the profits for reforestation purposes. Inspired Quill is not the only company operating in this manner. Patagonia famously pledges 1% of its profits towards environmental causes. Could Patagonia do more? Sure. Are they doing more than 99% of companies out there? Absolutely. Seek those companies out. Vote with your wallets and support their causes.

I personally feel we need to change our mindsets regarding how we operate in nature. And I do think the rhetoric of leaving nature alone is faulty. We are part of nature. We need its resources and will have a footprint, just like a wolf stalking deer does, or a beaver taking down trees. This mindset change won’t happen overnight, there’s too much cultural baggage holding us back. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to get into a position of doing no harm. It’s better than nothing.

About a lifetime ago (the early 2000’s, to be exact), when I was doing my undergraduate degree in Marine Biology, I spent some time going over climate change evidence.

I went through all the usual data; the narrative that ice core samples tell us about temperature cycles. The tight correlation between greenhouse emissions and temperature increases. And the apocalyptic impact just a 2-degree centigrade change would have on the world.

Back then, the scientific consensus was that we still had time to act. If we were to make drastic changes, say, decrease emissions by 25%-50% or shrink the meat industry, we could avoid the worst of it.

Forget about the sea level rising. The “worst of it” was fires, floods, and drought. It was our food supply being threatened. It was conditions where humans could no longer survive in. Us, Homo sapiens. The ultimate badasses that can thrive anywhere, from the Sahara desert to Antarctica, dropping dead because the environment becomes too hostile.

That was 20 years ago. And we’ve failed to act.

For all the awareness that we now have, for all the Greta Thunberg’s of the world and green initiatives, things look bleak. I remember Jeff Vandermeer, probably my favorite environmentally-conscious writer, having a mini-breakdown on social media over how desperate things look for the future. As he wrote, however, in his novel “Dead Astronauts”, winning (whatever that means for our planet) may not be the point. Maybe the struggle is the point.

I’m currently brainstorming a book idea revolving around this feeling of despair over the environment. This state of knowing black days are to come, of fighting against the inevitable, and failing. It’s something I feel I need to get our of my chest. I’d be lying if I said I din’t sometimes lie awake at 3am, thinking about what kind of world my two-year old niece will grow up in. Are we heading into a “The Road” kind of situation? Or is “The Parable of the Sower” the best we can hope for?

I also think this state of hopelessness makes for an interesting story. The definition of tragedy is suffering because of personal flaws, and what could be more tragic than bringing about our own suffering because we failed to take action?

I just hope this book remains forever in the fiction section.

PS. Maybe not all hope is lost. Check out this article on geoengineering.

So, here’s the thing about this spaceship we’re riding on. It’s becoming harder to survive in it. The temperature inside the cabin is rising. We’re eating things we wouldn’t even touch before, because we’re depleting our stores. As a matter of fact, the air is so filthy in here, we’re literally dropping dead.

In the face of all this, what are you and I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do to mitigate such apocalyptic destruction as the Gulf of Mexico drowning in oil, or the Pacific drowning in plastic? Governments are not in a hurry to fix things, because that would mean making sacrifices most people are not ready to accept.

A gentleman called Jadav Payeng decided he wouldn’t rely on anyone to save his island from erosion. He did it himself -by planting a forest bigger than the Central Park on it. Let that sink in. One person. 550 hectares of green anchoring an entire island, providing refuge for endangered species, and also supporting this man’s livelihood (he has a farm on the island itself). This is Homo sapiens living in balance with his environment, giving and taking, both thriving. This is not tree-hugging, this is being smart about surviving in the only planet we have.

Now, does this mean you should go and plant a forest? If you live on an island about to get washed away, yeah. Do it. Don’t wait for help, no one is coming to save you, most likely. Or set aside an hour every other week to help pick up trash from your local forest, like my neighborhood does. Or recycle. Do something, anything, except believing that you can’t make a difference by yourself.

It’ll take a lot of effort and, just because you and I can do something, it doesn’t let governments and corporations off the hook. In fact, they have a lot to answer for, with the general tendency to shift blame to the people themselves and for stalling with the enforcement of policy-level changes. Check out this article about the argument for personal versus institutional responsibility over the climate crisis, as well as the tendency of a lot of environmentalists to absolve themselves from the need to act on an individual level.

This is not an either-or situation and, while we’re all arguing, the spaceship is getting hotter, the food is getting nastier, and more people are dropping dead. So, move. Get something done, plant a forest or whatnot. It beats sitting around arguing about whose fault it is.

The science behind climate change is pretty clear cut (for the skeptics, please check what NASA, the Scientific American, the British Royal Society, the National Academy of Sciences of the US, and Skeptical Science have to say). And what the science says is, we’re heading headfirst into an apocalypse.

Imagine being in a spaceship called Earth. Imagine that an average increase of 1.5 degree Celsius has messed up the sensitive food production system, has turned large parts of the spaceship uninhabitable, and fresh water production is failing. Desperate, people start forcing their way into areas where food can still grow and where there is still water. The people living there already don’t want to share. A fight starts. Blood flows.

Scary thought?

The problem a lot of people face when discussing climate change is not knowing what to do on an individual level. “What can I do?” There is a lot of noise about this or that international agreement, but they don’t translate well to every day life. I’ve yet to find one person who can explain to me in concrete terms how my life will change because of the Paris Agreement.

I’ve found this interesting article by the BBC that outlines 10 individual changes you can make. I don’t agree all of them are achievable or even realistic for individuals, but hopefully they will provide some food for thought.

It is possible to take individual action. Given how the climate crisis isn’t on any government’s agenda (except for poor Tuvalu), don’t rely on anyone other than yourselves to change things.

And, if you think individuals can’t make a difference, keep an eye out for the next blog post.

Dear friends, good news.

The Hush, my debut novel, got picked up by Inspired Quill for publication aiming for July 2022. Obviously these are exciting news, made doubly so by the fact that Inspired Quill is an indie publisher fighting the good fight. It actively donates to charity and we’re expecting to give some of the proceeds to environmental causes.

I’ll be posting more details as we’ll be getting closer to the date.