Earth Future is a collection of very worthy short stories. It is immediately clear that Guy Dauncey is not writing from a literary and imaginative viewpoint: he is really telling us stories about how the world could be, using some real social tools and shifts, and in one or 2 stories, how bad the world (meaning both the natural world and the cohesion of the human community) currently is and will continue to become if we don’t act upon the pollution, greed, and other corrupting factors now.
He is talented at conveying the themes, actions and indeed foibles of the human spirit. To a lesser extent he has an ability to describe human relations through the tensions, actions and situations that we find ourselves in – for example, a father and son who find themselves at opposite ends of a protest against a tidal wave energy plant is well described in ‘’Tides of Bold Bluff.”
What does start to grate however is how each of the 18 stories has a specific environmental theme, which the author then ties in to a human trait, or issue.
18 stories: 18 themes, with a bit of padding thrown in for good measure (including a poem, a soliloquy, and a pledge, no less). Those of us involved in environmental activism and protection know that initially issues appear black and white, yet often have myriads of layers and inter-connectivity underneath the surface.
In the story ‘Dreaming of a Green Christmas,’ Dauncey explores anti-materialism; in ‘Cobble Hills,’ he examines eco-villages and co-operation. In ‘Future in the Forests’ he weaves his words around sustainable forests, and so on.
Black borders on each page mark out three stories in the books centre pages. This seems to imply that these are the bleakest, and they are the sparks of despair that could really bring change in the world. They deal with a bacteria outbreak in the UK (that kills 4,500 people), the DNA in both humans and monkeys being altered by pollutants (with the resulting outbreak of deformed children and baby monkeys), and it should be pretty clear from the title what ‘Antarctica’s Farewell’ focuses upon. These three grim stories serve to focus the reader upon the potential of the optimistic and sustainable outcomes that Dauncey provides in the stories that sandwich these three.
He uses these scenarios like sledgehammers upon our heads, but in this he is faultless: humanity is indeed acting upon the earth like a bull in a china shop, and we know the consequences.
“The grandeur of the looming mountains was amplified by the ice-streams that poured down from the glaciers into the sea. Ten kilometres a year did not seem a particularly impressive speed at which to drown the world. Yet there they were, those tongues of ice moving slowly northwards into the ocean, inundating the civilized world at 10 kilometres a year, 27 metres a day. All for a hundred years of fun and fast living, burning a hundred million years of stored solar energy – fossil fuels. “
The cumulative effect of this collection is worthiness with a slightly dull edge. A different review might examine how much of the stories predictions for the future (it was published 17 years ago) have come true, or not, but that’s for others to write. I’m minded of the quote: “there are ways of telling, and then there are ways of telling.” As the author’s blurb on the cover tells us, Dauncey is a futurist, not necessarily a teller of tales. He has yet to perfect this art, or artfully combine the two.
For those of us in the Middle East, one of Dauncey’s stories contains a German activists memory of a journey by rail and sea from Berlin to the Middle East. The activist, Mimi, is slowly dying of “drug-resistant tuberculosis” and from her apartment in Berlin looks back upon her life and achievements. The pinnacle of a life spent campaigning in new and original ways for the widespread use of solar technology, was her participation in a conference in Jordan, in which her presentation showing how “the new wave of renewable energies had achieved a momentum.”
It is a little far-fetched that the author then indicates that Mimi’s talk was the catalyst for the Arab states then capitalising upon its solar energy potential and in partnership with a Japanese company, dominating the world as energy suppliers.
A little more research (back when the book was published in 1991) would have shown that the Arab states (and Israel) have long been ahead of the game in this and that international and local cooperation has long been in place, alongside the corrupt politics of the oil barrel. Only now in 2008, 17 years after Dauncey’s book, are we seeing the fruits of this. Check out this Green Prophet post on this.
‘Earth Future – stories from a sustainable world’ By Guy Dauncey
New Society Publishers, Canada 1999. Publishers website: www.newsociety.com
This review was commissioned and published recently on the wonderful literary site devoted to short stories in all their glory: The Short Review. It was then republished on another great site: Vulpe Libris, who devoted a week recently to all things green and literary – check them out!
Many thanks to both those sites, and don’t forget to read our regular Green Prophet green book reviews – as summer flows into autumn-ish, keep a green book under your arm and keep up with the latest facts and figures….and if you fancy reviewing one for us, let me know: james “at” greenprophet.com.