Mary Woodbuy, writing under the pen name of Clara Hume, has written a cli fi novel titled ''Back to the Garden''
Woodbury, writing under a pen name, has written a cli fi novel titled ''Back to the Garden'' which takes us through an apocalyptic North America near the end of this century, when climate change and other ecological disasters have devastated the planet.http://www.amazon.com/Back-to-the-Garden-ebook/dp/B0095B4650
In a recent email interview with the author, who lives in Canada, we asked her a few questions about the book, how it came to be and what she hopes the book will accomplish in terms ofraising public awareness among the young and old about climate change and global warming issues.
Danny Bloom: Why did you choose this date and time frame and do
you think that timing will be sooner, or perhaps a bit later, now that
you published the book and gotten some feedback from readers with
reviews pro and con?
MARY WOODBURY: I meant to be vague with "near the end of the century". An earlier
draft of the book had some journal entries dating back through the years,
culminating in the final year of 2079. The journal entries showed the
progression of the world from now to then, since the writers of the
letters would have been the main characters' ancestors, and would be
living right now. The journal entries are still in the book (I won't spoil
it), but without dates. I don't know how bad things would be by a
certain time, and concluded that fiction should lend to imagination
rather than prediction, so I took the dates out.
I have gotten some feedback from readers but so far but not about the
credibility of what goes down in the book. However, one Waterkeeper
who works in the area of Idaho where the book starts, and who had at
least read a synopsis of the book, was sad about the future of the
lake her organization is a "keeper" of. Lake Pond Orielle is near the
Selkirk Mountains ranch where the book begins. The Waterkeeper of that
lake told me about some invasive species and such, but I think she
might have bigger hopes that the lake remains healthier than it's
described in my book. It wasn't really a credibility issue,
again--more like a sadness that things might get that bad.
I personally have no guess about how things will change in our
lifetimes. But considering that huge earth-saving, global policies for
clean air and water, less emissions, and so forth, are not in sight,
my hopes aren't high for our future.
Danny Bloom: Tell us more about the plot of the novel, the characters, the themes.
MARY These are survivors of a long
decline in the health of our planet. There's not a lot of mention of
specific events, but there are a few. One is the 'Resource Wars'. We
know this happens when the oldest character in the book was a little
boy, watching it on the news. Resource Wars describes an event of
economic and natural competition, and an aggressive one at that, but
outside of that I don't go into much detail. Same with the various
sicknesses resulting from vector-borne viruses and lack of clean water
as well as horrible sanitary conditions.
Same with a final breakdown
of global society as we know it today, due to no central governments
or communication, and really...for all the characters know, the world
is mostly off the grid save for minor use of solar powered technology.
The main characters in the book remember an age descending from our
modern days, in that they recall things getting worse and worse each
year. They remember the internet. They remember electricity. But they
just happened to be living at that tipping point when things went from
bad to a hell of a lot worse real quickly.
Again, however, I was vague
about some issues. I thought about going into details on some events,
but I wanted the book to be more about the characters and their
relationships because it is up to them to give us hope.
I have been contemplating these issues for a long time, really all my
life. I remember when I grew up, as a child in the 1970s, there were
worries about the ozone layer, population growth, and saving
electricity (I always made everyone in my family turn off lights they
That must have also been part of the launch of the
throw-away period, which we're still in, which means there's a lot of
disposable stuff filling up our landfills and oceans. It has occurred
to me all my life, probably due to my great love of natural areas and
the outdoors--and knowledge that our survival is absolutely dependent
on the ecosystems around us, that, at least in my lifetime, we've been
using too much of the world's resources too fast.
I have always
preferred the riches of family, love, and good relationships over what
power and money gives, so to me it is really a foreign concept that
the polluting world operates the way it does (i.e. consumerism and
For more on what sparked my novel, see this link:
climate change has been on my mind for about as long as scientists
began reporting the current state we're in.
Danny Bloom: Who are you trying to reach as readers?
MARY: Along with the last question, my goal for the book is to reach
everyone, young and old alike. I think art is a good way of inspiring
people, and I hope people will see the book as a motivator to look at
the world in a new way and start acting as a strong steward for our
planet. The writing isn't complicated, so I think all ages would
understand it, though there are some visually grotesque things in the
book I wouldn't want children to read.
Danny Bloom: How are marketing the book in terms of publicity and advertising?
MARY: I've done quite a bit of direct marketing, sending a press release
about the book to everyone from Bill McKibben to NRDC to climate
change and similar organizations in the USA and Canada. I also sent
news of the book to climate change forum leaders.
I mentioned the book on a few other
forums too. I also joined an online book club for a different project
and talk about the book there occasionally. I search news articles for
climate change books and comment on them about this book. I also put a
clickable banner ad for the book up on bcrainforest.com (which is the
science/nature blog affiliated with my press--which gets a bit of
traffic due to my series on the Great Bear Rainforest).
I also have a
couple grand following my press on FB, and use twitter and google +
While no newspapers have reviewed the book yet, a woman who writes
for the NYT and Slate has a review copy in hand now as does a panel doing a
climate change literature event this spring.
Danny Bloom: Where does your vision of the future come from? Can you explain where this novel came from?
MARY: This is exactly how I imagine our future. I think in time as the world
heats up, more land will become desert-like, and already, the way it
is, our waterways are screwed and will become more so as we divert
water for industry--from soda pop to agriculture to water used in oil
sands--and as we continue to use lakes and seas as dumping grounds.
The "deplorable faces of death" were the words that came to me when I
thought of some incidents that happen in the book. I won't spoil these
for you, but in my mind they are very visual and frightening.
Danny Bloom: What can readers, the public, do to help stop the slide
into despair as the climate heats up century by century?
MARY: This is exactly why I think the book is credible. Not enough is being
done to curb emissions and clean up our act. I used to think Canada
had a good environmental model others could look up to, but Prime
Minister Stephen Harper is pro-industry and has not only threatened
advocates of anti-oil sands expansion but has passed a huge omnibus
bill that defunded scientific programs and air/water monitoring up
here as well as other environmental programs. There's plenty of
opposition to him, thankfully, but I hope/think Obama might behave
better on similar oil sands proposals in the US (i.e. Keystone XL).
I think my children and grandchildren will live in a different world,
and it will be tougher and they'll have to struggle. But sometimes a
lot of beauty and renaissance and growth comes out of tough periods. I
can speak from experience that being somewhat stupid, or perhaps
adventurous, in my youth made me a stronger, more open-minded person
today. I think cultures, like individuals, can learn from their
Danny Bloom: Pessimist or optimist?
MARY: I'm both, or maybe neither. All of humankind's historical activism on
this planet has been a push and pull from one sort of side to the
other. We generally come up somewhere in the middle at any point in
time. I don't think we'll will ever be too vastly different as a
species. Today's humans are ruining the planet, and tomorrow's humans
will be smarter about it. It seems almost a clinical way to look at
things, but trust me, it is not without great care and concern for the
Danny Bloom: Who are your climate issues teachers?
MARY: I think people who are concerned about climate change are the same
people who worry about pollution, deforestation, monoculture crops,
animal farms, and so on. This is simply another part of the
destruction of our planet, and it really works in tandem with a lot of
other things we've already been concerned about. Though I do admire
the people you've mentioned, such as Margaret Atwood and James Lovelock, I tend to see this issue of climate
change as an evolution from other issues, and for that reason would
rather give you names of people who inspired me to love nature.
One was my father, who died in 2009.
I dedicated the
book to him and my mother.
Dad loved taking us canoeing and hiking and
rafting. He and Mom (who grew up on a mountain in Kentucky) always had
books around about the world. I remember the old Time-Life books,
which began my education about evolution, oceans, deserts, mountains,
and so on.
Others who inspired me are poets Gary Snyder and Michael
McClure, author Bill Hotchkiss, and activist John Muir and Jane
Goodall. Also, a big nod to Daniel Quinn, who is brilliant.
Danny Bloom: The title, what does it mean to you?
MARY: I mention this on the bcrainforest.com link above. The title alludes
to the Joni Mitchell version of the song (I love the phrase "We are
stardust. Billion year old carbon"; it ties in with the ephemeral but
important characters in the book, which you will see at the end of the
book) There's also the reference to the biblical garden of Eden as a
place most people think of as pristine. The book starts near, and ends
near, an apple grove. In between is a long journey, where a lot of
jarring discovery is made, and thus so is some soul-searching and
redemption. The title is a little metaphorical then. It's the
beginning and the end of the book and the beginning and end of a
When asked if many young people, younger readers, had writtten to her
yet about the book, Mary replied:
No younger people have written to me yet, but I am hopeful that once
they read this book they would really think about it. Younger people
are so much more tuned in to climate change and environmental issues
than people might think. This article gives me a lot of good vibes:
Also, I had the chance to talk to the college student, Magdalena Angel, leading the
Great Bear Rainforest Youth Paddle last summer, and I asked her a
similar question: not about climate change but about protecting the
rainforest up here from pipelines and supertankers. She said she was
very surprised that the attitudes of her age group at college were
very concerned with such issues.
NOTE: A link to that interview with Magdalena Angel is