This time six years ago I was not a blogger. I was not a mum. I was not even married.
Six years ago, I worked full time for a coalition called Stop Climate Chaos. I would describe it to people as the climate change equivalent of Make Poverty History – a large, diverse group of development charities, environmental NGOs, churches, trade unions, student societies and many others – working together to campaign on issues around climate change.
I was the Scottish co-ordinator of the coalition – the sole staff member north of the Border – which meant that I was involved with everything from the admin to the advocacy. I worked on fundraising, press work, volunteers, event organisation, campaigns, maintaining the website… I had a finger in pretty much every piece of that chaotic climate pie.
One of the first things that Stop Climate Chaos did in Scotland was organise a series of lectures; each one dealing with a different element of climate change. They were all held at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh which is where my boss Mike, the chair of the SCC Board, worked.
And at one of those lectures – about the effects of climate change on Scottish wildlife – a lovely guy called Gregory showed up. He was a short, kind looking man in glasses and a tweed jacket, and he came up after the lecture to introduce himself as a writer who also happened to care about green issues.
Mike and Gregory got chatting. An hour after the lecture had finished, the lights had been dimmed and the servitor was rattling his keys trying to get us out of there, they were still chatting.
“The problem is,” said Mike “that it’s only scientists who are talking about it. And scientists aren’t always the best communicators in the world.”
“Exactly,” said Gregory. “What we need is to get people thinking creatively about climate change. We need artists. We need writers. We need a book.”
Earlier this week, six years after that first conversation between Mike and Gregory, the book finally landed on my doormat.
It’s called Beacons. And it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.
I may – may – have shed a little tear when I ripped open the padded envelope and held it in my hands. What a labour of love.
Beacons is a book of specially commissioned short stories – from writers as esteemed as Joanne Harris, Toby Litt, Alasdair Gray, AL Kennedy and Janice Galloway. They came together for a climate change briefing weekend in Perthshire last May, and were then left to write about the theme in whatever way they saw fit.
Gregory, who led the project, contributed a story and edited the book, describes it as a ‘metaphorical gauntlet thrown down to challenge authors to imagine our worst and best possible futures.’
I read it almost in one sitting, began by trying to take notes, writing down key phrases and ideas that struck me… but after the second or third story I gave up on that and just immersed myself in it.
It is a sad book, an angry book, and a scary book. But it is deeply rewarding to read. The best stories are the ones that take familiar, comforting things and tweak them, make them slightly uncomfortable, make us realise how much we take them for granted in 2013.
It is a book that makes you look to the future and realise that we really do have to take advantage of the opportunities we have now to avoid catastrophic climate change.
It is a book that makes me feel really proud to have been a tiny part of that coalition in its early days.
The writers are thinking about climate change.
Good on them.
That gives me hope.
Beacons – Stories For Our Not So Distant Future was published on March 7th, to coincide with Climate Week. It is a collection of 21 original short stories by some of the UK’s best writers. All royalties from the book go to Stop Climate Chaos.