It seems like “every dog and divil” is over there in Glasgow at the “apocolympics” competing with each other in apocalyptic prophesies about the globe self-combusting by Tuesday week.
So, I thought I’d delve into a bit of “cli-fi” reading this week. Obviously, you know that stands for “climate fiction” which is unsurprisingly a growing genre of books for these perilous times.
But I’d better clear the ground quickly before I go any further.
Sadly, I do believe in the reality of climate change and fear its potential to wreak havoc, possibly fatal, on future generations. And I also believe we have very little time left to act.
It’s probably why I stayed with this “cli-fi” book called Iceapelago 2091, well that and the reality that this is a good tale told with some style.
The writer is a Dubliner called Peter Brennan, better known for his non-fiction writings about Ireland and EU affairs. For some decades he headed the Brussels office of IBEC and in his heyday there was little he did not know about the workings of the “EU machine”.
Iceapelago is a group of 30 fragmented islands surrounded by ice where winter is permanent. It reminds us that the Romans used to call our home place “Hibernia”, or winter. Maybe those old Romans knew more than we think.
So, this is Ireland supposedly seven decades hence after a series of calamities have ended the benign effects of the Gulf Stream around the year 2040 and dramatically changed Ireland’s climate for the worst.
The division of Ireland into the islets is a fun thought in itself. Cork and Kerry appear to constitute one large one in the southwest, doubtless living in harmony.
Limerick is in flitters entirely and so is much of the west coast which unsurprisingly takes the brunt of fragmentation. Dublin’s southside is lumped in with Wicklow and the current north-south Border is rendered irrelevant by the fragmentation. That may offer some small consolation with no need to contemplate a “border poll”.
Among the early migrants are Arctic foxes. I suppose if you look out the window some afternoon and see Arctic foxes ambling across your lawn, you’d be entitled to suppose that climate change has seriously kicked in.
This disaster is compounded by some tsunamis which have destroyed the landscape, rendering our beloved isle into a collection of mini-islands.
“This is fiction which, hopefully, will never become fact,” the writer tells us frankly.
But it is also the product of pretty meticulous research with multiple visits to Greenland to see the melting ice sheets amid unseasonably warm weather and visits to more remote parts of the Canary Islands to see volcanoes which have a huge part to play in the catastrophe much further afield rather than just locally as we have seen in recent weeks.
The first revelations of impending disaster actually come when students doing summer research on the island of La Palma discover volcanic activity in an area long deemed to have been dormant. Good engaging read and all as it is, there is also a serious point.
During Peter Brennan’s time in Brussels, the prospect of climate change was being discussed far more seriously than in many member states, including Ireland. By now he has spent over 20 years engaging with issues around climate change science and policies which may try to broach the various problems it brings.
Inadvertently, we are getting an insight into the value of nature. We also see the potential threats to our natural environment.
The huge environmental shock has brought heavy social consequences with it. The survivors are struggling in pre-medieval conditions to survive in a land where food and medicine are scarce and dear.
On Winter Day, tundra-like conditions lock down the land for several months. It falls to the Commander to keep a semblance of order amid rampant dissatisfaction and dissent.
In an ideal world he should have the help and support of the local leaders’ network dubbed the “Sixes and Sherrifs” who run the various islands. But then again politics – even in this future adversity – is not always what it seems or you would hope it to be.
And then, if all that was not appalling enough, along comes a hefty Arctic storm on the eve of Winter Day. Dear oh dear, I truly hate the cold which I can somehow feel piercing my bones reading this one.
The population is dramatically and drastically reduced. We read that on the eve of Winter Day 2091 the entire populace numbers just over 13,000.
And afterwards? Well let’s not spoil a good read at this point.
The writer tells me he would like to see this book done into a film. I have no idea how that one goes, but I have seen far worse on the screen.
He is also on the case with a sequel, working title Iceapelago: The Aftermath. The current book is self-published, and I’m afraid I don’t have a price. But if you want to track it down log on to www.iceapelago.com.