I’m trying to only blog on the weekend (so I will actually write my thesis) but today is such an auspicious date, so I had to post before the weekend.
All balance is being destroyed. The Gulf Stream is dying and climate change will spread deserts over the face of the Earth. In just fifty years the age of oil will be over and the industrial machine will cease. Its death throes will be agonising. Without oil, modern agriculture will fail. In the coming decades we face endless war, disease and starvation – a terrible and unavoidable apocalypse.
– The Amethyst Child by Sarah Singleton
I feel like this has morphed into a book review site. I’m about to blog about another book I just read. The Amethyst Child by Sarah Singleton (Simon and Schuster, 2008) is a teenage book, pretty much an adult book, but with teenage protagonists. I feel passionately about the need for everyone to understand and listen to teenagers because they are our future. And if we do, they’re more likely to listen to and thus understand us. This includes reading the books they might read (although my research highlights what we all knew, that the majority of teenagers don’t read “YA” books, unless they’re forced to at school).
I picked up The Amethyst Child thinking it was some girly fantasy, with its twining flowery vines in metallic purple. (The illustration is by Sarah Coleman who did the paperback covers of Holly Black’s Tithe and Ironside.) I glanced at the blurb, but it didn’t really register that the story was about a cult. The cult in question is The Community, which believes the world as we know it is ending. Luckily the Amethyst Children are waiting in the wings to save the Earth. Amber is perfect fodder for a cult – an angsty teenager with no friends at school and feeling no one understands her.
I worry about everything. Climate change, the environment, war hunger terrorism. I worry about being hopeless. I worry that I am eating when other people are starving. I worry that I’m too weak and passive, that I don’t make a difference because I’m too scared.
The fact that two of the books I’ve recently read had environmental themes, which aren’t revealed in the blurb, heartens me. It seems as if these themes were slipped into the stories without a thought. Perhaps the authors knew exactly what they were doing and what would sell, but I’d like to think environmental themes have just become something to include in a story because they’re a part of life.
Before Amber meets the cult, her new found friend Dowdie (the cult’s bait) takes her on a tour of the English countryside where she lives, but never notices. This is setting up for the nature worship which permeates the Community’s beliefs. Not realising what this was leading to, I was just enjoying Sarah Singleton’s amazing descriptions of the natural world:
The sun cast tiny molten jewels of light upon the ground through chinks in the leaves. This long arboreal cave possessed the architectural calm of a cloister in a cathedral.
Oh, to write like that! And then I was captivated by the descriptions of the sustainable farm the Community has going – with its chickens and raspberry canes, vegetable beds and orchard. I dream of living in such a place, not as a part of a cult, but somewhere that I worked on and brought to sustainability, just like Milkwood. Then there was the rubbish, obviously my new fav topic.
“Why did you do that? You mustn’t throw rubbish in the river!”
“Why not?” he said. “The world’s full of rubbish. What does it matter, one bit more?”
“It does matter! The river’s beautiful.”
Johnny leaned back on his elbow, a lazy smile on his face. “So what should I do? Put it in a bin, so someone else can stuff it in a big hole we’ve dug in the ground and bury it? The rubbish will still be there – it’s just that you won’t see it,” he said. “The world’s a garbage heap. Might as well be honest about it.”
This exchange between Amber and Johnny (Amber’s not-brainwashed-by-the- cult friend) sparked a helpless stare from me to equal Amber’s. I hate littering, but putting our rubbish in the bin doesn’t make it go away, as much as we’d like to think it does. Or as much as we wished it went to a parallel Abcity.
Like the cult’s, some of my environmental beliefs are kind of hardcore. I don’t discuss these beliefs in public, because they wouldn’t go down too well with most people. Some of my friends think Greenpeace is a bit too out there too, though perhaps not to the extent of the Community. Chris said their idea of shutting down all coal-fired power stations isn’t practical. Even if it wasn’t practical, it would solve a few of our problems and teach us all a lesson about our excessive energy use. But anyway, I don’t think this is impractical:
We’re in a position to develop enough renewable energy sources and energy efficient measures to meet all our power needs. Even better, because renewable energy technologies are ready to provide power now, they can be implemented quickly so all coal-fired power plants can be safely and responsibly phased out by 2030 – Greenpeace
The only thing standing in the way of Greenpeace’s vision becoming reality is lucrative coal deals, the coal lobby and an acquiescent government. If you want to take part in the Energy Revolution, sign the petition and put yourself in the picture (with your fav colour t-shirt and a sign you wrote). You can also:
- Go on board the Esperanza to read about our government’s love affair with “clean coal” (CCS=Cheap Coal for Sure)
- Read the Energy Revolution blog, or
- Find out the background details then tell Kevin you want the government to back renewables! through an email direct to the man.
Back to my reading. I had a little quibble: the ending was unrealistic and kind of trite. I’m not going to say why I thought this because I don’t want to give spoilers, but if you read it, you might work out what I’m talking about. And Amber telling a suicidally depressed person that he shouldn’t kill himself because she would miss him, wouldn’t work. He would need counselling and medical treatment, probably for an extended period of time. But these little things didn’t detract too much from an enjoyable read.
After realising The Amethyst Child wasn’t quite what I’d expected, I took a closer look at those twining vines on the cover. There’s the dragonfly mentioned in the story, but also a rat, some nasty earwig-like insects, eyes, splotches of blood and flowers with bullets for petals. (There’s also raspberries and love hearts in-between to lull you into a false sense of security.) Not so airy-fairy after all, but a thoughtful read with relevance to us all.