Speculative Fiction is the genre in which Linda Woodrow would place her new book, ‘470’. Speculative it may be and the characters are of course a creation of fiction…….but the work is based upon her scholarly research of peer reviewed science into the sociological impacts of climate change and the implications they have for living which she undertook as research for her thesis: Imagined futures: Narrative fiction and climate science.
From accepting the simple premise that some level of climate change is now baked in (Linda’s words -unfortunate metaphor) she says that ‘470’ started with her pondering, ‘… what will it be like in this climate-changed world?’ The books title referring to levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching 470 parts per million.
The future of Linda’s creation is readily recognisable. A dysfunctional rather than dystopian government is no longer able (or willing) to pay the wages of its health care workers let alone welfare to the economically displaced population. A macro response like quantitative easing, (printing money) the panacea of the global financial, crisis isn’t considered but in addressing life at the individual level we see the boomer generation debating their property values, cashing out super or staying in the market in the hope of a recovery.
Meanwhile radical weather patterns are redrawing the coastline and temperature spikes place demands on creaking fossil fuel power stations that are impossible to meet. Telecommunications are intermittent and whether this is because of solar flares, lack of infrastructure maintenance or if they are being deliberately degraded isn’t clarified either.
Instead the impacts of disrupted systems, logistical supply chain for goods and services, foods, medicines and transport are explored at the human level as we follow a young woman, Zanna, from her Byron Bay yoga culture margin to her integration with family and stakeholders of a community many would recognise as a Multiple Occupancy. (A form of land title developed in the Northern Rivers of NSW by demand from the hippy counter-culture requiring multiple dwelling entitlements on rural land)
The challenges like days when the mercury records 45.1 degrees Celsius causing birds to drop from the sky, have devastating effects on the human population too. Heat stroke and death. Solutions and there lack are explored. Different levels of preparedness observed from the dilettante wastrel’s uninsulated unlined tin shack to the dooms day preppers thermal bunker. More generally the discussion ranges: What are useful skills or tradeable commodities in this future. Alternate energy systems are a way of life. Even the to-ing and fro-ing of communal values are weighed in human scales the semantics of which boggled definition – Are you holding a position or an interest?
In ‘470’ Linda Woodrow presents a thoughtful, finely researched, elegantly written novel that highlights considerations practical and ethical for people who wish to live in a future only moments a way.