Our Fragile World
Last year, UK farmers were hit by drought in March followed by the second wettest year on record. This year we have already suffered the coldest spring for fifty years. Extreme weather can devastate crop production and seems to be on the increase. In early June there were floods in Prague and Hungary and nearly every week we hear of some local environmental catastrophe. If these events become ever more frequent and crops continue to fail, if the bee decline persists, if the population continues to grow and require more food, then the planet is at risk of global food shortages.
In my novel A Meeting of a Different Kind, one of the sub-plots flirts with environmental concerns and sustainability issues. I have developed this further in the sequel which I hope to publish next year. However, so pressing are the issues, I would like to share some thoughts now, before it’s too late.
Modern cultures generally do not live in a sustainable way and it is increasingly evident that we cannot proceed in this manner indefinitely. Land and resources are finite and a month ago there was a report that we should start eating less meat because of the acreage taken up in growing animal feedstuffs. Of course this is one option, but even this is not sustainable if the population continues to rise worldwide. Indeed at the root of many of our environmental problems is the escalating global population.
Last week I was alarmed to find the so-called full price for a handful of raspberries in an up-market supermarket was 3.99. This is one of many examples of how food prices have escalated over the past two years. The more we can grow our own, the better. We don’t all have gardens or even balconies, so we need to be creative – like people were in the war. Even if we have a garden, we may not have the time, energy or inclination to plant it with fruit and vegetables. But with allotment waiting-lists often very long, it is probable that there will be someone in the locality who would be pleased to cultivate your garden in exchange for a portion of the crop. Already there are small-scale local enterprises putting people in touch with each other for this purpose, but it needs to become more widespread if it is to have real impact. And social networking, particularly Twitter, might be the perfect medium through which to operate such a scheme.
There are occasional reports of a practice known as guerrilla gardening where a group of individuals – often under cover of darkness – plant up derelict common space with flowers fruit or vegetables. Although technically illegal, a group based in Glasgow has received endorsement from the city council who said they do not have the funds to do it themselves. Perhaps this approach could be expanded elsewhere. Also, local authorities could take steps to use available resources to plant fruit trees instead of ornamental varieties wherever possible, and perhaps grow cabbages and carrots instead of alyssum and lobelia in the flower beds of parks. Imagine how wonderful this might be.
I hear you say, ‘But people will take the produce like the man who stole Tom Good’s leeks from his front garden in the seventies comedy, The Good Life.’ That is the whole point. If there were enough initiatives in every village, in every town and city, on every street, then there would be enough produce for everyone to have a share. Of course there are those that would be greedy; those who would abuse the spirit of the enterprise. But is this a good enough reason for not giving it a chance? It might be that peer pressure and community spirit would be sufficient to prevent abuse in most places. After all, the countryside is full of natural goodies for foragers to gather. We don’t worry about some individuals taking too many blackberries or elderberries, hazelnuts or sweet chestnuts, mushrooms or wild garlic, sloes or rose hips or juniper berries, crab apples and so forth. We admire their effort, even if the produce ends up being sold at market or used in a restaurant. Our parks could grow rosemary and thyme, bay trees and basil, giving people an opportunity to harvest a sprig or a leaf or two when they are out for a walk. And the addition of fruiting trees would be delightful.
All these ideas are merely from one branch of sustainable initiatives we might explore. Each gardening project needs time to develop and in the case of trees, time to mature. Starting now is likely to contribute to a far better future. In my opinion, it’s as significant as that.
A Meeting of a Different Kind is about complex love relationships, likely to be enjoyed by a wide range of women and men. The references to environmental and sustainability issues are intended to be of general interest and to provoke people into finding out more.
A Meeting of a Different Kind
Print Length: 352 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1780883250
Publisher: Matador (1 Nov 2012)
When archaeologist Edward Harvey’s wife Felicity inherits almost a million, she gives up her job, buys a restaurant and, as a devotee of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall, starts turning their home into a small eco-farm. Edward is not happy, not least because she seems to be losing interest in him. Taryn is a borderline manic-depressive, a scheming minx, a seductress and user of men. Edward and Taryn don’t know each other but they both know Marianne. To Edward, Marianne is a former classmate who sends him crazy emails. She is Taryn’s best friend, and when Marianne meets Edward, she tells Taryn how wonderful he is and that he is not the philandering type. Taryn sees a challenge and concocts a devious plan to meet him during a series of lectures he is giving at the British Museum. When Edward and Taryn’s paths cross, questions of friendship, loyalty and betrayal are played out against a backdrop of mental fragility and the destabilising effects of a large inheritance…
About the Author
Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, on the edge of the Lake District in Cumbria, England. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught secondary science and biology in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write, paint and make jewellery. In 1990 she was lured back into teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught health and social care and psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’.
At the end of 2009, Linda broke her wrist very badly through tripping over a classroom chair. Reminded of the fragility of life and how time was passing with her writing dreams still unfulfilled, she decided to publish her first novel independently. Meeting Lydia was inspired by finding an ex classmate on Friends Reunited. The novel explores the effects of school bullying on later life, and the pros and cons of internet relationships from the perspective of a woman going through a midlife crisis. It was published in September 2011. The stand-alone sequel, A Meeting of a Different Kind, had already been drafted before Linda broke her wrist and was published in November last year. It continues the story from the perspectives of two different characters, looking at issues of friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Both books may be read independently and are being very well-received by a wide ranging readership of men as well as women. It is expected that there will be a third part to the series and this is a work in progress.
Health issues in 2011 prompted Linda to retire from teaching in order to concentrate on her writing career. She hopes that with this new focus she can bring her books to the notice of a larger audience.
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