A tuk-tuk ride into the sea of humanity flowing down the kaleidoscopic streets of New Delhi is vital proof that we are all connected. The street traffic here is surely a divine manifestation, with so many pouring into the river of life within centimeters of other vehicles without causing an accident—only a single brain instructing our ‘cells’ could achieve such a feat.
Then, what is bringing meditative India to the point of ecocide in an apocalyptic veil of smog? Is it our Western religion of growth? I sought some answers at the New Delhi World Book Fair.
With 1.4 million visitors in 2017, the New Delhi WBF is the largest book fair in Asia. Fittingly, this year’s theme is Climate Change, and the increasingly energy-efficient European Union, its guest of honor. The book fair is running from January 6 to 14th, 2018, for nine days of book discussions, workshops, rights tables, launches, and new writing, in the company of publishers such as Antoine Gallimard, CEO of Editions Gallimard in France; acclaimed Indian author BulBul Sharma; and author-environmentalist Sunita Narain, Director General of the India-based research institute the Centre for Science and Environment.
I presented my YA climate fiction novel Nature’s Confession, a tale of two teens in a fight to save the planet, the universe...and their love. Cli-fi is a new genre of fiction raising awareness about our environmental predicament. While the book industry hasn’t been as receptive to cli-fi as moviemakers, the Indian crowd couldn’t have been more welcoming and curious. I hope for their sake that nature’s confession—namely that she can’t sustain the human race anymore—is not too late. So many are praying that the problems of more than a few little people can amount to more than a hill of beans.
My fellow author Jeanie Keogh and I brought population growth under scrutiny, reading from her eco-play, Baby Making. Mounted by Thought Bubble Theatre Company in in Montreal, Baby Making was picked up by the Summerworks Theatre Festival and performed in Toronto, Canada where it was sponsored by the Stratford Festival of Canada and featured as one of four nationally highlighted shows.
A few days later, I read from my current manuscript, Loveoid. A loveoid is a Big-Pharma derivative of love, just as an opioid is a derivative of opium. This time, I delve into the evolution of the collective soul, as the love-lacking predators on top kill off life on earth. My protagonist is a woman scientist rescued from a terrorist attack on a euthanasia hotel by a young Arab farmer, and their struggle for eternity.
The European Union decked out its guest-of-honor pavilion in captivating panels detailing most-populous-member-state Germany’s switch to green energy, which is well underway, and to be completed if there is a second half to the century. Meanwhile, Denmark is already in a league of its own in wind power, which provides 42% of the country’s energy.
Sweden held a lively discussion on sustainability with an audience of Indian schoolteachers. “Young people and students who will be the major change makers on climate are invited to our ‘Seven Days Challenge’ to eat, move and live,” said Josa Kärre, Head of Section Trade, Economic & Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of Sweden. The program is part of a worldwide initiative to challenge students in several countries to practice environmentally friendly habits.
The Cyprus High Commissioner, Demetrios A. Theophylactou, presented a video on sustainable tourism with writers’ retreats on the Mediterranean island, after a reading from the celebrated Cypriot author Evridiki Pericleous Papadopoulou from her acclaimed play Andronicus.
Sunita Narain, a leading Indian environmental activist and writer, presented her book and reported on cycles of flood followed by drought and then flood again, a new phenomenon putting stress on farmers and the country’s food supply.
Whether innovation can solve our environmental woes remains unclear, especially considering byproducts of technology such as unemployment. But the tuk-tuk drivers can rest assured, whatever our prospects for surviving automation, no one will be replaced by self-driving vehicles in New Delhi.
JL Morin is the author of four novels, including the award-winning eco-novel Nature’s Confession