Saturday, 22 October 2016
An interview with Michael McCarthy, author of 'The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy'
A fascinating, challenging and rewarding interview with the author, journalist and environmentalist Michael McCarthy this morning, an unedited version of which follows at the link below.
We started by talking about his wonderful book, 'The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy', which I have recently read and which I was very moved by: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/539806/the-moth-snowstorm-by-michael-mccarthy/9781681370408/
His parting advice for writing 'A Restored Earth', which I valued, was: 'Don't do policy; do you'. Make the book interesting, he argued, by speaking truthfully about what really made/makes you care about all these things, and what inspired you. He also gave good advice about the process of writing, and encouraged me to dig deep into personal memories and experiences relevant to the book.
Michael wasn't, I don't think, especially convinced by my 'optimism hypothesis', although he does believe -- as his book says -- that we should still do all that we can to protect nature and agitate for a better world in the future. He's seen a lot of loss and destruction in his 45 years as an environmental writer and journalist and not easily convinced that we can turn things around, especially by tweaking at the edges, and/or through policy platitudes. He is heartened by the rewilding movement, though, and sees great promise in that.
Nor is he particularly taken with my 'road map to a hopeful future', as he's seen many of those before, including the celebrated late Maurice Strong's post Rio 1992 'Agenda 21'. He suggested instead I focus on 8 seemingly insuperable, devilish or intractable problems, and then have one chapter on causes for hope at the end..
Like all good journalists, he had me on the back foot in the interview quite quickly, and asked good, probing questions. I found myself floundering at various points, for which apologies in advance to those listening to the interview in full!
He also revealed, fascinatingly, a link with one aspect of my dear uncle Adrian's conservation work about which I was not aware, and which is apparently described in Michael's earlier book, 'Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo', which I must now read too:
In summary, a lovely, spirited man, generous with his time and intellect, and very kind of him to agree to an interview. May I warmly recommend The Moth Snowstorm to you...