Special guest Sue Saliba on the environmental themes in Alaska

Lately I’ve become more and more enchanted by the natural world. We think of ourselves as separate from nature, that nature is somehow ‘out there’, an ‘environment’ around us, but perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps we are nature and nature is us.

David Suzuki writes from a biologist’s point of view: ‘We are the air, we are the water, we are the earth, we are the Sun.’ And a Vietnamese monk once said, ‘When we look deeply into a flower, we see the elements that have come together to allow it to manifest. We see clouds manifested as rain … When I touch the flower, I’m touching the cloud and touching the rain.’

Others suggest our planet Earth’s atmosphere and rivers, animals and plants and humans all work together as ‘a living process in which we participate.’

In my novel Alaska the ‘progress’ planned for the local area and what this meant for the animals and plants and for the human inhabitants was the kind of ‘progress’ – oil drilling, mining, gas extraction, desalination  – that is going on all across our planet with shocking consequences.

When we witnessed oil-slicked seabirds being dragged from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico last year these consequences were obvious. However, even when these projects don’t end in documented disaster, they wreak unforgivable havoc on the lives of animals and the fabric of ecosystems.

As I wrote Alaska I felt very strongly that Mia’s own inner wellbeing and sense of herself was linked to her relationship with the Earth. And the process of writing gave me a greater and greater appreciation of our beautiful planet and a sense of hope that individuals can choose to act on its behalf and connect themselves to the natural world around them.

There are so many ways we can do this: writing to our local members of parliament, volunteering with wildlife rescue groups, joining environmental groups or starting our own groups in our local schools, communities and cities. Mia finds strength from her connection to the natural world in Alaska, and it is my hope that readers might experience something of this too.


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