The characters and events of are fictitious but the idea was triggered by the devastating flooding that hit the north of England on Boxing Day in 2015. I began working on the book on the first of January 2016, when the flood waters had barely subsided. You can watch accounts of the Yorkshire floods on YouTube; for example, ‘Waving not Drowning – How Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd fought back after the Boxing Day floods’. My brother Mike is an avid fell-walker in neighbouring Derbyshire. When I told him about the story I was working on, he immediately sent me a copy of Inglorious: Conflict in the Uplands. The book’s author, the indefatigable Mark Avery, is a former Conservation Director for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, now a wildlife blogger and tireless campaigner against driven grouse shooting and the illegal killing of wildlife. His book greatly enhanced my understanding of the struggle going on over our upland regions, where I’d chosen to set my story.
Rain (click the link for more details) centres on one relatively small example of moorland ownership by an elite group that impacts catastrophically on the unlanded majority living in the valley below. But, as the fictitious Rachel says, “There’s a million other valleys need saving.” They need saving not just for the sake of their human inhabitants, but for the insects and plants, birds and mammals and all the other inhabitants large and small that we share this planet with – our non-human fellow earthlings (the nature writer Mark Cocker disarmingly calls them ‘the more-than-human’, displaying a modesty about humanity that is most unusual in our species).
Instead of being despoilers, rapists, of this planet of which we’re a sentient part, we need to learn how to be its custodians. That means learning to think ecologically:
Ecological thinking entails that we see ourselves within nature and that we understand how everything we do has ecological consequences.We can, in truth, never escape nature… We live on a planet where life is only to be found in about a fifteen-mile deep veneer that is wrapped around the surface of the Earth. As far as we have been able to establish in the last 4,000 years, this is the only planet that bears life. We spend our days among the greatest event in all the galaxies (Cocker 2018, pp291-2)
We need to know that we’re part of this living, breathing, awesomely beautiful planet. And that we’re stardust.
The book I’ve quoted from is Mark Cocker’s Our Place: Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it’s too late? Thanks to Dan Franklin, our editor at Jonathan Cape, for sending me a copy. I love it when people send me books!