The Death of Common Sense...

Common sense is dead. Common sense has been the glue that has held societies together throughout human history; a communal sense and understanding built up through common experience. But the Industrial Revolution triggered fundamental changes to our social structures that have accelerated into the globalised world of the 21st Century. This rapid pace of change has created a perception among many that they have more differences than commonalities with the people around them. Good sense is no longer common, as people of difference cultures, faiths and personal experiences see things very differently. This has led to crisis of identity and an escalating threat of serious conflict. But it is also only a perceived problem as we are all humans and have plenty in common with which to give birth to a new, global common sense. Strong leadership will be needed to foster this among the nations of the world.

Common Sense is defined as a “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”[1]. For it to exist, members of a society need to share many common experiences. In a world where one often has very little in common with the people they interact with on a daily basis, there is no guarantee that one person’s “simple perception of the situation or facts” is likely to match another’s. What makes sense to one person is becoming less and less likely to make sense to others of different races, cultures, faiths, socio-economic status and personal life experiences. This creates conflict and frustration, and can affect the ability of people understand how they can relate to and interact with each other.

Historically, geography has played a huge part in shaping human identity and social interaction. The barrier of distance prevented our ancestors from regular migrations and so largely kept them within their local environments. Immediate and extended families were more likely to live close to one another. Social circles were smaller and bound by those who you would come into contact with on a daily or weekly basis. Work was more likely to be local; working for local feudal land-owners, to family owned businesses, to nomadic lifestyles where everyone worked collectively to provide for the tribe. Food was locally caught or grown and diets were similar. Faith was generally shared; dictated by the tribal shaman, the local church or the country’s belief system. Only one language was likely to be spoken and a common history was largely shared by the village. Weather, diets and entertainment were all shared among people of local proximity. With so much shared experience, common sense and a communal moral code could evolve, reducing conflict and creating a sense of identity and purpose among the members of a community.

As technologies have developed, the geographic barriers of the past have gradually been pushed outwards. Boats, motor vehicles and aeroplanes have resulted in the regular migration of people over once prohibitive distances. Telephones and digital technologies have enabled the communication of ideas to opposite sides of the world. The impact of these technologies on the sense of community have been profound. Family units have increasing dispersed as they move suburbs, states, and countries away from each other. Commuting to work has become a necessary fact of life, meaning many now work well away from the family, and away from others that live locally to them. Multi-culturalism means that the faith, language, moral code and the cultural heritage and history of those living around us is less and less likely to be similar to our own. Friendships can be maintained in some way beyond geographic boundaries through communications technologies. A wealth of different experiences, cuisines, philosophies, forms of entertainment, sources of information have been opened up to members of modern society creating an endlessly varied personal experience of life.

In the past we would have had fewer acquaintances but a lot in common with those we did know. The consequence of the technology revolution is that we now interact with far more people than they ever have in human history, but have far less in common with them. We live near our neighbours, but frequently don’t know them and have little to do with them. We have work colleagues, but we don’t live nearby to them or necessarily socialize with them. We join hobby and sports groups, or interest groups online, but we don’t necessarily share moral or spiritual beliefs with the other members. Technology has allowed us to bridge physical distances, but an emotional gap has opened between members of society, steadily widening to the size of an abyss.

Technology’s triumph over geography is not the sole reason for this change. The structural changes in our school and work life have undermined even the closest of relationships, like that of the core family unit. Pre-industrial age, a family unit would spend virtually their whole week together. Work would be local and in many cases whole families would contribute to the upkeep and provision of the household. Social gatherings, whether it be church, village festivals or other forms of entertainment would be undertaken by the whole family. This close proximity meant that children were in constant contact with their parents, and husband and wife would have spent a lot of time together, sharing experiences and building on their partnership. From their first steps, children would form a strong identity of their place within the family unit, under the constant guidance of both masculine and feminine mentors.

Post-industrial age the traditional male bread-winner was ripped from the home to work away in factories. Society was not truly appreciated the consequences of this change. Suddenly, husbands and wives who had worked together for centuries spent the majority of the week apart and had far less time to spend with each other. Burdens at work and home were no longer shared and so resentments and frustration more likely to build. A distance began to build between men and women who suddenly found it much harder to relate to and appreciate each other. Children were deprived of regular contact and role-modelling with their fathers, resulting in a lack of balance between masculine and feminine influence. Not long after, children were shifted off to schools, meaning they also spent less time with their mothers and had to find role modelling from people outside the family; teachers and other children with different experiences.

Step forward into present day and the family unit has become even more isolated from each other. Both parents are now likely to work, increasing pressures on the household and decreasing the amount of time they spend together. From as early as three months, children are put into daycare, then into school with long day-care on either side. Throw in organized sports, multi-screened households and other weekend commitments and entertainment and it all equates to a dramatic reduction in the time families spend together. The experience of one family member is increasingly different from the experiences of the other members of a family, whether it be at work, school or in the home. This is by no means an argument against equality and women entering the workforce; the push for equality has been one of the many positive changes of modern society. But having both parents working full time means they miss out on time with each other, and their children miss out on valuable time with both of them. Ultimately, families have become deprived of time to create common experiences together.

With differences increasing within the immediate family unit, at the societal level the divides are becoming increasingly vast. There is little wonder that the trend in Western Society at the moment is instability within its governing bodies. England in turmoil after it votes Brexit, US in turmoil after it votes Trump, and Australia in turmoil after it votes for anyone and everyone; with Rudd, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and Turnbull all taking turns at being Prime Minister over a five-year period. The reduction in common experiences and the decline of common sense is directly responsible for this political ineptitude; how can politicians agree on anything when the people they represent are so varied in morals, faith, opinions and experiences.

History shows that differences inevitably lead to conflict. Not because humans can’t handle differences and change, but because difference is a convenient scape-goat for those with some influence and an agenda. Australia has a history of blaming crime, un-employment and other social problems on minority communities; the Greeks and Italians in the 50’s and 60’s, the Vietnamese in the 90’s; Muslims in the current era and Aboriginals throughout this whole period. And there have been many brutal and horrific examples of this back through history; Nazi Germany’s persecution of the Jews, The Christian crusades against the Muslims and Jews of the mid-centuries, the Roman persecution of Christians in the four centuries following Jesus’ crucifixion. The sentiment that has seen Trump elected, England break from the European Union and the growing incidences of terrorism, suggest that major conflict is on the horizon.

In the meantime, there is a more immediate and personal impact of the decline of common experience and the death of common sense, and that is its impact on mental health. The rate of suicide in Australia has grown an average 6% per annum in the five years to 2015[2], well above the average rate of population growth over the same period. In 2016, people aged 15-19 with symptoms of probable serious mental illness was recorded at 22.8%, up from 18.7% five years earlier[3]. This is mirrored by similar growth trends from survey’s conducted in the USA and UK. In March 2017, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability, having risen by more than 18 per cent worldwide since 2005. The Australian Bureau of Statistics describe an impact of mental health as “an individual’s ability to relate with their family, friends, work-mates and the broader community is affected by their mental health”[4]. They got close with this description, but it seems far more likely that the opposite is true; that the individual’s inability to relate with those around them is the root cause of the poor mental health. Perhaps the decline in shared experience and the inability to find a common sense leads us to struggle to form an identity and purpose in life.

With mental health declining and the threat of larger, more catastrophic fall-out looming, we must turn to the answer of how to combat this problem. There is little chance of (and many good reasons against) turning the clock back and re-introducing the commonalities of the past. Instead we need to actively work to find a new Common Sense, a set of morals and ideals that are global and common to all humans, on which we can foster a greater sense of community both locally and globally. Despite all our perceived differences, the reality is that humans have plenty of emotions and qualities in common that could be drawn on. Here’s my effort at one possible set of values:

Health – All peoples suffer from disease and ill-health. Aging is an unavoidable part of life. We should celebrate the human life-cycle and all its stages, and strive for good health for all.

Environment – Local environs may differ dramatically, but the Earth is our common home and we need to take care of it collectively for human life to survive into the future.

Love – All societies and peoples celebrate love in some form or another. It is perhaps the single most uniting emotion for humans. It should be at the heart of any global Common Sense.

Peace – War and violence is never a lasting solution. It claims both the victim and the victor in the long run. We can and should strive to always settle differences peacefully.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the twenty-first century without an acronym and these principals form one: HELP. If we base our common sense on these principals, and the idea of always aiming to help those around us, then we may go a long way to creating a new sense of morals and principals that we can build our identities on and reduce the growing concerns of mental health and conflict.

But principles alone are not enough; we need strong leadership to implement and defend them. This is certainly lacking in the Western societies at present, where politicians and leaders are in constant fear of the opinion polls and being ousted and so base their decisions on fickle popular opinion rather than good policy. Faith leaders have proven no more effective; centuries of corruption and abuse within the Catholic Church and the extremes of the Muslim faith are doing terrible damage to the credibility of that church and resulting in a decline in faith. And the rise of science and secular education has created an increasingly atheist population that is taught very little about spiritual belief and health. The political and spiritual leadership void has been filled by corporations like Google and Facebook, and celebrities. Neither are good candidates to build a new moral code around. The United Nations is the closest thing we have at the moment to global leadership and perhaps needs to lead the way in forming a new set of principles and fostering strong support and leadership within every nation.

Common sense has been the glue that has held human societies together in the past, enabled by shared experience. The rapid pace of change since the Industrial Revolution has reduced commonalities, increasing the number of people we know, but reducing the depth to which we know them. This has given rise to a crisis of identity, a rise in poor mental health and an increasing inability for humans to relate to those around them. The consequence of this is rising levels of suicide at one end of the spectrum, and a growing risk of global conflict at the opposite end, as perceived differences start to outweigh the commonalities between people. However, this is purely a perception problem; as members of the human race we have enough inherently in common to address this problem. New principles of a common, global sense need to be established and strong leaders are needed to support and foster these principles among the nations of the world.

 

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary

[2] The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 3303.0 - Causes of Death in Australia, 2015, 28/09/2016

[3] Mission Australia, 2016 Youth Survey

[4] ABS, 1301.0 – Year Book Australia, 2009-10

The ailing book industry - external disease or self-inflicted?

In preparing for the release of Salvage I’ve learnt a lot about the workings of the book industry in Australia. It has been an illuminating process, revealing many barriers and challenges for emerging writers and publishers to establish themselves. In this article I have taken a critical, if somewhat green look at the book industry based on my observations thus far.

The book industry is ailing in Australia. There are very few Australian authors able to make a living solely from writing. The future outlook is somewhat gloomy; according to PwC, in 2015 the Australian Consumer Books industry was worth $1.19bn, just 4% more than what it was worth in 2011. PwC forecast the industry to grow to $1.24bn by 2020; meaning that the average annual growth would be just 0.9% annual growth per year over a nine year period (PWC, Entertainment & Media Industry Outlook 2016). This is well below average CPI growth and so will put further pressure on those who make a living from books.

But is this low growth the product of external forces; changing times, different tastes and new technologies? Or is it caused by internal forces; a self-inflicted stagnation brought about by an industry that is unwilling to change and failing to adapt to the realities of modern consumerism? I’ll look at external factors like technology, demand and supply, and internal influences such as industry structure, and book promotion

The Technology

Technology is not a barrier to book growth for the book industry. Compared with other hard-copy mediums (like newspapers and magazines) the book has proved far more resilient in maintaining demand for physical copies. For those that do want to transition away from hardcopies, the technology is readily available to consume books in the digital world. Smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers all have relatively easy access to software and apps allowing consumers to read e-books on their device. For those who want something a little closer to the traditional book experience, e-readers are also available. Audio books are the fastest growing book category globally, providing another option for people to consume books. And for those still preferring the traditional hard-copy, online stores with fast and relatively cheap delivery options make it just as easy to browse and order books in the absence of good local stores.

The Demand

Demand for content is perhaps stronger than it has ever been. At their heart, books are about story-telling and not too far removed from the movie industry. Movies remain in plenty of growth and attract many times the revenues that the book industry enjoys, despite the fact that many movies are adapted from books. The growth of the subscription video category also suggests that the demand for story-telling is as healthy as ever. The declines that we are seeing in some print categories (newspapers and magazines) are driven by changes in technology not a drop in demand for content. The news, celebrity gossip and classifieds that previously drove newspaper and magazine readership has transitioned to the online world and has driven significant growth in this space; celebrity sites, real-estate sites, recruitment sites, car sales sites, news sites, etc. Demand for content in whatever form is higher than it has ever been, and there does not appear to be an inherent issue with demand for the book industry.

Supply

Supply may be a problem, but not from the fact that books are no longer being written. The terms of submission to all the major publishers in Australia points to the fact that more being written than ever before and the publishers are struggling to keep up. They often limit submissions to certain days or weeks of the month, and indicate that due to volumes, they will be limited in their ability to reply. Some highlight they are so busy and get so many book submissions that they will not reply at all, even to say a submission has been unsuccessful. This strongly suggests that publishers have the choice and the capacity to print many more books than they currently do each year. Combine that with competition from international books, the rise in self-publication (again, technology enabled) and services that re-print old books and this suggests that the supply of books is not an issue.   

Revenue

The writer’s ability to earn is the first major stumbling block for the industry. Consider the ludicrous nature of a billion dollar industry where the very creators of the product cannot earn enough money to sustain themselves. This speaks volumes as to the sustainability of the book industry, creating multiple barriers to the creation of good books. It is not uncommon to hear about writers who have delayed their writing for years due to the challenge raising a family, paying a mortgage and making a sustainable living from their writing. How many potentially great authors have been lost entirely to other industries due to this very real barrier? For those that do enter the industry and find some success, how stifling it is to their output to have to balance their time between writing and some other means of work just to pay the bills? How many more great books could be written if these authors were able to dedicate their working life solely to their craft? So while supply of books might not be an issue, the supply of great books is, due to the big challenge of the writer getting paid adequately for their work.

Promotion

Compared with other story-telling products, there is very little in the way of mass promotion when it comes to books. Movie releases, theatre productions and content websites tend to be supported by relatively large investments in TV commercials, billboards and the like. This allows a broader audience to become aware of, and generate excitement and interest in the release. The ultimately goal of this advertising is to drive sales. This investment complements unpaid promotion like reviews, interviews and word-of-mouth. The book industry does very little of this, relying almost wholly on reviews, word of mouth, awards and in-store promotion (dictated by the distributors). While recommendations can be the best type of endorsement, it means that the book industry is only really talking to habitual readers and doing very little to generate interest from less regular readers. We know from examples like Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code and 50 Shades of Grey that good books are capable of appealing to far larger audiences. But these books have achieved their success despite the book industry, not because of it. By limiting the promotion, the book industry may be limiting the potential sales of many great books. The demand for story-telling and content is as strong as ever, but books are attracting a lesser share of it due to a lack of promotion by the industry.

Structural

Structurally there are problems in the book industry, likely the major driver behind the revenue and promotional challenges discussed above. Authors, publishers, distributors and retailers are all trying to make a cut on each book sold. An author will walk away with 10-15% of the Recommended Retail Price (RRP). As discussed this is on average not enough to adequately support themselves. Stores walk away with a 40-45% cut. Given the shrinking number of bookstores each year, this also appears to be a narrow margin when it comes to covering the physical and staffing costs of the store. The distributor takes between 20-30% of the RRP, leaving between 15-20% for the publisher. The publisher needs to cover the cost of editing, cover design and printing of the book in their margin. Is the distributor’s cut justified in the job they are performing? If they operated like a movie distributor and invested in promoting the book and driving sales, then this distribution layer would be far more justified. But my experience suggests that their current role is more of a gate-keeper, controlling which books gets into stores and which do not. Sadly their assessment of which books to let through is based on a price position, not quality or saleability. So they are keeping potentially good books out of stores and limiting their success and they are perpetuating the revenue dilemma by demanding a low price to protect their own margins at the expense of the author. This appears to be the biggest structural problem in the industry and a terribly short-sighted approach to the distributors own longevity.

Conclusion

There does not appear to be any significant external factors limiting the potential growth of the book industry. Rather, the sickness in the industry appears to be a structural malady, driven primarily by a distribution layer that is not playing its part in driving sales for the book. There is no doubt more that could be done at every step of book production cycle to improve profitability for the industry. But the price-driven approach by the distribution layer, and their lack of investment in promoting new releases appears to be both limiting the number of good books being written and released, while simultaneously failing to maximise demand on the books that are released. Distributors need to either step-up and take a more active role in promotion and distribution, or else publishers should look to take this back in house and reinvest some of the savings to authors and stores to ensure greater profitability, and ultimately a healthier industry.

Changing the Debate on Climate

My book, Salvage, is set in a future where humans have all but used up the Earth’s fossil fuel supplies. Rather than embracing new and cleaner technologies, the citizens of today allowed themselves to succumb to the fear-mongering of energy and mining companies and the short term expense of change. In doing so, they have created a future Earth polluted to the point where it has become too toxic for them to live. The temperature changes have added to this chaos, creating higher seas, extreme environmental instability and deadly weather patterns. While Salvage is a fictional action-adventure story set in this future projected world, this blog post takes a more serious look at the topic, one that I am extremely passionate about.

The climate change debate has been raging for some time now. Doubt has been cast on the science behind it, and we are constantly fed conflicting messages. Both sides of the argument have used fear to try and win support and either scare us into action or cripple us into inaction. So let's put the question of climate change, and the fear it evokes, aside for a moment and look at this debate from a new angle. Energy production is at the very core of this argument; with the burning of fossil fuels being cited as the major driver of climate change. Energy is a precious commodity for humanity, something that underpins virtually every aspect of life in modern era. There is no question that we need to continue to produce energy. Which means the debate really becomes about the way by which we product energy; the long established methods of extracting and burning fossil fuels versus the new emerging methods of harnessing clean energies. By comparing the two competing technologies of energy production, we can sidestep the fear and confusion around climate change and get to the heart of the matter.

Let’s examine the efficiency of the two technologies. In the modern world, efficiency is key to the running of any successful business. Fossil fuel technology requires multiple steps on the road to energy production. First, surveying is required to source fuel deposits. Once identified, they need to be extracted and this requires considerable investment in the building and operation of the tools to do so; huge machinery for digging, deep-ocean drilling, the safety equipment required for the careful extraction of unstable and toxic materials like uranium, the engines needed for the pumping of water under immense pressures for gas extraction. Once extracted, refining and transportation needs to be considered; cleaning the product ready for use, and moving it from the mines to the energy plants. The energy production itself is dangerous and costly; dealing with the combustion of highly flammable materials, or the containment of radioactive matter. And finally there is the disposal of waste by product.

By comparison, clean energy offers much more efficient method of energy production, cutting out many of the processes required by for fossil fuels. The technology is based on capturing or harnessing existing, natural energies; like the natural radiation from the sun, or the kinetic energy in the wind and the waves. The manufacture and maintenance of panels and turbines is required, and land for the energy farms. In many cases, the land needed can continue to be used for multiple purposes; such as installing solar panels on the rooves of existing buildings, or continuing to farm stock on land that also hosts wind turbines. There is no physical transportation costs, no refinement required, no danger involved in the production of the energy, no waste product to dispose of afterwards. On the question of efficiency, clean energy wins hands down. 

The second measure is environmental impact. Continuing to set aside the specific question of Climate Change for the moment, let’s look at the other environmental impacts from each technology. The production of energy through fossil fuels has a high impact on the environment. It tears great holes in the ground for the extraction of coal and uranium. It requires deep sea drilling with high risk of oil leaks and the damage this does to our oceans and marine life. It results in water pollution through the fraking process in coal seam mining. It creates air pollution in the burning of fuels, from coal, to gas, to petrol and oil. It creates noise pollution through the operation of immense machinery, the running of power plants, the petrol engines in cars and trucks.

Clean energy cuts out many of these impacts completely and minimises others. The manufacture of panels and turbines has an environmental impact, though this would remain far less than that generated in the building of the mammoth mining equipment and power stations required by fossil fuel production methods. Noise pollution is minimised; electric engines are far quieter than petrol, the generation of solar power is completely silent, and the sounds made by wind turbines are minimal. The main complaint is of an aesthetic nature, particularly against wind farms spoiling the view. Again, this is no greater impact than the scars left from mines, or the power plants dominating a landscape and spewing clouds of smoke into the sky. There is little doubt the environmental impact of clean energies is far lower than of fossil fuels.

Now, let’s consider health impacts for a moment. Consider the first breath of country or sea-side air when you take a holiday and get away from major metro centres. There is a euphoric feeling about it, something pure and cleansing. Now consider the opposite; when you are passed by a bus or truck whilst running down a highway and you inhale a lungful of petrol fumes. The experience leaves you gasping for breath and sickened from the toxins that have entered your system instead of oxygen. While not always in such extreme doses, we are breathing in these same toxins every day, and it is likely adding up over days, weeks and years. There is serious question marks on the health impacts of fossil fuels on humans, particularly in densely populated regions. We know that in developed countries, asthma, allergies and respiratory problems are on the rise. Tobacco has taught us that breathing toxins into our body can cause cancer, even just through second-hand breathing. There are no negative by-products for clean energy. No gases leaked into the air, chemicals escaped into water systems, no fumes to be inhaled. There is no evidence or even a suggestion that clean energies bring about any health concerns. The same cannot be said for fossil fuel energy.

Now let’s consider the sustainability of energy production for the two methods. Pipeline is crucial to the running of any successful business, and energy is no different. Fossil fuels are a limited resource. There is a finite amount of coal, gas and oil on earth. There is no production pipeline for fossil fuels, as we are rapidly burning through a resource that formed over billions of years. The more that is used, the harder it will become to source, which in turn will put immense pressure on price. Renewable sources like ethanol may prolong the life cycle of some of these resources, but are not viable options to replace them completely. Clean energy has no issue of sustainability. While the sun continues to shine, the wind continues to blow and the moon continues to generate the tides, our source of clean energy remains secure. The main challenge to overcome for clean energies is in consistency of output. Solar energy is not viable at night-time and wind energy can be sporadic, depending on the weather. The development of tidal energy generators is a big step forward in this space, as the waves have far more consistency and regularity. And with a diversity of products, it should not be difficult to overcome this challenge and create a reliable source that can meet society’s needs.

 The final measure to consider is profitability. This is the ultimate barrier to clean energies, and the factor that is currently over-shadowing all the others. However, it is only a barrier because those invested in fossil fuels make it so. The energy production industry is hugely profitable. Many of the world’s richest people have made their money off the back of mining. It is in their interest for this industry to remain strong, and they are fighting to keep it so. But ultimately, it is not coal, gas, or oil that is valuable, but the energy that it produces, regardless of its source. There is no economic barrier to clean energy being just as profitable as fossil fuels. It has the potential to be far more so, for all of the efficiency factors discussed above. Remember, at its core this debate is one of a new technology vs an old technology. Human history is full of such examples; the car replaced the horse and cart, the telephone replaced the telegram, email has largely replaced traditional mail, print and other traditional media are in the process of being replaced by digital media. In all of these cases it took time for the new technology to become more profitable than the old. In all of these cases, there was an economic impact for the old technology. But in none of these cases did the new technology cause economies to grind to a halt, as is sometimes suggested by those resisting change. History has shown that these events actually have the opposite effect; they aid economies and societies to take big steps forward, through greater efficiencies and the re-investment of resources into new areas.

The reality of the climate change debate is that is doesn’t need to be about fear. It is really about the opportunity to upgrade technologies; to dramatically scale back on the use of fossil fuels in the production of energy, and replace it with clean energy options that are healthier, safer, more efficient, sustainable and have far lesser impact on the environment we all rely on. We don’t hesitate to upgrade our mobiles every year or two, for the new and better features we get as new models are released. It’s time for a major upgrade in our energy sector.

The Story Behind Salvage

Welcome to my blog! With the release of my debut book, Salvage, pending, I figured I'd kick things off with some background of how I came to write the book. It's a question that I am getting asked a bit, so here it is, in brief. Please feel free to comment or start a discussion if any of this resonates with, or challenges you!

I started reading from a young age and have always loved books. Roald Dahl was a favourite of mine in primary school, and I soon migrated to the fantasy genre via Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Throughout my teens I read bucket loads of fantasy, along with a healthy sprinkling of sci-fi and ancient history.

Around 2006, after starting a job with a long commute, I decided to use the daily train trip to start writing my first book; unsurprisingly a fantasy. It took a long time, but I finished it eventually. However, I wasn’t particularly happy with it and did not feel it was of publishable standard. I had intended it as the first of a trilogy, but I found myself a little reluctant to continue on with the series.

By that time, Cara and I had two boys; Noah and Jacob, and I was becoming more and more concerned with what type of world they and future generations would inherit. I was particularly concerned with the issue of climate change, which had a fair amount of media focus at that time. For me, this issue needs to be at the top of society’s list, but because its effects creep up on us, and attribution of its impact is difficult, it is not taken always approached with the urgency and seriousness it should. I pictured a smoky future with wild, unpredictable and destructive weather. I pictured rising sea levels, a particularly devastating outcome for our coastal nation of Australia. I pictured a rise in lung disease, with breathing filters being standard issue for school kids, needed by anyone wanting to venture outside. And I pictured an older me, trying to explain to my grandchildren why I stood by and watched it all happen, thinking I was helpless to do anything about it.

Cara and I invested solar panels for the house, when it came time to buy a new car we factored in efficiency, and we tried to be more environmentally conscious around the house. But it didn’t feel like anywhere near enough.

In 2010 I caught a glimpse into the mining world and witnessed the money and resource they can deploy to muddy the waters and change the focus whenever the climate change issue threatens them. My need to do more grew, but I was at a loss as to what that could be. How could I possibly do anything to make a difference against the billions of dollars the mining magnates have at their disposal?

It was at this time that the idea for Salvage was born. It was a magical idea, because it was a way to combine my love of fiction and story-telling, with this very real and important issue that I was desperate to contribute to. I knew it would have to be compelling and entertaining; that’s the type of content I am drawn to read, it’s the type of book I wanted to write, and also the type of content that would give the book the best possible chance to reach lots of people. So I shelved the project I was working on, and started writing Salvage.