Back when the folks at Dundurn Press began talking about the publication process with me, one of the questions they asked was: what do you want to happen when Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Waters is published? Later I understood that the staff was looking for good promotion ideas, but I took the question another way. After a few instants of reflection, I blurted out, "to change the world!"
Talk about presumptuous! There aren't many books that have done that. Darwin's The Origin of the Species, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and George Orwell's 1984 are examples, but there are not many books whose impact was so wide-reaching. Nevertheless, I hope that Against the Seas will have an impact, pushing humanity farther along the difficult road to beating climate change. That's why we chose the weekend of Earth Day to have the official launch party; what better time to talk about rising sea levels, what people have done about them in the past, and what we must do in the future.
The book is dedicated to my grandchildren, but its roots lie deep in my own childhood and youth. Growing up on the California coast, I saw firsthand the power of waves to mold the shore. But I didn't appreciate the growing menace of melting glaciers and rising waters until decades later when I drove along a stretch of highway on the north shore of Quebec's Gaspé peninsula. On that beautiful, blue-sky day, the waves of the St. Lawrence estuary crashed against concrete riprap barriers, sending spray across the pavement. What happens when there's a storm? I wondered--and worried. What will happen 10 or 15 years from now when tides will be much higher?
Months of research followed, which led me to a startling conclusion: rising sea levels are nothing new in the history of humankind and people have adjusted to them rather well over the ages. The big difference now is the accelerating pace with which these changes are occurring, and the enormous number of people who are going to be affected.
What is to be done? First of all, we must do all we can to slow climate change. All that water from melted glaciers and ice caps are with us for the long haul, however. Strategic retreat is what we will be forced to do. How to accomplish this equitably and effectively is the huge challenge before us. I hope that Against the Seas will open eyes to our current dire situation, but, because it explores some possible answers, that it will also provide hope that we can go forward to meet the test.
So if you happen to be in Montreal Sunday April 23, join us to celebrate spring, the Earth and Against the Seas at 2 p.m. in Librairie Paragraphe, 2220 McGill College Avenue, in downtown Montreal.
This drawing is by Jeanne Nivon, 12 1/2. She is my granddaughter, and was inspired by the title to create this hopeful image.
Mary Soderstrom is the author of eighteen works of fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her most recent non-fiction work, Against the Seas: Saving Civilizations from Rising Waters, Dundurn Press also published her novel After Surfing Ocean Beach. She has traveled widely, but is based in Montreal. Learn more here.