Good Reading : November 2005
10 goodreading ı NOVEMBER 2005 Imet Ronald Wright, the charismatic author of A Short History of Progress – an erudite, readable and ter rifying exploration of how and why we are catapulting ourselves towards a global catastrophe of unimaginable proportions – at an outdoor café by the seaplane wharf on Salt Spring Island in Vancouver Sound, where Wright lives. Around us happy groups of people, friends and families, young and old, tucked into delicious Italian fare and sipped Canadian and foreign wines, and laughed and talked and celebrated and simply enjoyed life. The sun shone, the trees waved gently in the breeze, the sea sparkled, God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. Until we began talking. Then all that’s wrong with the world came tumbling out to hit me squarely between the eyes. Wright is an English-born Canadian historian and writer who was asked to give the Massey lectures – a series of talks broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Authority aimed at communicating the results of ‘original study on subjects of contemporary interest’ – in 2004. This book is the result. I love one of the quotes on the cover of the book: ‘If you read one book about impending doom this year, make it this one.’ We both laughed when I read it out. I asked him, even though it’s obvious when you’ve read the book, what impelled him to write it. ‘It actually grew out of an earlier book, my novel A Scientific Romance, which was a kind of ecological dystopia which imagined a future world after a disaster of our own making. The book was well-received as a literary novel but I didn’t feel that the message had really got out there that we were in serious trouble. So when I was asked to give the Massey lectures I decided – partly because it was something I had already done some work on so I was up to speed more quickly – in effect to do the non-fiction version of the novel, and say: these are the reasons I was worried.’ In A Short History, Wright says that what he thought were farfetched ideas in the novel turned out, over time, to be reality. ‘Things that seemed to be worst-case scenarios started to come true,’ he said. ‘That’s gratifying on a author profile party’s over the In a bizarrely beautiful, pristine setting, ALISON PRESSLEY talked to prophet of doom RONALD WRIGHT about the impending end of life as we know it.
December January 2006