The Carbon Diaries

What would you do if you had to cut your carbon footprint by 60% What if the whole country did—just as it was being faced with storms, flooding, and cholera outbreaks? And what if you were a 16-year-old London girl and all you wanted to do was play in a punk band and crush on the boy next door?

Then you might be Laura Brown, the feisty protagonist of Saci Lloyd’s CARBON DIARIES 2015 and its sequel, CARBON DIARIES 2017 .

Laura’s just trying to live her life: get her A-levels, practice with her band, and decide if Adi’s more than just a friend. Only it’s 2015, and the UK has just started carbon rationing. Everyone gets a card that tracks (and limits) anything that requires carbon. Travel. Cell phones. Non-local items like food. Laura tells the story of that year in her diary—and she does it with a sardonic humor that’s hard to resist:

So much for family togetherness. March is going to be the month of a thousand nights. Day 1 and I’m already going crazy. Every one of us is sitting in the dark in our own separate freezing rooms. Our ancestors couldn’t have had it this bad – at least they had candles and corsets and cards and lutes and shit. Oh yeah, and servants too.

The hydro gig’s coming up next week. There’s nothing going to stop me going, even if I have to walk there. I had to get off the bus today cos I didn’t have enough credit to get me all the way to college. I am a carbon leper.

In a recent Guardian article, Lloyd talks about her characters:

“I always loved books that asked big questions about the world," she said. "But I also loved funny books, with lead characters who never wanted to teach you a thing, like Holden Caulfield, Adrian Mole or Huckleberry Finn."

THE CARBON DIARIES (2015 & 2017) do tackle some big questions, but Laura Brown couldn't care less about teaching you anything. (Mission accomplished, Saci!)

Though I really liked the first book, I have to admit I had a little trouble getting into the sequel. I missed the pace and sense of urgency of 2015. However, that’s obviously deliberate on Lloyd’s part. The second book focuses more on the festering political fallout of climate change.

It is risky setting a book in the very near future with the date right there on the cover. (It worked for George Orwell.) That’s why so many authors set their works so far in the hazy, indeterminate future. They write about a world that’s already settled into a dystopia. But Lloyd gives us a chance to see the world—through 16-year-old eyes, no less—as it slides down into the abyss. It’s funny yet traumatic (or is traumatic yet funny?) —and entirely possible. Soon.

BTW, The Carbon Diaries will soon be a BBC series. Johnny Depp’s production company made Lloyd an offer, but she turned him down in favor of the guys who made Skins. I’ll let her explain below why she turned down Johnny Depp (gasp)—and about the Carbon Diaries website and social network she’s set up.

Check out the competition / Future Diaries Project on the site ( Lloyd is engaging her readers (even the ones who haven't read the book) to express themselves and even come up with some solutions by creating their own future diaries. Very cool.

What would you have to give up if we started carbon rationing? (And, Beth, it might be bacon, unless it's a local pig.) You guys can play around with one of these carbon calculators to give you some ideas:
Discuss away.


Jemi Fraser said...

Love the concept of these books - near future is a very cool time period to choose.

Becky Mushko said...

What would I give up? Something to think about. . . .

I live in a rural area, so it wouldn't be as difficult as if I lived in the city. When I lived in the city, though, I thought nothing of driving out a few times a day if I needed something. Now, I run several errands whenever I go more than a few miles from home.

The near future will be here before we know it. And today's fiction is tomorrow's reality.

Marcie Flinchum Atkins said...

I would give up bananas and mangos (gasp) and only eat local foods. I try to do this anyway, but it's obvious bananas and mangos are shipped from afar. But then again, a local green house does have a banana tree....

Angie said...

Me too, Jemi. A near future dystopia is tricky but intriguing.

Clementine said...

Wow! I'll have to think on it for awhile. The way things are these days, I wouldn't be surprised if something like this actually happens in 2015.