By Len Lazarick
Hot enough for you?
If you hate the notion that something drastic needs to be done about global warming, then you’ll hate Del. Dana Stein’s first novel, “Fire in the Wind.”
Set 25 years from now in 2036, the novel – at only 154 pages, really a novella – depicts the failure of the United States to control carbon emissions and the consequences it brings to three main characters.
An Iowa farmer abandons the family farm and sets out for greener pastures. A young White House staffer on the National Security Council seeks to navigate a compromise on legislation to totally ban the internal combustion engine, with the military resisting the idea. A professor of environmental science secretly joins forces with environmental terrorists – kind of a revival of the Weather Underground from the Vietnam War era.
The novel has a very abrupt and dismal conclusion, but we won’t give it away.
“I didn’t want the book to have a happy ending,” said Stein, a Pikesville Democrat who serves on the House Environmental Matters Committee. “Right now, that’s not the course we’re on.”
Stein is soft-spoken and modest, and you would hardly guess that he has three Ivy League degrees: Harvard undergraduate, Columbia law and Princeton international affairs.
But you could easily guess from the novel that he has no aspirations to be a bestselling author like John Grisham or Tom Clancy.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever done any fiction writing, so it was a real stretch for me,” Stein said. “I had trouble getting it to 150 pages as it is.”
“It’s not really addressed to the climate change skeptics, but to those who believe [global warming is] a problem, but who don’t believe it’s as urgent as people would say it is.” He said high school students in particular might have a difficult time grasping the implications.
“It’s hard for them to imagine and visualize what life might be like if climate change really sets in,” said Stein, who runs the Baltimore nonprofit Civic Works. The organization trains young people through community service projects.
Stein wanted the book set in a presidential election year, and the politicos in the book, such as the incumbent president, don’t come off particularly well.
There are plenty of predictions of what climate change might look in 25 years – and Stein thinks this year’s tornadoes, floods, wild fires and droughts provide ample foreshadowing. But he shied away from depicting much technological change in his novel, so people are still using cell phones and driving pick-up trucks. But there are some societal changes, like a homeless camp on the Washington Mall for people displaced by climate change, including a Chesapeake waterman whose son is the White House adviser.
Stein is particularly discouraged about the lack of progress on climate change on the national level. “Certainly at the state level, Maryland is doing a lot, but at the national level, there’s no program, and no progress likely for the foreseeable future.”
Skeptics might see Stein’s work as the tip of the proliferating icebergs of propaganda on global warming, But it’s been out for months, and so far only sold 250 copies. It averages five stars by 11 Amazon reviewers, several enthusiastic.
“I’m certainly glad I wrote it even if it doesn’t get any wider distribution than it has so far,” Stein said. “If it gets the discussion going a little more, then I’m happy.”