Craig Childs' book, "Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth," has won the 2013 Orion Book Award. Childs, who resides in Crawford, will receive his award in a ceremony later this year, most likely in Boston.
Speaking for the jury last week, Orion magazine associate editor Hannah Fries said, "A mixture of adventure, science, and engaging storytelling, 'Apocalyptic Planet' demonstrates an open-mouthed awe of the earth in all its dynamism, a spirit of passionate curiosity, and a fresh and humbling way of thinking about the planet and our place within its grand, catastrophic life. Such an accomplishment is deeply worthy of the Orion Book Award, and I'm delighted that Orion is able to celebrate Craig's outstanding work with this honor."
The award has been given annually by Orion magazine since 2007. Childs' book is the seventh winner of the prize. More than two hundred books published last year were considered for the 2013 Award.
"It's not something I thought I was going to win when I looked at the competition. It was a wonderful, unexpected thing," Childs said.
An essay by Childs published in the May/June 2012 issue of Orion, "Rule of the Phoenix," became part of a chapter in "Apocalyptic Planet."
Judges looked for the following from the authors — how well they deepened the reader's connection to the natural world, whether they presented fresh ideas about that relationship and the extent to which they achieve excellence in writing.
Childs did an extensive book tour for "Apocalyptic Planet." Readers responded to his work about what scientists say is the current sixth mass extinction of Planet Earth.
"I was really happy that people took this as a positive book. It was my fear in writing it that it was going to be taken as yet another negative doom and gloom book," Childs said. "I intended it to be a hopeful vision of the future even if it is difficult. It still is a vision of a more complex planet than most people imagine. And that's what I intended."
Childs believes the mass extinction comes about by fragmenting habitats and changing the way animals and plants live. But the adaptability of humans may save them from extinction.
"My concern is in order for us to survive what will we do to the rest of the planet? We may be causing irreparable damage to all sorts of systems and species inorder for us to survive," Childs said. "I think we will survive a long time, maybe not our civilization or our societies as we know them, but we as a species ... have an unusual capability for survival.
"Most people see apocalypse as a sudden ending, as everything being over. What I'm writing about in this book is that things don't ever really end suddenly. Endings are very complex processes that are going on all the time. It's not something that happens in the future, but something that happens now. Endings are what we are experiencing right at this moment rather than something we are eagerly anticipating."
In Childs' view, even a massive meteorite hitting earth wouldn't be the sudden end that most imagine it to be.
"Some things survive and some things don't. It's never quite as simple as one big thing happens and then it's all over. It's more that many things happen and they start stacking up on each other."
If humans survive, will they want to live in a world where they have destroyed the earth's habitat?
"I think that's something I'm tackling in here by saying, 'Well we could easily survive, but do we really want to make a situation in which that kind of survival is necessary? Do we really want a world in which surviving is awful?'
"When we talk about endings, when we talk about a destructive future, this is what it actually looks like. So, I tried to make it concrete by writing this book so that we know what we are talking about."
Childs isn't taking any time off. He's already hard at work on his next book tracking the arrival of humans to North America during the Ice Age.blog comments powered by Disqus