That’s it, I give up. For the last few months I’ve been reading earnest books about ecology and the environment and I thought I knew quite a lot about nature when wham! I happened to catch a TV quiz show featuring very small but disgustingly knowledgeable children, and realised I knew nothing at all.
What’s the name of that part of a seed that grows into the root of a plant? If I’d known the answer to that (and if I’d been the contestant on Paanchvi Pass rather than the viewer on the sofa indignantly squawking things like ‘Hoy! They never taught us prisms till Class 6’), I may have been rich enough to get someone else to write this column in my name. As it was, in spite of having read several severely eye-crossing and head-spinning science-type books on Mother Nature and how she’s out to get us, some small boy who doubtless reads nothing but the instructions on his latest PlayStation knew the answer. And I didn’t.
Fat lot of use Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution, George Monbiot’s Heat: How to Stop the Planet Burning, James Lovelock’s The Revenge of Gaia: How the Earth is Fighting Back and Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed turned out to be in the face of Paanchvi Pass. Fat lot of use they’ve been anyway, considering that I only began to read these science-type books because I need to know, once and for all, whether my flat in Bombay will soon be a flat in the Arabian Sea because of global warming or not.
This is important because, let’s face it, redecoration comes expensive and I have to know if I should start saving right now for waterproof furnishings and fittings and an oxygen tank to replace the water tank. So I spent a vast amount of money on these books. And what did I learn? In order of the books above: a) Pesticide is bad for you (and birds and animals and insects); b) Pesticide makes food taste terrible; c) Flying to Calcutta to visit my parents is a bad idea because it makes the planet hotter (driving or taking a train to Calcutta is not that cool either; a bullock cart would be best); d) It’s hot and it’s getting hotter; And e) We’re all going to pop it because there are more people on Earth than the Earth can stand. (I am completely in agreement with the Earth on this point.) Not a word about waterproof furnishings and fittings and the latest styles in wetsuits. Not so much as a squeak about that part of a seed that eventually becomes a root.
So as I said at the beginning of this column: that’s it. I give up. The only books I’m going to read from now on are comics. (The Completely Mad Don Martin is available, by the way. That’s what I plan to get.)
Between the Covers, dealing with the mysterious and not so mysterious connections between books and the world, will appear every Tuesday.