Guest Post by Robin Jacobs
I have always been enthralled by the power of nature. When I was little, my favourite thing was to go outside during a storm. Ideally barefoot. My mum was mostly tolerant unless it was particularly cold or muddy outside. I recently discovered my 6-year-old nephew has the same predilection. He is also totally obsessed with tornadoes and other natural disasters, and he was one of the key inspirations behind the conception of Earth Shattering Events.
It was really interesting to research the book. I had to revisit subjects I haven’t really engaged with since I studied Natural Sciences at university (a good 15 years ago). All natural disasters rely on a certain coming together of circumstances and the science behind them is fascinating: When the ocean water reaches an exact temperature and is combined with certain type of wind, a hurricane is able to form. When tectonic plates that have been pushing against each other for decades or even centuries, suddenly slip past each other, an earthquake occurs. We humans are powerless to do anything about this – or even really predict it. What we can do is make it more likely that natural disasters will happen. With water temperatures warming as a result of climate change, hurricanes will become more common – and more ferocious. As glaciers melt, dormant volcanoes that have been trapped under ice for thousands of years can erupt, creating further climate disruption as sulphur particles deflect sunlight away from the planet.
Writing about this stuff was pretty terrifying, and my publisher was concerned that it would give children nightmares. But actually, I think when you pare things back to facts – this is how a tornado is formed, this is where it happens, this is what it is capable of – it all feels a bit less scary. And the more I worked on it, the more it seemed like a really positive way to introduce children to the power of the planet, and our responsibility towards it. When I talk to people about climate change, I sometimes feel terribly defeatist. Examining specific aspects of nature from a scientific perspective feels like a more manageable way of thinking about our role within a larger ecosystem. And the more we learn about how our planet works, the easier it will be to start imagining positive actions that we can take to protect it.