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The Easternmost Sky: An interview with Juliet Blaxland

To celebrate publication of The Easternmost Sky, we're delighted to share this Q&A with author Juliet Blaxland. Her new book is now available online and from all good bookshops.

Your new book, The Easternmost Sky, is out today. Please could you tell us a little bit about it?

The book starts with us having to move house at short notice because an extreme bout of coastal erosion meant the cottage had to be demolished. We live with coastal erosion all the time and are familiar with its ways, but this was different, more extreme, and the whole scenario stirred me to think about the bigger picture, sea levels rising, climate change, the future, our place in the wider world etc, all of which have interested me since I was a teenager.

The Easternmost Sky picks up where your first book, The Easternmost House, left off. Did you always plan on writing a second book?

No. In fact I didn't really plan a first book, but there seemed enough substance to the ideas of both The Easternmost House and The Easternmost Sky, individually or together, to at least have a go at marshalling my thoughts in what I hope is a coherent and entertaining way.

Since the publication of The Easternmost House, your home on the edge of the cliff has sadly been demolished. In the opening chapters of The Easternmost Sky, you talk about this demolition process. Were there any challenges writing about this period, and how did it affect you?

No. I had imagined the scene thoroughly enough to write about it in some detail as a [then] future event, that when the time came it was as if I had already been through it in real life. I would add that this rehearsal trick is a great help in life in general, for instance imagining in detail what will really happen when such-and-such a person dies etc. 'Pre-visualisation' makes you better prepared and probably more resilient.

You introduce a concept in the book called the ‘Easternmost Sky thinking’. Could you tell us a little more about what you mean by this term?

'Easternmost Sky Thinking' is a slight spoof on corporate psychobabble, 'Blue Sky Thinking' etc, but is a way of thinking best illustrated by the use of the flipbook and film, Powers of Ten, which I refer to throughout the Easternmost Sky. Powers of Ten zooms out from a couple having a picnic in Chicago, x10 x10 x10 and so on until you are quickly in outer space, and then zooms in, to the molecular level of the picnic man. I find this concept limbers up the imagination in both time and space, making it easier to think laterally, to see the big picture and to think about the future and change etc. Flipping through Powers of Ten is like a warm-up exercise to get the brain working. I helps me think and have ideas.

Rewilding is a recurring topic within the book – could you tell us a little more about this and its importance to environmental conservation?

I think the word 'rewilding' is more divisive than the concept, and that most people now agree that nature-friendly and regenerative farming, with some wilder places, would be a generally good thing, BUT with a large caveat that rewilding shouldn't displace the people who live in the places that other people want to rewild. What may seem to be a 'blank canvas' to one person from afar, is 'home' to another who may live and work on or near that moor or hill. There are quite a few voices calling for rewilding instead of farming, and so on, but people need to eat, and rural people need to earn a living off their land, so... it's nuanced. The urban-rural divide exists more in attitudes, opinions and knowledge etc than literally where people live. I would like to try and create what I call 'fingernails of overlap' between the various Venn diagrams and 'camps'.

You call yourself an ‘environmental evacuee’ throughout the book – what more do you think could be done to help residents who are perhaps in similar situations?

I think there will be many more environmental evacuees in the 21st century and beyond, because of sea level rises and climate change. Our experience has given us a tiny insight into the way that nature is unpredictable, even within the usually fairly gentle and regular patterns of our coastal erosion in Suffolk. Nature is obviously immensely powerful and entirely indifferent to the plight of the human animal.

A key theme of The Easternmost Sky is ‘adapting to change’ – something we’ve all had to experience in the last year. Everyone’s lifestyles have changed in the last 18 months – do you think this has impacted the natural world in any way?

We are part of the natural world not apart from it, but lockdown did seem to benefit the wildlife left mercifully undisturbed by noisy people. Covid not only gave us an insight into the devastation that nature can bring, in a tiny virus, but also gave us a preview of the global actions, adaptations and changes we may have to consider in the future, for climate reasons, or to regulate the negative impacts of a vast and generally greedy human population globally. More locally, in the UK, a small percentage of people had an actively damaging relationship with nature, post-lockdown, with litter, disposable barbecue fires, fly-camping, people feeding picnics to deer and horses etc, so we need to get a grip with the education of everyone about how to behave in the countryside and around animals, and revive the Countryside Code.

Juliet's new book is available from all the usual places:

Juliet Blaxland

Juliet Blaxland