So imagine this. You’re at home, sitting on your couch sipping coffee and watching your favourite TV show. Occasionally you scroll through your phone reading random stuff posted by strangers in some social media network. A full chicken is slowly roasting away in the oven in want of a couple of hours to be dinner ready for your family and friends that you have invited over. Everything seems peaceful and serene.
And then BAM!!!! The TV switches off, the lights go out, the oven slows itself to a complete halt. You stare around in bewildered confusion all over and that’s when the truth hits you like a concrete block on your face. You have reached the limit of your allotted carbon rationing and will either have to buy some very expensive points for carbon usage or wait out till the next month in complete darkness and a total abstinence from all the leisures of your everyday comforts. Oh also, looks like you’ll have to come up with an excuse to bail out at that very important family dinner. Facepalm!!!
Sounds strange? Well in the world of a teenage Laura Brown living in 2015 London, this does not seem to be a very uncommon experience. In fact it is something that every Londoner would have had to go through at least once ever since the UK introduced carbon rationing as a step to reduce carbon emissions and equip its citizens to live in a world with limited carbon access which has been a ghastly consequence of global warming brought on about by the irresponsible actions of humans themselves.
As the title of the novel suggests, “Carbon Diaries” is a novel written in the form of a diary chronicled by a sixteen year old teenager Laura Brown. The UK has been the first to introduce carbon rationing as climate change has started to pose a very dangerous threat to human existence. Every family is handed out ration cards which stipulate a certain carbon usage. All of a sudden, everyone is flooded with a number of important decisions to make. Electrical gadgets can be used but only for a limited time each day. Flights have been completely ruled out. Cars can be used perhaps once a week or every two weeks. Recreation places such as parks, saloons, restaurants and even gym visits have been heavily curtailed.
What can we use and how much? Is it absolutely necessary to use this? Can the very same thing be achieved otherwise without using up the already scarce carbon points? Can pampering oneself ever have a place again in this world? Would there come a day when things revert back to normal and how it was back in the day? These are some of the questions that we see the citizens of London asking themselves and each other. And especially if you happen to be a teenager all set to pursue exciting adventures that life has to offer, well you certainly were not born in the best of times. However Laura Brown manages to capture each and every chance at having a normal life.
The tone of the novel is light as it encapsulates the thoughts of a teenage girl. It shows Laura in all her adolescent glory- angry, intelligent, enthusiastic, insecure and at times selfish. But at the same time, instead of merely ranting teenage trials and tribulations, it places Laura’s life in an unsettingly dark and dangerous atmosphere. Towards the end of the novel, when the whole of London is submerged in power shortage, survival seems to hang on a very tight rope. Fear and panic settle all around and we see London in perhaps the worst crisis ever, struggling to reel back to life. The picture of Britain undergoing climate change is something that the readers swallow with an impending sense of gloom.
On the surface, it seems like just another teenage diary episode replete with crushes, friendships, sibling jealousy, band love and the like. But once you start to delve deeper into the pages of the book, you realise that this sixteen year old is living in a time which could very well be not so far from our present time. Lloyd has successfully managed to capture the essence of the mind of a sixteen year old trying to adapt herself to the crisis that has unfolded itself. Here’s a line from the book that gives you an idea of the mind of one who is living through a horrific time,
“You never think its gonna happen to you, but all that pollution and dirty fumes and flights and factories and shit we don’t need and suddenly there you are, a stupid girl sitting alone in some steps waiting to see if your family is ever coming back.”
And so Carbon Diaries is a wake up call book. A book that rings its sirens loudly, hoping to converge the attention of all to an impending global crisis.