Reading room: The Fossilarchy by Tom Clark

8th September 2022

Web p33 The Reading Room The Fossilarchy



This politically charged thriller from a longtime IEMA member taps into the emerging genre of climate fiction.

Wealthy Swiss businessman Wolfgang Dreiser hatches a drastic plot to save the world from climate meltdown, recruiting a crack team of retired Special Forces for a secret mission to Australia. A man vows revenge on the coal industry and takes on the mantle of Ned Coaly, anti-fossil outlaw; in doing so, he unleashes a dark past and a killer who is out to get him. A young woman forms a new group, the Climate Commandos, that takes direct action to the next level.

The fortunes of all three converge as they target a powerful and ruthless enemy – the fossil fuel industry and its political cronies, known as ‘The Fossilarchy’. Its power must be broken if the world is to have a future.

About the author

Born in the UK, Tom Clark has been involved in environmental protection and campaigning since 1978 and has been a consultant to governments and companies on the environment, sustainability and climate change since 1990. He has a degree in civil engineering, a masters degree in environmental technology, and professional qualifications in environmental and greenhouse gas management, and has been a member of IEMA for 27 years.

Clark has lived in Western Australia with his family since 1999, during which time he has observed Australian climate politics with amusement and horror. This, paired with the current global crisis, compelled him to write The Fossilarchy, aiming to relieve climate anxiety while conveying an urgent need for change in an entertaining way. Transform spoke to him about his career in sustainability and how he came to write the book.

How did you first become interested in the environment and campaigning?

From a young age I’ve loved nature and walking in the English countryside, but for me, as for many, it was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring that was the call to arms.

A particular trigger was going to university in 1969 to study chemical engineering; I had liked my chemistry teacher at school. In his welcoming address, the professorial head declared that millions would starve without the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. The good professor was sponsored by Esso. Soon afterwards, a representative from Associated Octel, which made tetraethyl lead, gave a talk declaring that motoring would be unaffordable without lead in petrol.

It seemed to me that the petrochemical industry and its PR machine had been doing all the shouting at Rachel Carson, and that was it for me. I switched to civil engineering and joined the environmental movement. The rest is history.

What was the inspiration for writing a climate fiction book?

It was total frustration and exasperation that we are where we are, thanks to the fossil fuel industry and its political cronies. I’ve been involved in climate issues since the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report in 1990. As chair of the British Association of Nature Conservationists, I helped organise the first conference, held in London on the potential impacts of climate change on biodiversity. Since then, I’ve closely watched the rise of climate denial and the fossil fuel industry’s 30-year influence in blocking action and fomenting the climate crisis. Living in Australia for the past 20 years, I’ve also closely watched the horror show of climate politics here, and the capture of government by the fossil fuel industry and the media.

Writing non-fiction about the reality is depressing, and the world doesn’t need another book on the need for urgent action. But I enjoy writing black humour and satire, and so decided to write a novel telling how it is in an entertaining way. There is a need for urgent action, and my tale presents a scenario – albeit still fantasy.

Ideas had been stewing for some time, but the trigger to start writing it was in 2019. Australia was on fire, there were record temperatures, three million hectares burned, billions of animals were dead, and all the Liberal government and the media did was blame arsonists and refuse to acknowledge climate change. I was in Christchurch, New Zealand, and could smell the smoke from 2,000km away. The Franz Josef glacier, which was already melting, turned pink from sooty deposits. I started writing.

How long did it take?

Two years to write it, working at odd hours, and another year to get it published.

Are any of the characters based on real-life individuals? If so, could you name a few?

All the politicians are based on real figures. The Australian ones are recognisable, but with their names changed – Maurice Turbott, the Australian prime minister, is Scott Morrison (who was recently given the boot). Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have brief walk-on roles. The heroes and other story characters are all made up, but sometimes I use names of people I’ve known.

Are you optimistic that the real-world 'fossilarchy' will be broken up?

I’m optimistic that it will happen, but not that it will happen in time.

Why should IEMA members read the book?

I’ve written it to be gripping, entertaining and thought-provoking for any lay reader who enjoys a thriller, and reviews have been positive so far. IEMA members will hopefully appreciate the subtleties and satire more.

Further information:

The title is published by Aurora House and is available through kindle or paperback on Amazon and via other distributors, or can be ordered through most bookshops.

More information and a contact is available through Tom Clark's website

Image credit | Shutterstock


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