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Boys, books and saving the planet

In her book on masculinities, Raewyn Connell talks about how constraining the sexism of science can be, not just to women who feel pushed towards 'softer' subjects, but also to men who are interested in natural history, ecology, botany or zoology but are made to feel these subjects aren't 'hard' enough (p125-8 in particular). Add to this the problem of boys and books, and what are writers aiming to convert boys to green politics via the literary medium to do?

One approach can be found in Chris 'SAS hero' Ryan's Code Red books - I'm half way through the first in the series, Flash Flood. They look like post-Andy McNab boys-own adventure, but could they be global warming morality tales hiding sneakily behind the spiky-looking fonts and images of fire and lightening?

It starts on a train to Milton Keynes. It's raining. It's England and that's normal so characters just grumble. But it keeps raining. And then the Thames barrier breaks and people start dying. We also see a press conference on environmental policy. The ecologist starts off by saying you might think all this green stuff is boring 70s hippie stuff, but:

We talk about terrorism being the biggest threat facing us today... less than a hundred died in the bombing attempts on London. But thirty thousand people died in the earthquake in Iran and two hundred and eighty-three thousand died in the tsunami in South East Asia... These are the casulties nature can inflict in a war. And it is a war. (Ryan, 2007: 23)

The connection between war and climate change is used as an example of press-conference spin, and the book openly reflects on it as such ('that'll go in the headlines this evening'). But it is a spin to make ecology sound more heroic which is still voiced by the book nonetheless. It reminded me of the whole medicine as war analogy, which in some respects was a way of making medicine seem more masculine.

And the book doesn't hold back when it comes to showing casualties of this war. It is actually quite disturbing for a kid's book. Its also gripping, and so far could be accused of using the prospect of natural disaster as the premise for an adventure. (something I thought the non-fiction Horrible Geography: Wicked Weather seemed to be doing too). I don't know if there will be moralising later on in the book. It'll be interesting to see, and I have several more in the series to go.