Christopher Lloyd Discusses Youth and the Environment 

What made you become passionate about the environment?

Two experiences really shaped my thinking. The first was about 20 years ago when I happened to be travelling in the USA to a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I had hired a car and was driving through the stunning scenery when on the radio came an interview with an Indian man, who lived in the UK, and edited an ecological magazine called Resurgence. He explained how violent western culture is when it comes to its relationship with the environment and the natural world. The more I thought about it, the more I could see that he was right. Western culture is intrinsically a violent force – violent to planet, life and people. I had never really considered this before, being a product of the culture myself. So, when I got home I got in touch with him – his name is Satish Kumar. I went to see him and we became good friends and I started writing articles for his beautiful magazine.

The second was after my wife and I had the experience of home-educating our two daughters, Matilda and Verity. When Matilda was eight years old, she become bored at school. We decided to home-educate her because we couldn’t find a creative school near to where we lived. All they were interested in was making sure the children passed their tests in reading and maths. Matilda was good at reading and maths, so there was nothing of interest for her in going to school. She just got mind numbingly boring exercises to do to keep her quiet while the teacher focussed on those who were struggling with the tests. Matilda then became angry with us for making her go to school where she would sit all day being bored stiff. It was too much.

Our home-educating experience taught me that all the life skills you could possibly want a young child to know are much better learned through allowing them to explore knowledge their own interests rather than be told by adults what it is they ‘need to know’.  It’s laughable to think adults can ever possibly know what children today ‘need to know’, especially since most of the jobs they will do in the future haven’t even been invented yet! How arrogant is that!

I soon realised that in order for children to explore learning through their own natural curiosity knowledge needed to be stitched back together again, not chopped it up into separate subjects and curriculums. The brain is not divided into separate sections for maths, music, art, languages, history, science – how absurd! It is all connected! My books became all about ways of connecting knowledge into giant narratives – which is why the first book I ever wrote What on Earth Happened? explored, in a single volume, the story of planet, life and people from 14 billion years ago to the present day. I have recently written a children’s edition called Absolutely Everything! – it goes through Nature, Stone Ages, Ancient and Modern History creating an interconnected perspective and that has shapes all my writing and lectures and which children rarely experience at school.


What questions do you have unanswered after writing your books about the planet?

There are so many unanswered questions! They range from why didn’t matter and antimatter just cancel each other out into an infinity of light in the nanoseconds after the Big Bang to is the universe in my head the only knowable reality? And so many countless questions of wonder in between!  I don’t really believe in answers – an answer is a waypoint along a journey to another question. It is a corner, which when you go around any corner it opens up a new vista you didn’t see before. I love corners!


How do the young readers respond to the cause you are advocating? What do you think are the best ways to engage people to care about the climate and about resources becoming scarce?

It is increasingly evident that the dramatic mindset shift that is required to mitigate the worst impacts of runaway climate change cannot be and are not being delivered by people over the age of about 35. By that age mindsets are mostly fixed or fossilised. Therefore, what is happening is a disruptive change, driven by a younger generation that feels increasingly let down, and cut off from the natural leadership of older generations that has characterised human cultivations throughout previous human history.

I write children’s books in the belief that for many, if not most, young people, the real world is far more amazing that anything you can make up. That is the mindset we are born with and must always seek to protect. In my experience humans reach ‘peak curiosity’ between the ages of about 9 and 11 – which is where my books are mostly aimed. This happens before the distractions of puberty, public exams and peer pressure take their toll on our natural learning potential.  If we create a sense of mission about how to change humanity’s relationship with the planet and other life by this age of ‘peak curiosity’, then these themes will stay with a person for life. That’s why it is just as important to write children’s books about climate change issues than scientific papers for a generation of lost political leaders.


What are some of the things that re-occur on a cyclical basis that you noticed happening?

Sea levels – they rise and fall – and will continue to do so. For most of the Earth’s history the seas have been 66 metres higher than they are now – and that’s how they will be if nothing is done about rising CO2 levels. That means no Florida, no Tokyo, no London or New York, no Holland. Countless other places will all disappear. It will be an unrecognisable planet. It’s also a process which has happened all though natural history. Did you know there were at least four previous supercontinents before Pangaea formed about 250 million years ago?


What do you think the future of Earth entails?

Well there a big clue in the last answer! A planet seriously impoverished as an ecosystem to support humanity is absolutely on thecards. Mass extinctions have happened before – at least 5 times – and each time life has bounced back, usually finding fabulous innovations to replace the desolation. That will surely happen again – but I suspect our species will not be part of the script – certainly not if we carry on as we are – rather we will be just a record for other lifeforms to gawk at with marvel or despair, one day in the distant future.

See Christopher at Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, 4 – 9 February 2020.

Christopher Lloyd: Humanimal – Incredible Ways Animals are Just Like Us

Friday 07 February, 12:00 – 13:00

So you think you’re special because you’re a human?

Time to think again!

So much you thought was unique to us has actually happened in the animal world for millions of years.

Join author and storyteller Christopher Lloyd on an entertaining journey to discover the interconnections of the human and animal worlds in ways you never imagined . . . how slime moulds can help navigate a maze, how rats tickle and laugh out loud, how bees vote in elections to decide where to put their nests, and lots more!

Christopher Lloyd: Humanimal – Incredible Ways Animals are Just Like Us