The Next Chapter

Claudia Casper foreshadows environmental disaster in The Mercy Journals

Claudia Casper's new novel portrays a world collapsed by climate change.
Claudia Casper was inspired to write The Mercy Journals by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire.

Claudia Casper portrays an Earth destroyed by climate change in her novel The Mercy Journals. Her protagonist, an ex-military man with the nickname Mercy, loses everything in the new chaotic world and struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder.

As Casper tells The Next Chapter, she was inspired to write this story by retired Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, who has become an advocate for mental health since his own experience with PTSD.  

On discovering Roméo Dallaire's story

I remember reading the news article saying that Roméo Dallaire had been found severely inebriated and suicidal on a park bench. Dallaire was the UN General running the peacekeeping operation in Rwanda during the time of the genocide. His story just riveted me. There was something so profoundly human and empathetic about it. As he went on to become a brave spokesman for people suffering from PTSD, I followed him. My main character takes his initial sparks from Dallaire. There's a quality there that I think is linked to him. I realized that I needed a much lower ranking person and somebody whose world view was changed completely by his experience. Whereas I think Dallaire went deeper into his belief system, my character's belief system really turns upside down.

On the impending danger of climate change

As a child of the post-1960s generation, the environment's always been on my radar. Twelve years ago, as I was starting to read about climate change and just knowing basic science, I understood that a change like that in temperature is going to affect so many different layers of ecology. I got a sense that our world — our social structures — were not going to be able to deal with this without radical changes. I really wanted to write a book that dealt with climate change but was not hopeless for young people. My intellectual lens is evolutionary and I was trying to think about what behaviours need to change in order to deal with climate change going forward, both as individuals and as civilization. We're living in intense times.

Claudia Casper's comments have been edited and condensed.