Apocalyptic fiction sits alongside modern reportage: Pete Postlethwaite plays the last man on earth in 2055, sitting in front of a computer screen in a watery refuge somewhere north of Norway and using touch-screen technology to call up various global reports from 2009. We flit between six main stories, from Jeh Wadia, a forceful Indian entrepreneur on the verge of opening his country’s third low-cost airline while also harbouring a dream of eradicating domestic poverty, to Fernand Pareau, a French mountain guide living in the Alps who has witnessed the speedy erosion of glaciers while the number of cars racing through the Mont Blanc tunnel past his home continues to rise.
The big theme is action versus conservatism: are Wadia’s twin goals of success and social change reconcilable? Another interviewee with a similar dilemma is Piers Guy, a British wind energy developer who is forever fighting communities who support his technology but still refuse to let turbines near their homes. Armstrong’s prognosis is apocalyptic, but her journalism is solid, instructive and pleasingly thoughtful, largely avoiding a black-and-white and familiar approach to the subject. Entertaining and provocative.