The inheritance by Armin Greder

cover image

With the ravages of climate change again at the forefront of the world’s thoughts with floods sweeping through Europe and fires ringing Athens and Los Angeles, Greder’s book is most providential putting under the microscope the thinking that is keeping the world from taking positive action. He presents a dying industrialist, exhorting his sons to carry on his legacy. After his funeral, attended by all the grandees imaginable, the inheritors talk about development and expansion, modernisation and offshore projects, profit margins and Virgin Islands. But their sister presents an alternative view. She has traveled and seen what the world has become. She is dismissed as strange, her idea about questioning their father’s wishes unimaginable. They turn their backs on her, rejecting her questions, scathing of her notion of problems.

‘What is the problem?’ One asks her.

So Greder shows us!. Over the next eleven double pages he encapsulates the damage we have done to our planet and the dire consequences for all of us. In his dark layers of crayon and pencil, he transforms the blank pages into a mechanised monster, a parkland of palm trees where once stood rainforest, deep holes cut into the earth chimneys belching smoke and pollution, a sandy beach littered with plastic, a long line trawler ravaging the sea floor, sheep looking for shelter as fire razes the horizon, choked rivers and oil slicked seas. Each double page will stop people in their tracks; they will gasp at the horror before them, relating it to scenes they have seen on the nightly news, linking it to images that have shocked them in the past, wondering with many others why nothing has been done.

The image of the child at the end, wearing a gas mask against the pollution around him, trying to play with a small mechanical toy, is devastating, implying that it will all continue to happen, that no one has learnt anything, that our inheritance is that no one has learnt anything. Greder presents no green shoot, no smile, no way out in this most depressing of books.

The industrialist told his sons, ‘All this will be yours’ proud of his achievements, but the reader will see another side to that message. This is a dying planet waiting for action, and we all hope it is not too late. Teacher's notes are available.

Themes: Pollution, Climate change, Industrialisation, Globalisation, Exploitation, Death.

Fran Knight