From his website, houseofrain.com, “Apocalyptic Planet” is described as “a combination of science and adventure that reveals the ways in which our world is constantly moving toward its end and how we can change our place within the cycles and episodes that rule it.” Childs said the idea for this book came from spending a majority of his life in the wilderness and seeing the various landforms and the processes they have undergone over time.
“Everything I have seen in one way or another we are experiencing now. I traveled for two years researching the book and spent one year of hard writing to finish it. I’m trying not to be too sentimental about the topic. It’s not good or bad. But I think people are bored and want something to happen… and I don’t think they really know how the planet works, what the dangers are, how it recovers, and how the landscape itself can tell the story,” Childs said.
During his research, Childs visited nine different areas of the world, including Greenland, Tibet, and Patagonia. In his travels, he searched for places where the landscape told a severe story. He said what he found were multibillion-year histories of the earth and the underlying idea is that the apocalypse is not a single moment, but a process over time.
He also traveled within the United States and spent the summer backpacking across genetically modified organism (GMO) fields in Iowa, where he witnessed what he called the best example of mass extinction on the planet. He said the modifications of the farms in Iowa have large ramifications for other species disappearing thousands of miles away.
“The earth is not as stable as most people think. It is prone to pretty extraordinary changes, but they are not happening as fast as we think,” said Childs. “These are fairly slow processes, and you may not see them in your lifetime, but what you do today will have an affect on tomorrow. In a thousand or millions of years, things could be out of control, and we are part of all the changes, big or small.”
The idea of the apocalypse and how people view that idea is what prompted Childs to shape his book in this way. He said writing back against this idea of the end of the world and the fact that many people seem to be asking for it was a driving force behind his narrative.
“Does anyone even know what the apocalypse is? I think the right questions are being asked, but it is still a nebulous idea,” Childs said. “What does the end of the world mean? There is no such thing. There will be an end to pieces of the world, but they all add into the continuity of the process. The earth will still be kicking and breathing, but there will be loss. That is what the book is about.”
Childs started his career as a writer when he was guiding river trips and doing outdoor education around the Southwest. He spent much of his time in those days living out of his truck and roaming the wilderness, he said. That lifestyle didn’t immediately fade after his first few books were published, but now, life includes a family and a home base. He still teaches outdoor education on occasion.
“This was a big leap for me going to a global scale. It was exciting to go to Tibet, but I remember thinking that if I had this much time in Utah, it would be awesome,” Childs said. “I am a home person. Whenever I come back, I head straight to Horseshoe Canyon and the San Rafael Swell and stand where I can see the Bookcliffs and Abajos. It was very grounding between chapters to come home and rest. I would always rather have my backpack and go out into the desert than travel.”
Childs will discuss his new book and his travels at Star Hall on Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and available at the Grand County Public Library and Back of Beyond Books until the day of the event. Moab is just one stop on Childs’ 29-stop book tour. Childs said he looks forward to meeting with people who are there for the storytelling and learning more about a topic they are already interested and thinking about. But he also hopes to see some people who may be inclined more toward the mainstream theories regarding the apocalypse.
“I really want to get the book in the hands of people who are wanting the apocalypse to come. I hope they read the book and be turned around by it,” said Childs. “There is a bit of a bait-and-switch in the book. You are shown the details and in the process learn that it is not what you thought it was. Maybe you don’t want the terrifying end to happen. But it is complex.”