About the Book
Title: Confessions of a Failed Environmentalist
Author: Jennifer Ellis
Genre: Romantic Comedy / Women’s Fiction
Alana Matheson always tries to do the right thing for the environment, even when it means boycotting school meatball day, forgoing the use of makeup, or getting entangled in a bet with her non-chicken-loving ex-husband over which of them can be the most environmentally conscious.
So when a mining company proposes developing a mine right in the middle of the community watershed, well, of course Alana is going to be on the front lines opposing the development.
Except she isn’t. To her own shock and dismay, she finds herself taking a job… with the mining company. Worse, she finds herself drawn to her attractive and mysterious boss, Nate: a capitalist mining executive. The enemy.
Alana struggles to do right by the community, deal with her feelings for Nate, and maintain her own environmental morals. But as the conflict over the mine heats up, it gets increasingly difficult to be on the “wrong side,” and both Nate and Alana are cracking under the pressure.
Part satire, part serious, Confessions of a Failed Environmentalist is about the cast of characters who seem to pop up in all environmental disputes, and how all of us fail sometimes to do the right thing for the environment, in both big and small ways.
Jennifer lives in the mountains of British Columbia where she can be found writing, hiking, skiing, borrowing dogs, and evading bears. She also works occasionally as an environmental researcher.
Jennifer writes science fiction, romance and dystopian fiction for children and adults, including Apocalypse Weird: Reversal in Wonderment Media’s Apocalypse Weird world and A Pair of Docks, which was a bestseller in children’s time travel fiction. She has also contributed to several anthologies, most notably Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel, which hit #16 in the Kindle Store.
She may or may not have a Ph.D. and dabble in tarot card reading and cat sitting.
You can subscribe to her blog for the latest book news and industry insights at http://www.jenniferellis.ca. She tweets about writing, cats and teenagers at @jenniferlellis.
5 winners will receive an eBook copy of “Confessions of a Failed Environmentalist” and one winner will receive a $10 Amazon giftcard!
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Katie and Duncan stood on the edge of the playground clutching their backpacks, their expressions solemn, like they had been abandoned for weeks and had made the best of it by eating melting snow and the rotting contents of their Planet Box lunch containers.
“Where were you?” Katie said.
“Meeting,” Alana said, swinging Katie into her arms and dropping a kiss on top of Duncan’s toque. “How was kindergarten, sweetie?”
Duncan interrupted. “You always have meetings. Can I have a play date?”
Alana ran an inventory of the fridge contents. “No, we need to go get groceries. I’ll buy you a snack.” She wished this meant organic carrots or blueberries, not sushi and sugary yogurt drinks. Greg Wilson’s future children would probably gorge on organic carrots. Who was she kidding—carrots? They’d probably skip over carrots and go straight to kale.
She hustled the kids into the back seat while Katie expostulated regarding their grade two reading buddies and how she didn’t want to be matched up with Duncan because he was her brother. Alana made sympathetic noises in the appropriate places, then froze when she spotted Therese, the chair of one of the Regional Environmental Board subcommittees, strolling past.
“Driving again?” Therese said with a smile. “I thought you lived within walking distance.”
Alana’s smile turned weak and unreliable, and her relief at being out of the meeting evaporated. Somehow as an “environmentalist” in a small town, she was always either in a meeting or on trial—and she wasn’t actually sure which was preferable. Alana fought the urge to show Therese the SUV odometer, to highlight the lack of kilometers on the vehicle, while mumbling something about usually walking, and wanting to buy a Prius but not being able to afford one.
She coughed out a semblance of a laugh. “Yes, I know it’s terrible. But I had to work up until the last two minutes before school got out.” It was her pat line that probably convinced nobody and made her feel like a fraud.
Therese cocked her head to the side and offered a quizzical toothless smile. Therese was an environmentalist; she wouldn’t be on one of the board subcommittees if she weren’t. And Alana realized that she was beginning to live in fear of environmentalists—which was kind of funny, because until recently she had hoped she was an environmentalist. But real environmentalists would manage their meetings better and arrive at school on foot early, bearing zucchini chia seed muffins. At least she no longer had to apologize for Blaine and his suit-wearing, Audi-driving ways, now that she and Blaine were no longer married. But even so, the glaring SUV and decided lack of muffins threatened to out her at every turn.
She spent the next ten minutes dodging Sharon and Mark and picking out organic produce and grocery items. The sandwich ham was a compromise because the kids couldn’t take peanut butter to school and wouldn’t eat anything else. The organic milk at double the price was too expensive, but everything else in the cart was solidly eco-friendly, except the ground beef and the chicken, which she covered with the organic Kamut cereal.
When they were married, Blaine had informed her pointedly on several occasions—often following some particularly disastrous vegetarian offering—that he was a meat eater. He even gesticulated at his canines as if to emphasize the rightness of his decree. Now that Blaine had moved out, Alana tried to cook vegetarian three nights a week.
She rounded the corner to grab a loaf of the local organic sourdough bread and nearly crashed her cart into a dark-haired man with spiky hair and eyes as turquoise as his sneakers.
“Sorry,” she stammered, veering the other direction with the cart.
“No problem,” he said with a roguish smile. She eyeballed him again. Who was this guy? He wore a grey T-shirt with a saxophone on it and almost skinny jeans. But unlike most men, he looked good—outright hot actually—in the skinny jeans. He was about her age, but he definitely was not one of the playground dads, or at least not one that she had ever seen.
He must have noticed her staring, because he winked, grabbed a loaf of organic bread, and sauntered off down the aisle, a white motorcycle helmet tucked under his arm. She watched him go, then shook her head. Even if he was single and lived in Silver Peak, which he probably wasn’t and didn’t, she wasn’t going down that road again. She had gone the clean-cut, totally attractive route with Blaine, and look where that had gotten her. This time she was going for a man with a beard and dreadlocks, canvas pants, and Birkenstocks—a true blue environmentalist. The only problem was that in Silver Peak, unemployed ski bums often resembled environmentalists, and they generally didn’t have jobs or an overly environmental outlook.
As she waited for the items to be rung up, Alana occupied herself with visions of spending the summer with her fingers in the rich brown earth, surrounded by heaps of potatoes, bush beans, and carrots, Katie and Duncan bounding through the sprinkler eating pea pods. The grocery total brought her back to her sharp-edged reality: $146.78 for three days’ groceries. Eating healthy organic food was beginning to be out of her price range.
When Blaine used to make rumblings about reducing grocery costs, Alana had always reminded him that they ate well, and she questioned whether he really wanted her to serve more processed food. Then again, whenever she had gone away for work, he and the kids had subsisted on Pop-Tarts, frozen pizza, and hot dogs, and he did leave her in favor of a woman who could barely run a microwave, so maybe he had wanted her to start serving more processed food.
“I’m not an environmentalist because you were never really committed to it,” she continued. “If you had your way, you’d burn thousands of pounds of jet fuel touring the world, golfing, water skiing, and living a life of leisure. If you had been committed to it, then we would live totally differently.” And we might still be married, she thought.
One corner of Blaine’s mouth curled up and he raised the opposite eyebrow, his eyes still bulging out of their sockets. “Not committed to it? I spend an hour a day on a crappy bus with freak shows. It’s like a driving mental asylum. Not committed to it? I helped dig your garden beds and fed your worms and ate chickpeas. I spent twelve years freezing because you wouldn’t turn on the heat. My shoes have holes and my scalp still itches from that vegan shampoo. What more did you want me to do? Wear baggy pants and tie-dyed shirts and sing ‘Kumbaya’ around the campfire?”
His tone was a combination of exasperated and aggressive, as if he really had no idea what to do with her. Maybe she was completely exasperating. That was probably why he left.
“I don’t know. I just wanted us to do better. I wanted you to do better. I wanted you to advocate, or take on a cause, and garden more and act like you liked it, not like it was akin to torture,” Alana said. “We should have always been trying to see how environmental we could be.”
Blaine remained silent for a few seconds, his face tight with disdain, then he shook his head and shifted his lips into a terrible smile. “Fine. I’ll show you how environmental I can be. But I want to put a wager on it.”
“On who can be more environmental: you or me. If at the end of a year, you win, I will toe the environmental line for the rest of my life.”
“And if you win?” she said, feeling rather faint. Blaine was highly competitive, and the last time he’d tried to prove a point they’d ended up in a Volkswagen van deep in rural Mexico eating mustard and stone-wheat thins and evading the Federales.
“We move to Los Angeles,” he replied evenly. “Heather wants to try her hand at acting, and I need a real job.”
A sharp pain cut through Alana’s chest. It was no secret that Blaine hated living in Silver Peak. Leaving his job as CFO of a small electronics company and moving from Vancouver to a small town had been her idea, and he had reluctantly agreed to support her. Now he stayed at a job he hated—teaching economics at the local college—to be near the kids. Was this challenge just a means of forcing her to move? To Los Angeles, the epitome of anti-environmentalism? She’d disintegrate completely.
The phone rang as she threw the last few ingredients in the crock pot for dinner. She snatched it up.
“How did today go?” Her dad always led with this, as if her breakdown were imminent.
“Fine,” she said.
“I met a guy on the chairlift today,” he said.
“Mm-hmm,” she said with what she hoped was a sufficient amount of interest.
“I think I got you a job.”
A jolt of fear shot through her gut. What had her dad gotten her into?
“I gave him your card. Told him you were an environmental consultant and a whiz with media relations. He seemed very interested.”
“I see. And who is he exactly?”
“The CEO of the new magnesium mine.”
The jolt of fear became a wave of horror. Her dad thought she would be interested in working for a mining company? Where had the lines of communication broken down?
“Right. I’m not sure if I’m actually in favor of the mine, Dad.”
Duncan flipped a playing card at Katie. Alana gave him a bulgy-eyed look, but he ignored her.
“Oh, don’t worry about that. Just talk to him. He’ll be calling you.”
She considered explaining that ethically she would not be interested in working for a mining company, but then stopped herself. Her dad would just brush this off as stupid. Actually, it wouldn’t even register as stupid on his radar; it would be so outside of his worldview that he would take it as the inane rambling of some slightly unhinged person who could not be his daughter, and he’d carry on stalking the CEO on the chairlift and show up at the company Christmas party because he was certain his daughter was a company employee.
Maude pounded the tom-toms on email and Facebook all morning rounding up everyone in the community who was expected to oppose the mine. A meeting of concerned citizens was already scheduled at her house on Tuesday. A hasty search that morning had turned up little information regarding the environmental impacts of magnesium mining and even less about the company Mountain Magnesium Resources. Magnesium was a low-toxicity metal, but who knew what chemicals were used in extracting it? Not to mention the likely sedimentation from digging holes and having big trucks in the watershed.
She snatched up the phone when it rang, scarcely glancing at the caller ID. Most clients emailed her so it was probably a friend.
“Alana Matheson?” a man’s voice said.
“Yes.” She moved quickly from her casual friend tone to her professional tone.
“My name is Nate Steeves. I’m the CEO of Mountain Magnesium Resources. We’re looking for a local public relations person with an environmental background, and we understand you do that kind of work.”
“I do,” she managed to stutter, searching for the words to nicely say no before this went any further.
“Would you be willing to send us your CV and come in and meet this week to talk about the position?”
She hesitated, looking for some sort of excuse. “I appreciate your interest, Nate, but I’m not sure if I’m the right person for the job. I only work part-time, and I just don’t know if I could bring the level of commitment to the job that you would need.” Why was she always so nice? She should just tell him she was an environmentalist. Who liked yachts.
“That’s not a problem. We’re only looking for someone part-time at this point, and I’ve seen some of the work you’ve done for the SREB.”
“How part-time? I already have a lot of commitments,” Alana said, hoping to find an out.
“We’ve budgeted twenty hours a week at fifty thousand dollars a year, with four weeks holidays to start.”
Her heart sped up a little. That would be fewer hours than she currently worked and a substantial increase in pay. It would allow her to start paying off her monstrous line of credit and pay her property taxes. But she couldn’t do this. She wouldn’t do this.
“I’m afraid the whole thing might be a little controversial in the community for me.”
“I understand your concerns. We plan to do this whole thing right and take the concerns of the community into consideration. It is going to be a small mine for starters, and we’re going to use a bunch of innovative methods to minimize impacts and make it as sustainable as possible. Some of the board of directors of the company are planning to live here with their families, and we don’t want anything that wrecks the watershed.”
He sounded very sincere, but people who worked for industry were probably used to lying and deluding themselves. Sustainable mining was an oxymoron.
Another email popped up on Alana’s screen. Something from Maude about the travesty about to unfold in the watershed.