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Sustainability

We are what we read: In conversation with Marcius Extavour

For Neste’s Journey to Zero “We are what we read” series, Irja Howie speaks to climate and energy scientist Marcius Extavour, a member of Neste’s Sustainability Advisory Council, about his favorite reads.

Extavour describes his reading habit as “constant” – and does so less for entertainment and more to learn and sharpen his imagination. He favors thoughtful academic content and news that he can consume on his phone – through websites such as The Conversation, Axios, The Atlantic – but will also have fiction e-books on the go.

“I like to read whenever I have spare time – which is why I like to do it on my phone, as it’s always with me. I pick up a paperback when I’m on holiday,” he says.

When reading books, he is a one-at-a-time kind of man, and his favorite genre is science-fiction: “What I love about it, is that it gives a broader and different latitude to play with the given premise and to explore the story.”

He mentions Chinese author Liu Cixin as one his favorites, describing his book The Three Body Problem as a “must read” that blew him away.

But the book most on his mind is the classic Dune. Extavour was prompted to read it, when the film came out in 2021: “I’d always thought that it would be a bridge too far for me. But I loved it.”

He is now working his way through the full series of 6 original novels, curious to follow it through: “It gets more and more bizarre. But I want to see where it goes.”

So the idea that it (the fossil oil industry) might be gone in 50 years or so is not actually such a crazy idea.

What he particularly enjoys about Dune is the long-term environmentalism aspect and the very timely parallels that can be drawn to our world.

Extavour says: “In the book a desert planet becomes lush and verdant, and then goes back to being a desert – all over a very long period of time. It shows that things can and do change – things that seem fixed today are actually probably movable over time.

“And things change at very different rates, which for some things can make it imperceptible in the short run. This is all very relevant to the climate change conversation.”

He points to the fossil oil industry that seems so embedded now in the way we live: “If you think about the really long-term, the fossil oil industry hasn’t actually been around for that long. So the idea that it might be gone in 50 years or so is not such a crazy idea.”

“What I find really interesting in Dune, is the exploration of how humans perceive truth over time,” he adds, “How things that we think are deeply embedded or taboo, can change.

In our world this applies to eating meat for example – it is hard to square that in line with climate change. The same thing applies to mobility, and how we get around.”

We must plan to act for the very long term, not just for the next seven years – this is about turning old systems off and new ones on.

Thinking about the very long-term is something Extavour likes to do a lot – and is something he finds himself pondering about even more as a father: “Having children changed the way I think about generations. I think about their lives, about the 20, 50, 300 years ahead.

“I find this very helpful. In the climate conversation there is this idea that there is a ticking clock, that in 2030 we run out of time and after that action will be less impactful.

“While I do firmly believe that the sooner we take action the better, I worry about this short-term view. We must plan to act for the very long term, not just for the next seven years – this is about turning old systems off and new ones on.”

We end our conversation with my usual final question – would this be the book Extavour would choose to take with him on a desert island?

He laughs and says: “It’s not my favorite book of all time but it wouldn’t be a bad choice. And to take a book set in the desert and covering themes of remoteness and survival to read on a desert island – that’s funny, I like that.”

Credits:

Irja Howie, UK-based journalist and communications expert.

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