For our final interview in our Tales From The Pandemic campaign, Daastan had the pleasure of talking with debut author, Oana Aristide. We discussed the pandemic, climate change and her novel, “Under the Blue”. Oana’s novel was conceived before the COVID 19 pandemic, but is about a strikingly similar situation. A deadly disease caused by ecological mismanagement, devastates humanity, leading to potential nuclear disaster.
Oana Aristide On The Pandemic
Oana discussed the link between her novel and the real pandemic. She was asked if she felt a sort of inevitability that something similar to her novel would play out in real life. She says that both the fictional pandemic and the real pandemic were likely scenarios in scientific circles. The pandemic in the novel starts because “melting permafrost releases a virus”. This has already happened on a much smaller scale in Siberia, according to Oana. Oana suggests that this pandemic has created uncertainty and unease, but also highlighted how we might live more consciously in the future.
“This pandemic has highlighted that we take for granted, a lot of things we should treasure more, and value more when we have them”
The Role of AI In “Under The Blue”
The character of Talos, in the novel, asks a lot of philosophical questions. Oana was asked what her reasoning was for asking such questions through artificial intelligence. She said that she introduced Talos because she wanted a neutral voice and an objective observer of humanity. The arguments in favour of protecting the environment are politically loaded, and so coming from a human character could be particularly controversial. By having a machine make these points, Oana hopes people will think about the basis of the argument. And she hopes people will react less emotionally.
Greece Vs Britain’s COVID response
As Oana has lived in both the UK and Greece, we wanted to get her thoughts on how both countries had responded to the pandemic. Greece reacted surprisingly well when the pandemic hit, Oana says. They went into an immediate lockdown and so never experienced a first wave. But, Oana discusses how people in Greece, have started to experience restriction fatigue. She also says that Greece’s economy relies on tourism in the summer months. So, they have had very little choice but to reopen to tourists over the past few months. Oana owns her own eco hotel in Syros, and so this is a subject close to her heart. Luckily, Oana said that they have experienced a good year on the island so far.
Oana discussed whether she thinks there has been any positive environmental change, to emerge from the pandemic. She says that we are “so far down a road where we’ve destroyed the environment” that incremental change won’t make a difference. However, she said there is definitely more awareness around the topic now. More people are making an effort to eat less meat or supporting Green political parties. She said that the next step is to reach a greater point of political awareness.
“The key to protecting the environment is to start giving it rights, similar to the rights that we have to protect human beings.”
The Novel’s Takeaway
When asked what she would like people to take away from her novel “Under the Blue”. Oana Aristide said “I would like them to consider seriously this point about the natural world being equal to us”. She wants us to treat the environment with the same care and respect that you would treat a friend or relative. But she also wants people to shift their perspective somewhat urgently. She says “there’s no pushing it down the line, it’s already very late”.
We would like to thank Oana for taking part in this campaign, her insight on the environment and the pandemic was incredibly valuable. If you haven’t entered our short form poetry competition yet, please do so here. You can also watch this interview in its entirety on our instagram @mydaastan.