Overpopulation on the Page

Environmentalist Robert Johnson's Novel The Momentum of Folly

Environmentalist and author Robert Johnson’s new novel, The Momentum of Folly, deals with overpopulation of the human race. The premise is a fictional but not impossible predicament in which a young virologist must deal with a virus that could potentially wipe out one-third of humanity. A bio-terror thriller with a framework in science and logic, the book itself serves to educate others about the impact of humanity on earth.

Johnson recently answered a few questions about his book, which he will be signing on September 25, 5 p.m., at Chaucer’s Bookstore.

What inspired you to write a book on this topic?

As an avid environmentalist and passionate lover of nature, I became aware, as most environmentalists do, that humanity’s rampant growth is the single greatest threat to our planet and, hence, to humanity itself. So, after becoming a card-carrying member and classroom trainer (I give talks in junior high and high school science classes) for Population Connection, the challenge was to convey this looming threat in a compelling story so to encourage readers into learning all about the dire consequences of our unchecked growth.

Is any of this book autobiographical, or based in real life? If so, how much?

Nope, the book is not autobiographical, except maybe for the small matter of the job I have the protagonist’s father doing — starting a global billboard campaign which involves his traveling through most every village in the world putting up population awareness posters and lecturing about why it is imperative to limit our families to “just two” and reduce our numbers — was one I always fantasized for myself.

How’d the process of writing this book go?

As a working “Hollywood” screenwriter, I first wrote this book as a screenplay, which sold. However, by the third draft, the studio still loved the theme (of an influenza pandemic) but wanted me to “lose the overpopulation stuff,” which, of course, was the very spine of the story. With my paycheck hanging on my decision, I wrestled with myself for three angry weeks without being able to write a word, only to experience utter joy when the production company was subsumed into a larger company and the film project was dropped and the story rights reverted back to me. I started the “back-assward” adaptation of the screenplay into the book the next day.

Any adventures while researching?

Well, yes. Research for this book has dragged me to all “corners” of this world that have seen the environmental ravages and human suffering that overpopulation incurs. Nothing too humorous about that, I’m afraid, but plenty adventurous.

What do you hope readers take away from the book?

As it has become obvious to most environmental scientists, any attempt we might have — be it reduce CO2 emissions, heal the oceans, protect wilderness, stave off species extinctions — are each and all futile unless conjoined to an equally ardent effort reduce our population down to a sustainable number through access to reproductive education and safe birth control to all people and cultures.


Author Robert Johnson will sign copies of The Momentum of Folly on September 25, 5 p.m., at Chaucer’s Bookstore. The book is on sale there as well as at the Book Den in downtown Santa Barbara and Tecolote Books in Montecito.


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