Authors: Trevor Hoyle
A frightening story of ecological disaster set in the near future
When British marine biologist Gavin Chase stepped out into the windswept wastes at the Hailey Bay antarctic research station one morning, the last thing he expected to see was a sled team coming out of nowhere carrying a half-mad, half-frozen Russian scientist babbling an incomprehensible warning. But that warning would threaten the future of the human race and force Chase to make some of the hardest decisions of his life.
Months later, at a Geneva environmental conference, Chase meets Cheryl Detrick, the daughter of Theo Detrick, the grand old man of diatom research. Chase, the Detricks, and Soviet scientist Boris Stanovnik theorize that the oxygen-producing microscopic plants of the world’s oceans are dying and the level of atmospheric pollutants has finally exceeded the ability of the planet’s ecology to recycle them. There is also good reason to believe that the superpowers are planning to wage a new type of environmental warfare. Sooner or later there will be nothing left to breathe.
So begins a race against the future. Chase and Cheryl, now lovers, struggle to avert ecological catastrophe as agents of the military-industrial complex hunt them down...and as a growing belt of unbreathable gases spreads outward from the equator, uprooting millions. Their enemies are Lloyd Madden, an insane military mastermind planning to seed the earth with poison and then repopulate it with a race of mutants, and Joseph Earl Gelstrom, a wealthy chemical manufacturer who has Cheryl’s father killed to hide his involvement. But Gelstrom himself falls victim to pollution sickness, and he repents. To raise money to finance a research team, Chase must make an unholy alliance with the dying Gelstrom, but this is too much for Cheryl, who leaves him.
As more and more of the world becomes uninhabitable, as industries and governments collapse and chaos reigns, as the oceans fill up with dioxin, as the climate changes and mutant life-forms encroach upon the last refuges of humankind, Chase leads a last desperate mission to find and rescue Cheryl and to lead his team of scientists to safety.
A thrilling doomsday novel of love and destruction, The Last Gasp carries a powerful warning within its chilling plot.
is the author of a number of novels, including This Sentient Earth and, pseudonymously, The Man Who Travelled on Motorways. He has worked as an actor and has written screenplays for television. Mr. Hoyle lives in Lancashire, England.
Jacket painting.by Michael Booth
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Excerpts from the following works have been reprinted with the permission of their publishers:
The Closing Circle: Nature, Man and Technology
by Barry Commoner. Copyright © 1971 by Barry Commoner. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc./Random House, Inc. New York.
by Alvin Toffler. Copyright © 1970 by Alvin Toffler. Random House, Inc. New York.
Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind
by Donella H. Meadows et al. Copyright © 1974 by Universe Publishers, Inc.
Pollute and Be Damned
by Arthur Bourne. Copyright © 1972 by Arthur Bourne. J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd. London.
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Cataloging in Publication Data Hoyle,
PS3558.0955L3 1983 813'.54 83-2073
by Camilla Filancia
For David and Sue Richards
What friends are for
I should like to thank the following people and organizations for their invaluable advice and assistance in the research for this book:
Dr. Leslie F. Musk and Dr. David Tout, Geography Department, University of Manchester; Dr. E. Bellinger, Pollution Research Unit, University of Manchester; Dr. F. W. Ratcliffe, librarian and director of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester. Special thanks to Dr. Phillip Williamson, then of the Wellcomt Marine Laboratory, Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire, for hours of fruitful and enlightening discussion.
The following publications and research papers were extremely useful: Climate Monitor, issued by the Centre for Climatic Research, University of East Anglia; World Meteorological Organisation Bulletin; Yearbook of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, California; “National Climate Program” in Oceanus, vol. 21, no. 4; “Continuous Plankton Records: Changes in the Composition and Abundance of the Phytoplankton of the North-Eastern Atlantic Ocean and North Sea, 1958—1974” by P. C. Reid of the Institute for Marine Environmental Research, Plymouth, in Marine Biology.
Of many other useful sources of information, I should like to acknowledge the following: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S.; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S.; P. P. Shir-shov Institute of Oceanology, Academy of Sciences of USSR, Moscow; Scottish Marine Biological Association, Argyll, Scotland; Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Huntingdon, U.K.; Natural Environmental Research Council, Swindon, U.K.; Marine Biological Association of U.K.; World Meteorological Organization (an agency of the UN); World Climate Research Program (joint venture of the WMO and the International Council of Scientific Unions); World Climate Conference held in Geneva, 1979; Global Weather Experiment; POLYMODE: the MidOcean Dynamics Experiment, U.S. and USSR; NORPAX: the North Pacific Experiment; CLIMAP: Climate and Long-Range Investigation Mapping and Prediction; National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado; World Oceanographic Data Center, Washington, D.C.; U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; Interagency Coordinating Committee of Atmospheric Sciences, U.S.; International Conference on the Environmental Future (Iceland, 1977).
As reference sources, I made use of the following: Population, Resources, Environment, Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich (Freeman, 1970); Planet Earth (Aldus Books, 1975); Journal of Environmental Management; Environmental Pollution; Science; New Scientist; Only One Earth, Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos (Andre Deutsch, 1972); The Closing Circle, Barry Commoner (Jonathan Cape, 1972); Pollute and Be Damned, Arthur Bourne (J. M. Dent, 1972); The Doomsday Book, Gordon Rattray Taylor (Thames & Hudson, 1970); The Ultimate Experiment: Man-Made Evolution, Nicholas Wade (Walker & Company, 1977); Colonies in Space, T. A. Heppenheimer (Stackpole Books, 1977).
And finally—last but certainly not least—I should like to record my appreciation of Nick Austin, who five years ago over a bottle of Chivas Regal gently dropped the idea into my mind and waited for something to happen.
All progress is based upon a universal innate desire on the part of every organism to live beyond its income.
... Let us strike the keynote, Coketown, before pursuing our tune.
It was a town of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it; but as matters stood it was a town of unnatural red and black like the painted face of a savage. It was a town of machinery and tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever, and never got uncoiled. It had a black canal in it, and a river that ran purple with ill-smelling dye, and vast piles of buildings full of windows where there was a rattling and a trembling all day long, and where the pistons of the steam engine worked monotonously up and down like the head of an elephant in a state of melancholy madness. It contained several large streets all very like one another, and many small streets still more like one another, inhabited by people equally like one another, who all went in and out at the same hours, with the same sound upon the same pavements, to do the same work, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next.
Half of all the energy consumed by man in the past two thousand years has been consumed in the last one hundred.
If the present growth trends in world population, industrial pollution, food production and resources depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years.
Limits to Growth
The risk from lung cancer due to breathing New York air is about equivalent to the risk of smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.
The Closing Circle