Margaret Atwood

Friends of the Earth Patron, Margaret Atwood, is the literary genius behind novels like The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.

She's also the inventor of LongPen – which basically lets you sign books anywhere in the world without leaving your bedroom. Famous advocates include best-selling authors Dean Koontz and Kate Mosse.

Margaret is using LongPen instead of flying to this year's Cheltenham Literature Festival (5-14 Oct). Together with fellow writer and husband Graeme Gibson, she's a keen environmentalist.

What was the inspiration behind LongPen?

There were many – one happy result is that you can sign books from faraway without actually transporting your body there.

LongPen has a carbon counter on its website that keeps track of the emissions it has saved.

It is a very green technology, as it prevents big carbon emissions.

Margaret on LongPen

Why are you not flying to the Cheltenham Literature Festival?

It's a two-way transatlantic flight for just one event. These days Graeme and I are cutting down on flying, grouping our events, taking the train when possible, and offsetting as well.

What got you interested in the environment?

I grew up with parents who were very environmentally conscious. They were early members of the Sierra Club. Our whole family is like that.

The planet is now in crisis. I'm very concerned about the plunge in songbirds, the melting Arctic and loss of species.

The human species won't be the last to go. The losses we are seeing now should act as a warning bell to us all.

Margaret on the effects of climate change

Why do you support Friends of the Earth International?

It's one of many that I support. The problems are too much for just one organisation. Friends of the Earth is a grassroots organisation with great credibility and great outreach.

How do Canadians feel about Canada failing to meet its Kyoto emissions target?

I believe many Canadians feel ashamed of our government in this respect.

It has taken a long time for this government to even admit there is a problem. They don’t appear to want to take any action that might mean a cut down on oil consumption. Very, very shortsighted.

Canadians used to have a reputation for honesty that has been sullied by this.

Margaret on Canada's failed CO2 target

What is your new book about?

The one I’m writing now? I never tell...

Watch Margaret Atwood using LongPen at the Cheltenham Literature Festival