Who are Fossil Free Books?

Fossil Free Books is a collective of book workers – authors, illustrators, translators, agents, booksellers and publishing staff – like us. We organise as equals and without internal hierarchy, without funding and alongside work and other commitments. We are the workforce that literary festivals rely on and we love sharing our work with readers. Many of us are based in Scotland, and act out of love for its literary spaces. We believe that literary festivals and events that do not rely on the profits of human rights abuses or the destruction of life are possible. 

The seeds of Fossil Free Books were planted in August 2023, when a group of authors wrote an open letter to the Edinburgh International Book Festival calling on Baillie Gifford to divest from the fossil fuel industry. This letter was prompted by the revelation – published by The Ferret – that EIBF’s main sponsor, Scottish investment manager Baillie Gifford, holds £5 billion pounds worth of investments in the fossil fuel industry. The same publication caused climate activist Greta Thunberg to cancel her appearance at the festival. Following our statement, climate justice writer Mikaela Loach and other authors, including one of the writers of this piece, led an audience walk-out and on-site protest, which was welcomed by EIBF. By the end of the festival, our open letter had been signed by over 150 authors, including Ali Smith and Zadie Smith. Since it officially launched in November, Fossil Free Books has grown into a supportive, ambitious and diverse collective of over one-hundred book workers, committed to changing our industry for the better. 

In December last year, additional research on Baillie Gifford’s investments emerged, partly thanks to Art Workers for Palestine Scotland. This time, it came to light that Baillie Gifford holds investments in a number of companies which the UN has listed on a database due to ‘human rights concerns’ about their activities in the West Bank. These companies include Nvidia, Amazon, and Cyberark, all linked to ‘apartheid surveillance’ and AI-assisted military operations which “supply much of the core infrastructure required to build them, including advanced computer chips, software and cloud computing”. Against the background of this new knowledge, we widened our call for divestment to include these companies.

As Israel’s genocide in Palestine has unfolded, many of the authors and book workers invited to attend and collaborate at Baillie Gifford sponsored festivals have been horrified to learn of these investments. As we witness the horrific onslaught of 1.4 million people seeking shelter in the city of Rafah, we continue to ask ourselves what our role is, as the people who create books, in challenging the financial institutions that make these atrocities possible. 

In approaching fellow authors, we have always emphasised our varying abilities and circumstances, which make different kinds of action possible for different people as Noreen Masud highlighted in her recent op-ed, and who shared her email exchange and has since returned to Hay after it dropped Baillie Gifford. Individual choice, with a collective aim, has been paramount. This approach led us to bring a resolution calling for an end to fossil fuel finance in the books industry to our union, the Society of Authors, which passed with an overwhelming majority. The effectiveness of creative disruption and withdrawal of labour has been proven time and time again in the international divestment movement; that is why we have made use of these methods. Our renewed call for Baillie Gifford to divest from the aforementioned companies has so far amassed over 800 signatures from workers across the world of literature. 

We have been asked why we have united in a campaign calling for divestment from both fossil fuels and from companies involved in the oppression of the Palestinian people. To that we say loudly and clearly: solidarity with Palestine and climate justice are inextricably linked, as emphasised by Friends of the Earth International:

“Our liberation struggle is interconnected with global movements advocating for Indigenous rights, land rights, the fight against the fossil fuel industry and climate colonialism”.

Environmental violence has long been part of the occupation in Palestine, and there can be no climate justice on occupied land. 

As book workers, we refuse to be complicit in occupation and genocide. 

We refuse to be complicit in the destruction of homes, communities and livelihoods for fossil fuel extraction.

We call on Baillie Gifford to divest from all companies profiting from the fossil fuel industry and from all companies involved in Israeli occupation, apartheid and genocide.

We believe that programming discussions about injustice is not enough when these discussions are made possible by the perpetuation of the very same injustices.

As authors we would love to be able to focus on our writing, sharing our work with audiences and interacting with readers. According to the Society of Authors, the average income of authors is £6000 a year. We are painfully aware of the effects of austerity on the arts, and rely on festival fees and book sales to pay for rent and groceries, but we have been placed in a position where we must choose between business as usual, fully aware of the facts and figures of Baillie Gifford’s investments, or to work collectively for change. We choose the latter, because it is a moral imperative.

We want festivals whose funding mirrors the ethics they claim to hold: of interconnectedness, solidarity and the search for understanding across difference. We know that Edinburgh has a vibrant, multifaceted literary life because it holds space for a multitude of expressions, and because of the commitment of its people, who we call our friends and colleagues. We want to work alongside festivals towards a more ethical, community based  funding model. While we welcome the decisions by Hay and Edinburgh International Book Festival to end their sponsorship with Baillie Gifford, we will continue to call upon Baillie Gifford to divest from companies with a proven track record of human rights abuses, and we continue to urge literary institutions to use their unique relationship with their sponsors to make this a reality. We want Scottish literary life to be its best self.

We do this in solidarity with communities across the globe affected by disastrous investments. We do so in solidarity with the 14 Palestinian writers and poets, and 107 journalists and media workers who have lost their lives since October 2023. We do this because we believe that a fossil free and genocide free books industry is not only possible, it is what we all deserve.

Comments (26)

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  1. Satan says:

    My experience of anti-climate-change rallys is that they tend towards upper middle class twit of the year compos. Maybe now they have a Levantine flavour depending on whatever is trending on TikTok. Closer to the bone one writer has described the Fossils as spoiled brats. Anyway, here’s Tarquin Fossil’s achievements: The major sponsor of two book festivals has stoped funding two book festivals. No-one has divested anything.

    1. Niemand says:

      At what point did crass bigotry about someone’s apparent class become so acceptable?

      What class are you Satan? A working class oik? Underclass scum perhaps? A snivelling chav?

      Actually I suspect you are the worst of all, a lower middle class, small minded, ‘my pink half of the drainpipe’ NIMBY, nonentity, jealous of the fictional people you slag off here and contemptuous of the unwashed below.

      Of course that is all deliberate rubbish but how about we stop using class to attack people in such a lazy and sad manner that does zero for any argument you might have anyway?

      1. John Learmonth Stonegate House says:

        Class bigotry has always been Acceptable to socialists
        Their whole ideology is based on it
        Have you only just noticed?

        1. Niemand says:

          You think class bigotry exclusive to the left?

          You think ‘Satan’ is left wing?

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @Niemand, always distinguishing between class consciousness which is the opposite of bigotry. I mean, John Ball had a point, surely, even it he expressed it in ahistorical religious terms. Hmmm, Stonegate, nice name for a prison.

          2. John Learmonth says:

            Bigotry is not exclusive to any political persuasion, its just that class hatred has been the defining feature (until recently)of the left. Since the vote for Brexit which was overwhelmingly a vote by the white/indigenous working class the left has given up on its traditional supporters, indeed despises them, and thrown its lot into racial/identity politics culminating in the ‘queers for Palestine’. What next I wonder?
            Trans ‘women’ for stoning apostates?
            The wonder of our ‘inclusive society.

  2. Satan says:

    Oh, and as someone with an interest in paleonlology, ‘Fossil Free Books’ is a moronic name.

    1. Time, the Deer says:

      Such a keen interest in ‘paleonlology’ that you can’t even spell it…

  3. SteveH says:

    These people live in a world of their own. None of their books will defend them or any one else from the ruthlessness of the totalitarian regimes who are watching us weaken our society with luxury beliefs.

    Israel is the only real democracy in the whole region. They are surrounded by millions of muslims who hate them, but who fear their military prowess. These nations do not even understand what democracy is. Oddly enough, none of them actually want Palestinian refugees – or the likes of Hamas in their countries.

    The anti-fossil-fuel-in-Britain-brigade gripe about our use of gas etc, but whose lives are utterly dependent on the stuff. Even though gas that heats our homes, cooks our food, drives much of our peak electricity generation comes in part from shale gas in the US.

    The electricity that drives the printing machines that makes the paper books or eReaders and devices to read the ebooks versions or even the lights to read the paper books.

    What has “Net-Zero” virtue signalling got to do with anti-Israel/pro-Hamas politics?

    This goes beyond even virtue signaling.

    I know, why don’t all you activists sail (without power) to a remote Scottish Isle, and without any form of electricity, without your internet connection, and online audience. That is what dumping fossil fuels prematurely means for our lives.

    What’s amazing is that the UK only produces <2% of emissions. Why don’t you Direct all your activism against Russia, Saudi, and all the other mass producers snd polluters? You can campaign against the biggest polluters like the US, China, India, Africa – countries that have no intention of giving up oil and gas. While you’re at it you can campaign against the specialist metals being mined, often by the poorest people in those countries, on behalf of Chinese countries.. The heavy metals are, of course, at the heart of the renewable energy industry. It smells like hypocrisy to me.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    I am sympathetic to the views expressed here. Indeed, I have recently read a book (Environmental Warfare in Gaza by Shourideh C Molavi, highly recommended) which complies evidence from before this recent genocide and makes a similar point. Hence I am reluctant to pour fuel on the fire of criticism of the above statement, but am ethically compelled, hopefully my criticism will be constructive and helpful.

    Where is the link to the Society of Authors’ statement and evidence about author income? I’ve looked on their website and they appear to rely on some questionnaire, which is problematic. Their chosen form of average is median. They don’t supply demographics. Nor do they specify whether income is total or income from authoring (however derived) only. Now, say, is it unreasonable to suppose that many comfortably retired people take to writing and are the kinds of people who respond to questionnaires, and their modest incomes from authorship drag down the median amount headlined? Obviously the Society of Authors has an agenda here, but are we really saying that anyone writing books is owed a living wage? What is the relation supposed to be between quality, worth, benefit and commercial success? Perhaps low earnings come from churning out undistinguished pap in a crowded marketplace?

    I am not knowledgeable about the Edinburgh literature scene, but I have attended Book Festivals and been slightly disappointed by the taming of political edge there. If Scottish writers had been diligent about drawing attention towards past crimes of settler colonialism committed by Scots, then perhaps we would be further along in opposing today’s versions.

    1. Bailie Giffnock says:

      The figure is on the SOA website and is £7000 and not as stated here, 6K, and the income given is totally on authoring, which is why most authors have other jobs. IE that is the average amount of money made by writers for writing, in one year, in the UK. One of the authors of this piece is on the Literature Alliance Scotland Writers Advisory Group and they will have access to all that data. The SOA doesn’t have an agenda and these writers don’t speak for the SOA. The SOA does not argue that anyone who writes books is entitled to a living wage, in fact nobody has ever argued that 🙂

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Bailie Giffnock, if you mean this The Society of Authors:
        “The UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators… Empowering authors since 1884.”
        then clearly it has an agenda, which it spells out:
        “We promote the interests of authors through campaigning, lobbying, negotiation and representation. We voice concerns about authors’ rights, the publishing and creative industries and wider cultural matters.”
        That’s fine. But it’s not an independent view.

        By the way, this is what they actually say, about Fair Remuneration, which I read before I originally posted:
        “It is imperative that authors can make a living from their writing, otherwise the supply of new and innovative writing will simply dry up.”

        My point was largely based on the principle of universal justice, which is that if you reasonably demand that your opponent be open and transparent about their finances, the same should apply to you.

        I accept that your remaining points may be true, but then you didn’t supply a hyperlink either.

  5. Edward Chang says:

    “solidarity with Palestine and climate justice are inextricably linked”

    Only in a variety of middle-class bedsits.

    1. Time, the Deer says:

      It’s called colonialism, Edward. The Palestine situation is principally about resource extraction. Land, natural gas, a new Suez canal… But I suppose you thought it was all about religion

      1. The Truth says:

        What utter tosh. There’s nothing in Gaza and zero plans for a new Suez. You just make stuff up.

      2. LickyLou says:

        So, did Hamas/Palestinians invade Israel in order to extract minerals and gas?
        I’m surprised, I thought it was to kill/maim/rape/take hostages.

  6. Martha Vail Barker says:

    I’ll wager each and every “book worker” included in this effort has a greater percentage of their worldly goods and assets implicated in petrochemicals and Israeli-connected companies than BG does. I’d also like to hear about how these good folks plan to replace the programmes for children and free books that have been sponsored by Baillie Gifford through the EIBF.

    1. B.L.Z. Bubb says:

      I’ll wager there are an unhealthy number of Socialist Porkers Warty halfwits behind ffb. It just reeks of the same kind of blind hated of Jews and love of Hamas’ baby burning rapists. As for being “book workers” , more like book burners surviving on UC, PIP, and a trust fund. Nasty little cultural vandals.

      1. I’ll wager there is no crossover between the FFB and the SWP. You can’t just come on here and spout your incoherent
        hatred of things you don’t understand. Your are banned for being a bigot and a stupid one at that.

        1. Elly Jackson says:

          This campaign ought to be targeting Iran. The hideous bunches of bullying bigoted religious scum that run that country,that hate Israel and wish for its destruction. People that murder women for not wearing a stupid headscarf. But you are airheads and cowards,like the dozy lot who championed the Russian Revolution. So besotted with your fantasies you actually believe in some Marxist wonderworld.

          1. ‘Marxist Wonderworld’ would make a great tshirt!

          2. SleepingDog says:

            @Elly Jackson, what a strange contribution. Soviet communist activists like Alexandra Kollontai and organisations like the Zhenotdel led the women’s rights movement worldwide, and among many achievements
            “In Soviet central Asia, the Zhenotdel sought to improve the lives of Muslim women through literacy, education and ‘unveiling’ campaigns.”
            It was socialists who created International Women’s Day. Three cheers for Marxists!

            Meanwhile the British Empire actually helped create some of the more extreme Muslim organisations partly as a counter to Communist influence during the Cold War. Read Mark Curtis’ Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam.

            But what do fossil fuels have to do with Iran?

  7. Bill Hopkins says:

    Why do all these hypocrites not say they are anti sematic. The chinese are committinf genocide on their muslim population but no one cares( is it because they are all communists together ?) They buy products from China made by slave labour, they jet all over the world (fossil fuels) Do they realise that most of the things they buy and use are derived from fossil fuels. Take away their i-phones and see how they squel ( made by slave labour and from fossil fuels by the biggest polluters on the planet. HYPOCRITES

  8. Cammy says:

    A bunch of extreme left wing idiots who want us to live in caves and eat grass. Ignorance destroys.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Cammy, well, ignorance seems to have destroyed the part of your comment where you might have explained your distracted ravings. But I liked the part about living. When the world is facing such a deepening human-caused polycrisis, it’s good to hope life will go on in some form or other. Maybe with a bit less ignorance-by-Internet, genocide and trashing the living planet.

  9. Sam Plesky says:

    Anyone got a list of the authors currently involved?

    Or are they not that brave?

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