Interview with Dain Rohtla, Author of 'The Sustainability Handbook'

June 22, 2020

I was privileged to invite Dain Rohtla for an interview with BooKecCenTric to discuss his latest book The Sustainability Handbook and the inspiration behind it. Enjoy!


What's your book The Sustainability Handbook about, and what inspired you to write it?
The Sustainability Handbook is meant to be a textbook about sustainable development - general issues about sustainability, how YOU can be more sustainable, political agendas to fight climate change, and my overarching thesis that sustainability is not dependent on technology, but rather economics and people's unwillingness to change. Greta Thunberg is the most well-known environmental pundit yet she does not really proffer tax agendas, she complains, and I would rather people focus on solutions than problems.

I was inspired by debating my friends about the benfits of hunting. I told them not to think about 'killing bambi,' take the emotions out of it because A) the money spent on hunting saves more animals than you kill, and B) animals die more gruesome deaths in the wild if they are not killed by hunters. This inspired me to do more reading about it. I had already taken sustainable development classes and was decently in-tune politically so I just wanted to put my thoughts together for myself.

Who is your target audience, and why do you think this book will appeal to them?
This is best suited for those of high school age and above who are interested in politics or the environment. This should appeal because it offers a bipartisan take on combatting climate change, a narrative which is dominated by left wing thinkers who Greenwash the issue to advance socialism policies. Many right-wing people support the environment but do not want to hear congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez or Greta Thunberg so this argues brings more context to the issue.

What message do you wish to pass across to your readers with this book?
Environmental degradation is worse than you think; its not just a slight rise in temperature, its trash pollution, marine life decline, terrestrial life decline, deforestation, everything and it affects everyone.

As a writer, is there anything you've learned about yourself while writing this book?
I care more about the environment than when I started! I did not care that much originally, it seemed quite intangible, but now I see it as ever-present, I notice the massive plastic wrapping everywhere, the abundance of beef, and it makes me want to change things.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books, and why?  
I like traditional books, it feels good to hold paper, scrunch the book on my lap, flip through the pages, and see it on my bookshelf.

What is your niche genre, and if you were to write in a different genre, what would it be?
I like environmental economics; I write a lot about it on my society's website as well. If not this I would write fantasy, when I was in 6-8th grade I wrote a 250-page fantasy book that was probably horrible and has since been mysteriously deleted.

Why do you care about the environment?
Growing up in the suburbs instilled a love of the outdoors when I was young. I was am an Eagle Scout and I love carp fishing most of all. No matter how much time I spent on other aspects of boyscouts like knot tying, or other hobbies like soccer, I always came back to carp fishing. At university in Scotland I took Sustainable Development classes because they were apparently easy, but it taught me alot. I learned about how important marine life is for my hobbies and the world but that it was dying excruciatingly quickly. I wanted to help the environment because it gives me so much joy.

What books and authors have most influenced you?
I am a huge fan of Ernest Hemingway, more as a person than a writer. I love his attraction to hunting, fishing, skiing, all these wonderful adventures. My favorite of his books is Green Hills of Africa which is a non-fiction account of his hunting in Africa and it instills the sense of love, of the journey, not only the goal, and the true simple pleasures of life, like a Michigan sunset or whiskey at the end of a hard day of hiking.
Other than Hemingway, I read a wide selection, mostly older works. I love F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender is the Night and The Great Gatby which I have reread several times.

Why is your finance background pertinent in a discussion about ecology? 
To many ecologists and 'treehuggers' get caught up in feelings and morals. Too many people don't react to that, especially if they don't spend time hunting, hiking, and fishing. Eating vegan or riding a bike to work is difficult, so we need to educate people on how climate change affects them, and incentivize them to act cleaner. If we say its because polar bears are dying or because insects are going extinct in the Amazon, that doesn't hit home.

Any additional comments?
Regarding the organization, I think they create a false narrative. The premise is that we need to bring the atmosphere's CO2 PPM down to 350 (and its now nearly 420) to stop global warming, and we do this by divesting from those greedy bastard fossil fuel companies. I think those greatly overemphasizes the importance of divestment. We should not focus on tearing down something we need, thats just hypocritcal and dangerous. There is no way we can operate without fossil fuel so stop acting like divestment will make them go bankrupt and save the planet. Secondly, if the goal is to bring down PPM to 350 lets actually focus on that. If we want to reduce CO2 we need to focus on aforestation: planting trees through initiatives like the Great Green Wall, and restoring seagrass which is great for carbon sequestration. Other than this, we should be INVESTING in renewables and particularly carbon capture storage technology companies like Climeworks. We should heal the environment by building helpful institutions not creating a socialist economy devoid of fossil fuels.

Do you have any more books in the works?
I want to write a fishing diary / Florida-policy specific piece. I love Florida, I recently tarpon fished down there but it has experienced great degradation lately. Fish populations are going down, seagrass is torn up, bad water from Okeechobee flows into saltwater estuaries, its a mess, and they rely on the outdoors for the economy!

What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.)?
Follow me on Twitter @economicsmussel


Dain Rohtla is a University of St Andrews Management student from America. At school he is Head of the Economic Policy Research Group and President of the international society, Roosevelt Group. He plans on going into the finance field but thinks sustainability will be of increasing importance in business. This is his first book but plans to write others. Follow him on Twitter @EconomicsMussel