Marcus Ranney’s debut novel, At The Human Edge, inspires readers to dream big
A Guinness Book of World Record holder for backwards running, Dr. Marcus Ranney wears many hats. He not just volunteered for COVID duty in Mumbai but has also worked with fighter pilots whilst in the Royal Airforce and with astronauts whilst at NASA. A Senior Fellow to the Atlantic Council Ranney has now authored a book titled At The Human Edge, that aims at making the readers fall in love with biology and dream of great adventures after a panic-ridden 2020. Excerpts:
What necessitated At The Human Edge?
It was my children. I dreamt how wonderful it would be, for them to fall in love with science (in the same way I have!), through the words of their father. As Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, wrote in support of the book “[N]ow more than ever, we need a new generation of young scientists who will continue to push back the boundaries of the unknown.” I hope I can do justice to this sentiment and inspire these young minds, the world over.
Why do you think we need the book now?
2020 was a landmark year, in many ways. One of the biggest learnings was the collective realisation of the importance of wellbeing and the central role it plays in our lives. For each of us, we have come to respect and appreciate our health. This book builds upon that narrative, taking it one step further. My hope is to inspire people to love biology, in the same way that I do, and discover the complexities that exist within this physical organic machine - the human body.
Given that so many of us have lived in lockdown as well, and missed being outdoors, I also aim to provide the reader a route to dream of great adventures once again. Taking them on a journey around this planet (and beyond) through the pages of this book.
Your experiences are so varied. How much is the book influenced by them?
I have been fortunate to have a career which has allowed me to zig and zag, wearing many different hats, but with a singular goal on improving our collective wellbeing. As a science geek at heart, I fell in love with an adventure through the words of a physiology textbook and my experiences have allowed me to pursue those biological adaptations, and study them, in some of the most amazing environments around the world.
From the month I spent on the slopes of Mt. Everest, to the many skiing and climbing trips in the European Alps, my own journey of long-distance marathon running and up-close encounters of working with fighter pilots in the Royal Air Force and astronauts at NASA; the intent of this book was to therefore bring as many stories as I could, from my own endeavours, and the work of others, to the reader.
From having a Guinness Record to working with fighter pilots and astronauts, what keeps you inspired?
To keep learning and doing things along that way, that will help me maximise the performance of my body and brain and help me gain my own Human Edge! Now, as a young father, with two small children of my own, my lens has widened and I now consider a framework in which I invest my energies. The wellbeing of individuals, the wellbeing of organisations and the wellbeing of global systems. This is how I divide my time and work and commit myself towards improving our life upon this planet.
You are an adventurous soul taking up expeditions. Which expedition are you planning next?
I had big plans for 2020, like so many of us, but they all fell to the wayside. The pandemic allowed me to return to clinical medicine, however, as I worked as a frontline doctor across Mumbai, which is a service I am very grateful I was in a position to do so for my local community. I am not sure how much travel we can plan for in the coming year but the big goals that I have for the coming year(s) are to first summit Mt. Kilimanjaro with my wife, to take my son, Aeden, on his first skiing trip and to complete a Half Ironman. Fingers crossed!
Tell us about your association with the Atlantic Council.
Having previously been an active member of the World Economic Forum Global Shaper community, in 2020 I have been appointed as a Non-resident Senior Fellow to the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., based think tank. Reporting into their GeoTech centre, my work is principally focused on the relationship between the climate crisis and our global health. The rising temperature, air pollution, water acidification, extreme weather patterns and lack of natural resources is impacting our health in so many ways; the Covid-19 pandemic being just one example of this. Perhaps the greatest challenge that has ever faced our species, we must solve this run-away climate challenge before the end of the decade, working towards carbon neutrality by 2050 and limiting the temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. Over the coming years, I shall be working on a number of projects to advocate this cause and create content to help raise our collective awareness on this relationship.
I have started work on the sequel to the Human Edge book, which will be focused much more on the brain (I allude to this theme in the last chapter of this book, which is titled “Mind over Matter”) and I have also written the draft to a children’s story which I hope to work more on in this coming year.