By Tim Flannery; Grove Press, New York; @ 2005; 360 pages.
From the back page of this book: “Tim Flannery is an internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer, and conservationist.” He is a professor at Macquarie University in Australia. He has made numerous appearances on various news outlets. And he just might be my new hero. Well done Flannery. Well done.
I bought Flannery’s book back in 2007. It’s got a pretty cool cover photo, and the subject matter interests me. For some reason, I felt intimidated by this book when I first tried to read it in 2007.
This book re-emerged after Super Storm Sandy crashed into the East Coast.
I flipped to a section that interested me: Time’s Gateways. Finding it incredibly engaging and easy to read, I read another section. Then I flipped to the beginning and dug in.
Flannery fills this book with detail after interesting detail—adult humans require 30 lbs of air every day of their lives; elephants colonized every continent on earth except for Australia; our time address today is Cainozoic Era, Quaternary Period, Holocene Epoch.
I feel like I should read it again and again. But probably I will read it only once.
You can pretty well guess which side of the issue Flannery is on just by reading the title of his book. While he confirms that “skepticism is the lifeblood of science,” he follows that idea a few pages later with: “If, for example, we wait to see if an ailment is indeed fatal, we will do nothing until we are dead.”
Many if not most of the people I associate with these days, do not accept the possibility of a human-induced climate change. The earth is simply too big, and humans are simply too small.
Unlike my acquaintances, I am swayed by the massive amount of evidence: disappearing glaciers, melting polar ice caps, destroyed coral reefs, massive extinctions, stronger weather events, rising ocean temperatures, acidifying oceans, the Keeling curve. I also recognize that over the last 40 years, science has made enormous strides in its ability to analyze the world (computers). I don’t think scientists are always right or that they know everything, but Flannery makes some interesting points.
The author’s core message is that we currently have the knowledge and the tools to act wisely. Climate change is occurring rapidly and will soon become not just a big issue, but the only issue.
Scary words. Sensational language. This is usually the time I put the book down to see what’s in the fridge.
But I try to be better than that and read on to learn that some power plants burn through 550 tons of coal per hour. Wow. I mean…Wow. Really, that’s quite a lot. Did you catch that? Not per day. Per hour.
Other interesting tidbits. The Great Smog of 1952 in London killed 12,000 people.
Time’s gateways are occasions when one age, and often one climate gives way to the next. They are marked by faunal turnover; species suddenly appear or disappear.
I learned that the Earth formed 4,500 million years ago during the Hadean era. (That’s quite a long time ago.)
Around 100,000 years ago, humans were as rare as gorillas are today, at about 2,000 fertile adults.
For 90,000 years we were nothing but hunter gatherers. It hasn’t been until the most recent 10,000 years when the Earth’s climate has stabilized that we began to farm and build civilizations.
Our planet has experienced massive extinctions on five occasions.
The current climate change may bring an end to our current era, the Cainozoic. (Climate change can happen really fast; like in a hundred years; really really fast.)
I learned that the English used to think coal was a living organism that would grow if covered with manure.
Also, in 1986 “humans reached Earth’s carrying capacity, and ever since we have been running the environmental equivalent of a deficit budget, which is sustained by plundering our capital base.”
Beyond the failure of the Gulf Stream, now I can be afraid of the warming of the oceans and the sudden release of clathrates. Although, this should not happen for another hundred years.
Flannery puts it all together more logically than I have, but you get the picture. This guy has done a lot of research and is quite smart.
And, we’re all doomed.
I mean really; let’s face it.
But, it’s a great story.