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Here on Earth: A Natural History of the Planetby Tim Flannery
Tim Flannery's reputation for lucid, potent writing has led to wide acclaim for his previous books (especially The Weather Makers, The Future Eaters, and The Eternal Frontier). As an eminent scientist and environmental activist, Flannery's expertise is readily apparent, but it may also be the accessibility of his works that has made them so popular. Here on Earth is an engaging, expansive work that teeters between achingly frustrating and refreshingly hopeful.
Here on Earth's (American edition) subtitle, A Natural History of the Planet, is somewhat misrepresentative, however, as the book, while offering much on the subject, is in fact more an anthropological history of man's relationship to the earth. Other editions of the book feature subtitles (An Argument for Hope and A New Beginning) that are perhaps more apt and illustrative. It may well be that Flannery's American publisher (presuming that Flannery himself didn't make the decision) may have opted for a less telling subtitle so as not make the book seem like yet one more work in the ever-proliferating climate change subgenre. While this may seem like a trifling point, it is indicative of the American media's reluctance and disregard of the subject altogether.
Throughout Here on Earth, Flannery highlights the myriad challenges facing our exploited ecosystems, but rather than a mere litany of devastation, he offers plausible scenarios of environmental restoration. Invoking James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, Flannery argues for a more holistic approach in understanding ecosystems and genetic diversity. Beyond that, Flannery frequently cites the importance of alleviating global poverty as a key factor in reversing the effects of climate change.
Here on Earth is certainly one of the more optimistic works on the subject, which, given the magnitude of the problems, is a cautious optimism at best. Flannery's book is an absorbing work combining scientific research, philosophical insight, and logical perspective. It would be difficult to read Here on Earth and not take away from it a greater knowledge and understanding not only of our planet and its history, but also the struggles we will undoubtedly face as the century progresses.
Synopses & Reviews
Beginning at the moment of creation with the Big Bang, Here on Earth explores the evolution of Earth from a galactic cloud of dust and gas to a planet with a metallic core and early signs of life within a billion years of being created. In a compelling narrative, Flannery describes the formation of the Earths crust and atmosphere, as well as the transformation of the planets oceans from toxic brews of metals (such as iron, copper, and lead) to life-sustaining bodies covering 70 percent of the planets surface. Life, Flannery shows, first appeared in these oceans in the form of microscopic plants and bacteria, and these metals served as catalysts for the earliest biological processes known to exist. From this starting point, Flannery tells the fascinating story of the evolution of our own species, exploring several early human species—from the diminutive creatures (the famed hobbits) who lived in Africa around two million years ago to Homo erectus—before turning his attention to Homo sapiens. Drawing on Charles Darwins and Alfred Russell Wallaces theories of evolution and Lovelocks Gaia hypothesis, Here on Earth is a dazzling account of life on our planet.
About the Author
Tim Flannery is one of Australias leading thinkers and writers.
An internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, he has published more than 130 peer-reviewed scientific papers and many books. His books include the landmark works The Future Eaters and The Weather Makers, which has been translated into more than 20 languages and in 2006 won the NSW Premiers Literary Prizes for Best Critical Writing and Book of the Year.
He received a Centenary of Federation Medal for his services to Australian science and in 2002 delivered the Australia Day address. In 2005 he was named Australian Humanist of the Year, and in 2007 honoured as Australian of the Year.
He spent a year teaching at Harvard, and is a founding member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, a director of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, and the National Geographic Societys representative in Australasia. He serves on the board of WWF International (London and Gland) and on the sustainability advisory councils of Siemens (Munich) and Tata Power (Mumbai).
In 2007 he co-founded and was appointed Chair of the Copenhagen Climate Council, a coalition of community, business, and political leaders who came together to confront climate change.
Tim Flannery is currently Professor of Science at Maquarie University, Sydney.
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