Swift is a satirical genius. There is the obvious satire and then there is the pompous supercilious attitude of the narrator. And is eating babies tha...moreSwift is a satirical genius. There is the obvious satire and then there is the pompous supercilious attitude of the narrator. And is eating babies that much different to starving your Papist tenants with outrageous rental demands? (less)
Australia for being a small country certainly punches above its weight. We are one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide but yet we have some of t...moreAustralia for being a small country certainly punches above its weight. We are one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide but yet we have some of the best authors (Flannery, Hamilton etc) alerting us to the danger of climate change. Maybe they go hand in hand. Earthmasters is a timely book about the dawn of geoengineering. Like Hamilton I have come to the conclusion that we have passed the point of no return for climate change. Our climate has changed and is on an unstoppable path to probably 6 degrees hotter future. This book will be a standard a reference for the debate we are about to have as climate emergencies come with increasing ferocity and frequency. Clive Hamilton has framed this issue as a debate between the Prometheans and Soterians. The Prometheans are those that believe that humans should and can successfully intervene in the climate of the Earth with technologies such as solar sheilds, iron fertilization of the oceans, and sulfur particle seeding of the atmosphere. Soterians are the cautious ones urging the drastic cutting of CO2 emmisions and more natural interventions such as the planting of forests. Soterians are mindful of the unknowable outcomes of intervening in earth systems. Beside the philosophical discussion there is a more immediate political and economic ramifications of this debate. The geoengineers are almost to a person former scientists working for one of the most infamous cold war nuclear research facilities namely the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory . The Livermore Laboratory was run by Teller the father of the H bomb. This work on the technical side of nuclear weapons morphed into giving policy advice about nuclear weapons. Who finances the research into geoengineering? Guess who Bill Gates who it seems thinks that renewables are a joke and a bevy of big polluters such as Exxon, Shell and assorted coal producers. It seems the very same companies and their hired gun anti-renewable policy institutes are the ones pushing for this drastic intervention in the earths atmosphere. They see profits in continuing to pollute and in the implementation of these vast uncertain schemes. They are against any international supervision of their research and indeed there is a danger that a rogue billionaire or a "coalition of the willing" as in the Iraq war will simply implement these schemes that will change our planet forever. Hamilton points out that it is the very same thinking that got us into this mess in the first place. We just can't use our big brains to bare on the these problems. The Earth is not there simply for humans to have mastery over. Whether we like it or not we are part of a planet system. (less)
Viewed now the Apollo moon program was even more astounding than the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The Apollo guidance computer had le...more Viewed now the Apollo moon program was even more astounding than the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. The Apollo guidance computer had less computing power than average modern family car. This is how we should view Darwin's 'Origin Of The Species'. It is an absolute triumph of empirical evidence based science. By the most constant and careful observation of the natural world Darwin not only worked out the theory of evolution he also quite correctly realised that all life forms on this planet are related to one another, "by which all living and extinct beings are united by complex,radiating, and circuitous lines of affinities into one grand system"
The first two chapters and the last chapter are where the general reader can feel the sparkle of Darwin's ideas and his profound infatuation with nature and its works. These chapters are also the best written and not surprisingly are a thrilling rush of theory and ideas.
The vast bulk of the work is the minutiae of his ideas. It is, I have to say, cumbersome to read. It is the sort of sub clausal slog that a lot of nineteenth century writing gets bogged down in.
Darwin's modesty in quoting and attributing to others and his unfailing scientific fearlessness in saying 'OK here is where my theory falls over' makes him a figure of unimpeachable scientific integrity.
After reading this book I can understand the affection and respect that Darwin has been held in by those who try to base their lives in reason and science.(less)
Alright so I am interested in climate change. In part it is because I am a concerned citizen but there is a touch of the apocalypse porn thing going o...moreAlright so I am interested in climate change. In part it is because I am a concerned citizen but there is a touch of the apocalypse porn thing going on. This book falls very much into the science category. The book is written by the eminent science journalist Fred Pierce so it is accessible to the average intelligent reader. No science degree is needed but there is no talking down either.
Pierce is not interested in the bland IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)consensus. That consensus is that climate change will be gradual. This is scary enough since the frog is more easily boiled slowly. His contention is that their findings and official line is consensual and not necessarily true. In fact things are probably a lot worse. In fact the most likely scenario is a sudden change, not geologically sudden but human lifetime sudden say ten years sudden.
The book explores a number of different theories and research findings about how and why the earth has suddenly switched from warm to cold and back again. The one thing that is certain is the sudden turn arounds are in fact the norm rather than the exception.
There are any number of theories as to what is the driver of these cycles but at this stage it is hard to point to one discreet factor. There is probably a subtle interplay of forces until there is a change and when there is that change it is like an avalanche. This is the positive feedback we hear about. The biggest positive feedback is the methane clathrate fart that is usually stored under the deep sea at high pressure and low temperatures. If that goes that's it there is no going back.
And in case anyone is wondering Pierce is not quoting cranks they are all respected scientists, mostly climate scientists but all with eye wateringly good credentials.(less)
A good general introduction to climate change. Even though it is now a few years old it still holds up well. Flannery writes succinctly and well about...moreA good general introduction to climate change. Even though it is now a few years old it still holds up well. Flannery writes succinctly and well about a difficult scientific subject. His section on the sheer impossibility on carbon sequestration for instance is a joy to read. Not a word wasted and the coal industry fantasy is shot down in flames.
This is the down and dirty version of what's going to happen. Four scenarios depending on how fast we go past peek oil and how fast climate change tak...moreThis is the down and dirty version of what's going to happen. Four scenarios depending on how fast we go past peek oil and how fast climate change takes hold. Even if you think it is load of crap., which I don't, things are not going to remain the same. Our patterns of energy consumption determine what type of society we live in. One of the best and most accessable books of this sort I have read.(less)
Hmmmm. Any discussion about climate change is good. I wanted to hear Lovelock's arguments about nuclear energy being good for the planet. Not convince...moreHmmmm. Any discussion about climate change is good. I wanted to hear Lovelock's arguments about nuclear energy being good for the planet. Not convinced however. Overall the book is a bit rambling although a valuable insight into the biosphere/gaia's response to global warming. Very pessimistic which I can't fault him for.(less)
An interesting book discussing the problems of population. While ultimately coming down firmly on the side of population control, it is the sort of co...moreAn interesting book discussing the problems of population. While ultimately coming down firmly on the side of population control, it is the sort of control that is more about empowering with choice and education. While vaguely in the style of Michael Pollan he is not as a good a writer. His style while easy enough to read, is not that engaging. This book is not recommended for misogynists, religious fanatics or climate deniers. (less)
Wish I could put 2 and a half stars. This is a strange one as it is a series of articles about global catastrophe written in a very scholarly manner....moreWish I could put 2 and a half stars. This is a strange one as it is a series of articles about global catastrophe written in a very scholarly manner. There is no apocalypse porn to look at here folks, please move on. Various articles all come to the same conclusion that we are not really in danger of being wiped out. We (humanity that is) could go backwards or even have a catastrophe or two but we will not become extinct as long as there are at least 100 of us in bonkable condition and not to distant from one another. We will survive.(less)
Stupid title. Sounds like it will be for Preppers but it is not.
I thought it might be about the potential for conflict over climate change. I also tho...moreStupid title. Sounds like it will be for Preppers but it is not.
I thought it might be about the potential for conflict over climate change. I also thought it might speculate on the future of politics in a climate changed world. We are already seeing some strange political creatures such as Harper in Canada and Abbott in Australia. Both are reactionary leaders of climate denying governments doing their darnedest to work on behalf of fossil fuel producers. I have come to the conclusion that the masters of these clowns know their days are numbered and are trying to squeeze out the last dollar before their whole operation becomes worthless.
It is not only the title that promises something that it does not deliver. Welzer constantly teases the reader with the idea he will tell us what will happen. This is really like a romance novel promising to turn into fully fledged porn but we only get a quick kiss as the climax.
The book suggests their will be more conflict. The conflict will be in the periphery not in the Western Heartlands. Welzer is big on violence becoming the final arbiter if things become desperate. He especially thinks that this will happen with areas with poor governance issues. This will be masked by ethnic rivalry which he suggests is the easiest way to get people to kill each other and anyway the creation of ethnically homogeneous nations is part of the modernization process. Darfur is the template he uses and he could be right to a point describing that region as the first modern climate war. And this is where my real problems with the book start.
Once you catch someone trying to pull a swifty like that it really gives you cause to question everything else that is purported to be true. There are many nations in Europe that have are heterogeneous and not just lately either. France has a sizable German speaking minority. Switzerland is a mish mash of religion and ethnicity. The Belgians, French and Flemish, may not love each other but they are not at each others throats either. Violence is not inevitable. I would suggest he over states his case. I would be surprised myself if there was no violent outcomes from climate change.
In this muddle of a book there are some highlights. His discussion of terrorism and violence "(Terrorism is) a self-empowering form of substitute warfare" is very thought provoking.
He also believes that there is a strong likelihood that we will do nothing. Western societies are different from individuals. He makes the point that as a society we act like a sociopaths. "If he consumes seventy times more than anyone else while largely relying on their raw materials- or someone who uses fifteen times more energy, water and food than the less well-off ....such personality would also be totally unconcerned about the lives of his children and grandchildren"
A potentially fascinating subject about the relationship between sunlight, plants and the earths geological history. It seems to be a poorly executed i...moreA potentially fascinating subject about the relationship between sunlight, plants and the earths geological history. It seems to be a poorly executed idea though as the book becomes bogged down in the minutia of who discovered what when.(less)