Environment and Climate

With resource shortages looming and climate change a topic of intense discussion, it is becoming increasingly important for people to find ways to reduce their day-to-day consumption and carbon footprint. Greg Foyster’s Changing Gears seeks to explore the question of how to do so through the author’s own interesting, and no doubt exhausting, cross-c ...

A friend and colleague from Europe visited in October 2010 for the first time in almost a decade. I had peppered him in the intervening years with emails bemoaning the long drought, the record heat, the lack of rain, the bushfires, the water restrictions, the young and old trees dying, the rivers ceasing to flow and finally drying altogether. I had described the har ...

‘No’ is not part of modern consumer life. ‘Yes’ is the catchcry of the market. Despite the best efforts of scientists and activists, it may be too late to phase out fossil fuels and find alternatives to the mass consumerism that is so dependent on them. Human-induced global warming’s tipping point is nigh. There is almost no turning back. Geo-enginee ...

In the aftermath of Chernobyl it is hard not to see nuclear disaster as the muse of abject horror. The degree of uncertainty surrounding life after catastrophe – genetic mutation, contaminated food supplies, mass displacement of townships – is unfathomable for governments and citizens alike. At a time when the need for accurate information is at its greatest, mi ...

Curious Minds sets out to explore the naturalists and scientists who brought Australia’s flora and fauna into the public consciousness: on the face of it a laudable aim, but one not totally fulfilled. From the title onwards the book seems confused in its aims and in its style. Is the book intended to be about people (the curious naturalists), flora and faun ...

Wikipedia lists fifty-three books that are currently available on the subject of climate change, and this new book will make fifty-four. Such books fall into one of two groups: they either support the orthodoxy or dissent from it. Tony Eggleton’s book is one that supports it. It is well written, clear in its argument, quite even-handed, and comprehensive. I enjoye ...

Why would a famous virologist and immunologist (and Nobel laureate) write a book linking birds, human diseases, and ecological degradation? The answer is partly that Peter Doherty obviously has a soft spot for birds and birdwatching. He argues that anyone with an enquiring mind and a natural history ...

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When BHP Billiton announced last month that it would indefinitely shelve its proposed Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia, some said it signalled the symbolic end of the mining investment boom. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill’s reaction was particularly revealing. With his government now staring into a $1 billion black hole, Weatherill declared that h ...

Late in 2005, after months of delicate negotiations, the National Library of Australia announced a remarkable coup: the purchase of a previously unknown collection of fifty-six watercolours of botanical and ornithological subjects drawn and painted in Sydney in the years 1788–90, the cradle period of European settlement in Port Jackson. The significance of these paintings, unsigned and undated, had for many years gone unrecognised. The watercolours, apparently acquired as early as 1792, had been held in England over several generations by the Moreton family, the Earls of Ducie. Over several generations, their significance had apparently been overlooked or simply not understood; in time, the portfolio, though safely held, had been forgotten. It came to light in 2004 during a routine valuation of the estate of Basil Moreton, sixth Earl of Ducie. The eventual sale was negotiated with representatives of the present and seventh Earl, David Moreton, who was committed to honouring his family’s long connection with Australia on properties in Queensland. But before that, it was necessary to identify the works more definitively beyond their (then) presumed Australian subject matter.

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In 1978 the writer John McPhee, accompanied some geologists on a field trip to the American West, and in order to express their insights into the vast processes that had formed the present landscape, he coined the evocative and durable term ‘deep time’. With a sharp Australian eye, Tim Flannery has now done the same for the entire continent in this remarkably ambitious yet highly readable book. As an active research palaeontologist, he has a profound sense of the history of his discipline, and has the ability vividly and sometimes whimsically to put himself and the reader into the places of discovery and into the mindsets of the often testy pioneers in this fossil game.

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