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Environment and Climate

Why We Disagree About Climate Change by Mike Hulme & Quarry Vision by Guy Pearse

November 2009, no. 316

Have you heard the latest joke about emissions trading? There was this factory in China that produced so much carbon dioxide from coal they had to get rid of it somehow. So they sold it to Coca-Cola. We shall burp away in the cause of carbon sequestration, imaginatively interpreted. Somewhere in the joke is a kernel of truth. If there’s a buck to be made from climate change, there’ll be someone, somewhere, who’ll be making it, and we’re right to be suspicious.

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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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During a lull in the fiercest weather event the south-east of the continent has seen in thirty years – we call them ‘events’ these days, as though someone’s putting them on – I went out on a Sunday morning and bought myself a book.

I should tell you that we live on an acre in the country one hundred and t ...

I am embarrassed by my deck. It is well designed, sturdily built and a congenial place on a balmy evening. The problem is that the deck is made with tropical hardwood, logged from a rainforest in South-East Asia. Not only have I added to Australia’s yawning trade deficit, I have also contributed to the decline of the globe’s equatorial lungs.

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Orchids of Australia by John J. Riley and David P. Banks

May 2003, no. 251

This beautiful book showcases the botanical orchid illustrations of John Riley, a retired shearer whom some regard as Australia’s finest living botanical illustrator. Riley started drawing Australian orchids in the 1970s, and this volume includes subjects that date back to 1992. It lists 150 works. Those who take book titles literally will assume that this volume contains illustrations of all our native orchids. This is not the case. We have a rich flora of about 1,200 species. This, therefore, is the first in a planned series intended to describe and illustrate all our orchidaceous flora.

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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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