Posted by: brothermartin | August 9, 2008

LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK?

Words of warming

As the world hots up, so does the market for books about climate change. Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers, looks at the latest works on the crisis, and sizes up their solutions, from nuclear energy to genetically engineered trees

In this summer of 2008, it feels as if our future is crystallising before our eyes. Food shortages, the credit crisis, escalating oil prices, a melting Arctic ice cap and the failure of the Doha trade negotiations: one or all of these issues could be the harbingers of profound change for our global civilisation. And just 16 months from now, in December 2009 in Denmark, humanity will face what many argue is its toughest challenge ever: to agree the fundamentals of a climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol.

It all seems to have happened so quickly. Just two years ago we received warning of an imminent disaster – a climatic shift that “could easily be described as hell: so hot, so deadly that only a handful of the teeming billions now alive will survive”. The Cassandra was no deep green fundamentalist, but James Lovelock, the acclaimed scientist, pro-nuclear advocate and past adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who, 27 years earlier, had surprised the scientific community with his book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth (OUP). At a time when reductionist science (which breaks down the world into small units in order to understand it) prevailed, Lovelock took the opposite approach, describing Earth as a single, self-regulating entity, whose function can be disturbed by human activities. It became one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

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