An eminent Australian scientist and environmentalist’s collection of 33 highly readable essays and book reviews published between 1985 and 2012.
Flannery (Among the Islands: Adventures in the Pacific, 2012, etc.) began his career as a student field biologist in the 1970s. By the 1980s, he was studying fossils as well as the evolution of kangaroos. Realizing that “rainforests were the habitat of much of Australia’s flora and fauna,” the author began studying living rain forests. This led to an interest in how climate influenced life on the planet both in the past and present. In this book, Flannery offers readers insight into his extraordinary career through selected essays he wrote about his own work as well as about the books that have shaped his thinking. The first section focuses on articles Flannery produced during almost 20 years in the field. It includes fascinating accounts of journeys he made to New Guinea to rediscover the elusive Bulmer’s fruit bat and to study rare species of tree kangaroos. In the second section, Flannery gathers together the reviews he wrote for the New York Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. His reading tastes run the gamut from ecological investigations by Sir David Attenborough to natural histories of man-eating predators and scorpions to biographies about John James Audubon and Rachel Carson; the reviews are both eloquent and trenchant. In the third section of the book, Flannery shares his articles on climate change. Written in the first decade of the 21st century, most of these essays critique the Australian government’s “disparagement” of renewable energy in favor of “dirty” and/or dangerous sources like coal and nuclear power. This last section is the weakest of the book, largely due to the fact that the essays (which were published between 2006 and 2007) are somewhat dated.
Accessible, provocative and well worth investigating.