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Here on Earth: A New Beginning Paperback – 3 Mar 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Paperback, 3 Mar 2011
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (3 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143969
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143960
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 579,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


How lucky we are to be alive ... Tim Flannery tells this extraordinary story ... he brings together planetary history, evolutionary biology, his own practical experience ... a triumph of interdisciplinarity ... deserves to be widely read. (Crispin Tickell Financial Times )

His most ambitious book so far ... a twin biography, of humanity and the planet it inhabits, but that description is inadequate. Mr Flannery's subject is the likely fate of humankind, and whether the powers granted to modern civilisation by science and technology will prove to be its downfall or its salvation ... worth reading. (The Economist )

This is a wonderful book. It is a letter from perhaps the world's most thoughtful, and certainly most eloquent, environment scientist on how we as a species might survive as chief stewards of planet Earth ... Here on Earth is a must for optimists and pessimists alike. (Fred Pearce New Scientist )

On all counts, we need a paradigm shift ... Flannery excellently and entertainingly explains the science that is needed to achieve this. Here on Earth deserves to be widely read, and it will be good for the world if it is. (Colin Tudge Independent )

Flannery's writing never fails to please. His authorial voice is always engaging, and he has an eye for memorable details that help ordinary readers make models in their minds of how nature works. (Marek Kohn Guardian )

About the Author

Tim Flannery is an internationally acclaimed scientist, explorer and conservationist, described by Sir David Attenborough as being 'in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr David Livingstone'. His books include The Future Eaters, The Eternal Frontier, Throwim Way Leg, A Gap in Nature, Country and The Weather Makers ('one of the most influential books of the 20th century' Guardian).

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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is about the vision of Tim Flannery, an author I've enjoyed in the past. It doesn't seek to examine evidence of the state of the planet and our impact on it, the book is very much about the conclusions Tim has come to about the planet's fractured ecosystems. On the whole it makes a for a fascinating read as he guides us through evolutionary ideas and the concepts of Gaia as he understands them, and talks about the impact of humans from the first day that they stepped off the African continent. Research into the concept of the 'super-organism' that is the modern human civilisation I found particularly interesting and has prompted me to search out more reading on this interesting subject.
The book fades towards the end though. I had hoped that it would be bursting with insights and trends that would give hope for the future, instead it tends to drift a little, struggling to find concrete reasons to believe that we'll make it. In the end after a really good few days of reading the conclusion seemed to be no more than 'fingers crossed!'
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Tim Flannery has some impressive credentials and a worthy reputation to his name, so what ever he has to say should be read dispassionately or with an open mind, otherwise you might miss some of points he is making.
Having said that for certain readers of this book will divide off into those agreeing, those inspired to come off the fence and those annoyed. To start off with Tim Flannery has a sympathy with the Gaia view of the world, although maybe more as one large interdependent community that one single organism. He refers to civilisations as superorganisms, and draws some comparisons between our communities and those of the ants. He is not comfortable with Richard Dawkins' selfish gene thesis, nor does he embrace the idea of Darwinian `red in tooth and claw' to be the only explanation for the development of Life on Earth.
Filled with fascinating details on the history of Life and the interaction of Humanity with other species and new eco-systems he is making the classic environmentalist plea for Humanity to be more careful, sympathetic and empathetic with the rest of the world otherwise it will out very badly for everything; us included. Of course this is not a new theme, but the depth and clarity of his explanations involving a wide and colourful number of examples makes this a most instructive read. Even if you are set in not agreeing with him (and there are aspects I would tentatively question- those superorganisms actually) I am sure you will find facts you were not aware of in the board spectrum of Natural History, which doesn't mean you will be won over, but gosh it's interesting!
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
**The good bits**

Flannery has written an inspiring account of the evolution of life on earth, human evolution and the evolving impact that humans have on the rest of the natural world. He has brilliantly brought together Darwin's and Wallace's theories of evolution, Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis and Dawkins' selfish gene theory, taking elements from each to explore how we as a species have got to where we are today. In particular, Flannery's is the first account of the Gaia hypothesis that I have found to be sensible and persuasive.

Another reason to laud the book is that it manages to talk coherently and convincingly about climate change, without becoming a book about climate change. Instead, Flannery expertly weaves this discussion into his wider argument, a relief given how climate change has recently dominated all ecological discussions.

**The 'but...'***

Despite these strengths, I can only give the book three stars. The reason is that I think Flannery's conclusions are unconvincing, and in places he seems to contradict his own argument. I'll mention a couple of minor flaws, and then what I see as a big one.

1. Flannery is inconsistent in his view of both technological advances and global political institutions. At one point he writes:

"...our modern cities are so brittle that far less spectacular attacks could bring them to ruination...Today's cities rely on highly sophisticated and easily disrupted technology..."

which he argues threatens civilisation's very existence. But then, just ten pages later, he argues for the expansion of computer use in agriculture, saying:

"...[with] the deployment of computers in agriculture...
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading the reviews to date, I'm somewhat intimidated by them, so much so that further comment might seem redundant, given their comprehensive nature.

I like the idea of mnemes, regardless of spelling, and I would suggest that this book ought to be required reading for every child over the age of 11, not just in the west, but anywhere the book can be distributed. This is also a book that ought to be read with Ian Morris "Why the West Rules" and Susan George's "Whose Crisis, Whose Future". Taken together these books make for a more unified narrative than can be expected of any one volume.

The spirit of optimism, the cornucopia of ideas, of possibilities, and the simple belief in our better selves, make this book a powerful antidote to many of the doomsayers and a very necessary corrective to the Darwin-Dawkins settlement. Having said that, we are running out of time, and just as power generation now and into the future needs to embrace a mix of fossil and nuclear fuels together with renewables, so any attempt to rein in existing environmental instabilities, needs to include and engage with techniques of population management as part of the mix. This appears to be one of the last great taboos in our society and we need to get over it and start to act. Tim Flannery speaks of a projected declining global population from 2050 onwards, yet acknowledges the uncertainties inherent in these projections. If the projections are wrong and there is no substantive change in human reproduction, world population will stand at a little over nine billion. Long before then, I would suggest that life as we know it, in the west, will have become largely untenable.
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