Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tim Flannery

I read one of Flannery's books. It was about kangaroos.

I added him to the list while we were in Sydney. He was mentioned in John Birmingham's Leviathan which I had been reading there.

I remember people, in comments, saying that Flannery is controversial because some of his climate change predictions failed to come true...or something like that.

I shall go talk to Lord Wiki and learn more.

Baby Tim was born on 28 January 1956.

His birthday is close to my brother-in-law's.

Flannery is an Aquarius.

The birthday website says in numerology he's a 5.

Five is about freedom.

This numerology website says this about the 5. You are an explorer and adventurer who wants to experience all of life. That probably fits Flannery. And scientist is one of the careers suggested for the 5.   Flannery is a scientist.

I like that numerology website. I don't think I've seen it before. Maybe it's new? Or maybe it just climbed up in Google rank. Anyway, I'm bookmarking it.

Lord Wiki doesn't talk much about Flannery's beginnings. He talks more about his career. I'll start reading....

Flannery is a mammalogist and a paleontologist. Wow. He's also an environmental activist.

In 2007, he was the Australian of the Year. That's quite an honor, I'm sure.

He's a professor at Macquarie University. That's the same school The Wiggles went to.

I wonder what courses Flannery teaches.

Well, it looks like he's in the Division of Environmental and Life Sciences. It's interesting. Most of all the other professors have a link to their biography next to their name. Flannery does not. What's up with that?

Flannery is the chairman of Copenhagen Climate Council. It's basically a group of scientists and businesses trying to fight climate change. Unlike one of their opposing organizations, Copenhagen Climate Council DOES reveal who their sponsors are.

Flannery's early academic life is quite impressive. He's definitely well-educated; or at least HIGHLY educated.

In the late 1970's he did a Bachelor of Arts Degree at La Trobe University. I wonder if he knew back then that he wanted to be a scientist. Wait. Lord Wiki says he has bachelor degrees in English and Earth Science. Is that what he got at La Trobe? Did he get a Bachelor of Arts in a science degree? Can you do that? I'm doubting it.

Anyway, after La Trobe it seems he went to Monash University. He got himself a Master Degree in Earth Science. Then he went and got his Doctorate at the University of New South Wales.

The guy sure jumps around from university to university. Does he do this because each place is the best for what degree he is wanting? Does he feel it's best to experience a variety of learning environments? Or is he just the type of person who doesn't want to say in one place for too long?

Flannery has had various science jobs since finishing his degrees.

He was a professor at the University of Adelaide.

 He was the director of the South Australian Museum.

He was a research scientist at one of Jack's favorite places—The Australia Museum.

Lord Wiki says that Flannery was also the visiting chair in Australia studies at Harvard! There's Australia studies in America? Really! That's so awesome. I didn't know that.

It doesn't seem like there's an actual degree in Australia studies. It's more like they have a program where they bring in Australians as professors; and they provide grants to people who want to study Australia. That's pretty cool.

Flannery is part of a group called Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. It's an Australian organization.

One of the ideas this group pushes is that farmers should be paid extra for using good environmental practices. That makes sense to me.

Flannery's early main interest was the evolution of mammals in Australia. He did a lot of work with finding new kangaroo species.

In 1985 Flannery was part of a big discovery—mammals bones from the Cretaceous period. Lord Wiki says this helped prove that mammals have been in Australia for at least eighty million years. Wow.

Flannery has done a lot of mammal naming and discovering, but most people don't pay too much attention to that. He gets more attention for his feelings about climate and population control.

In 1994 Flannery published a book I need to read someday. It's called The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People. In the book, Flannery pushes the idea that Aboriginal firestick farming had a drastic influence on Australia's ecology. Then the white people came and made things even worse. That was seen as controversial. Even more controversial is Flannery's idea that the population of Australia should be less than six million. Does he have hopes the Swine Flu will eventually help with this?

Flannery believes European livestock should be phased out and replaced with native species. Eat more kangaroos and Emus. Jack did his part when we visited. He bought kangaroo jerky.

In the book (which sounds incredibly interesting and entertaining) Flannery pushed idea of introducing non-native animals into Australia to replace the now gone mega fauna. He thinks the Komodo Dragon could replace this guy called the Megalania. That would be kind of cool. I think it would be even cooler if they played Jurassic Park and cloned the Megalenia back to life.

A few years later, Flannery wrote a book called The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change. Bill Bryson liked the book. I'm guessing the book is probably awesome then. Well, I don't know. If you admire someone and they like something, does that automatically mean you'll like it to?

Probably not.

And Bryson didn't like Canberra much. I loved it.

So, I probably can't take Bryson's opinions as gospel.

It seems the opinion of Flannery that has caused the most...I can't think of the right word. I don't think it's controversy, necessarily. Maybe hesitation?

Anyway, Flannery is against coal-fired power generation in Australia. It seems this is the source of most of Australia's electricity. Flannery believes one day people will see coal-fired power in the way today people see asbestos.

Flannery is not totally against nuclear power.

Here's something interesting....He believes sulfur should be released into the atmosphere. He believes that will help block the sun.

It might. It also might make the world smell really bad. But I guess that's a small price to pay.

Flannery is not anti-whaling. Interesting. He infers that it's more ethical to eat a whale than be vegetarian. Is it more moral to kill and consume a whale, without cost to the environment, than to live as a vegetarian in Australia, destroying seven kilograms of irreplaceable soil?

Why is the soil irreplaceable? That I don't get. It goes way over my head.

I do agree with him about whale-eating, though. If it's sustainable, I think it's totally fine. I don't understand people who eat hamburgers for lunch and then protest whale hunting. It's horrible if the whales are endangered. Yes. But if there's enough of them, I say make them dinner.

There was one of those Gruen Transfer commercials trying to push eating whale meat. They talked about how it's better to eat one whale then a bunch of cows. I'm going to see if I can find the commercial. Hold on....

Here it is.

Flannery does want whales to be killed as humanely as possible. That's good.

I think we're all incredibly blind and hypocritical when it comes to animals. Someone will cry and protest when they hear a story of an animal being abused on the evening news. Yet for dinner they had a cow raised in a factory farm. That cow was probably treated no better than the abused animals on the news.

I'm bad myself. I refrain from meat because I don't want to contribute to the harm of animals in factory farm. Yet I go and eat dairy and eggs from animals that are probably equally mistreated. At home, we buy what SEEMS to be ethical. I never know what information to trust with these things. But when I go out, I forget and order unethical crap.

Humans are a dumb species sometimes. And I definitely include myself in the mix.

I'm done with Lord Wiki. I'm going to take a break because my eyes are bothering me a bit. I'll come back soon and return to work.

Here's a website for Flannery's global warming book.

The website says this about climate change: It is a difficult subject and hard for people to evaluate dispassionately because it entails deep political and industrial implications, and because it arises from the very core processes of our civilisation's success. Right now our fate is in our hands, for we are the weather makers and we already possess the tools required to avoid catastrophic climate change.
I think that's very well said. It IS a hard topic to face. The implications of global warming are scary. Sometimes it's easier to deny it or play skeptic. It's easier to make jokes about it or have an attitude of apathy.

There are book reviews on the website. One comes from one of my favorite Australians—Peter Singer. Singer says At last, a book that sets out, for the general public, the irrefutable evidence that climate change is already happening, and we need to become very serious about it – fast.

This page gives ideas of how individuals can help prevent climate change. It makes me feel guilty because we don't do all the stuff. But we do some.

The Sydney Morning Herald has excerpts from the book. Flannery pushes the idea that as individuals we don't have to wait for government to step in and do something. If we all work together we can make a change ourselves. He says You can, in a few months rather than the 50 years allowed by some governments, easily attain the 70 per cent reduction in emissions required to stabilise the Earth's climate. All it takes are a few changes to your personal life, none of which requires serious sacrifice.

I guess it all depends on what your definition of personal sacrifice is.

I think for me it's easier to make small lifestyle changes. I recycle. I stopped taking daily showers. Yeah, I know some people might find that gross. I try not to go out driving just for the fun of it. We keep our driving outings to a minimum--at least Jack and I do. Tim is a different story—DEFINITELY a different story. We don't ever heat our pool. We endure the cold water. I don't eat meat which I do feel is significant in terms of the environment. I try to keep lights off when we're not in the room. In the daytime, we don't use lights if the room is naturally light enough. Right now I am working in the office with no lights. When we holiday in big cities we use mostly buses and trains rather than cabs. I don't buy a lot of new stuff. I'm not sure if that helps with global warming specifically. But it does help with the environment...wasting natural resources and all that.

Anyway, I think all that is easy.

I find it harder to make changes to our actual house. I do think we have green energy or whatever. Or at least we had it for awhile. We have some good light bulbs. But we don't have solar this and that. Maybe one day we'll get it.

This is a pretty cool idea. Flannery says It can be difficult to get children to turn off appliances when they are finished with them. One way to teach them is to examine the power bill with them and set a target for reduction. When it's met, give the kids the savings.

Maybe I'll try that with Jack. He understands that there's a global warming issues and WANTS to do the right thing. But he very often forgets to turn off the lights.

Walking instead of driving is something that Flannery suggests. I think walking is GREAT. If more people did it, we'd have less obesity issues, and we'd help the environment. I think it's sad when people get in their cars and drive to a fitness center. If they just ran around the neighborhood they'd save gas money, membership money, and they'd be doing their part for the environment. I do understand the benefits of membership, though. I guess there's a community atmosphere, and you can use equipment you don't have at home. Plus, in Texas right now it's way too hot to take walks. Although the summer of my eating disorder, I'd wake up very early each morning, put Jack in a stroller, and take a long walk.

I don't do that anymore. Instead I play on my Bosu. I love it. It's fairly easy to move it from room to room. It gives me a great work out in little time. I know this because I end up quickly sweating and hurting. It's not electric so I don't waste electricity. I highly recommend this over treadmills and stuff like that. I actually hate treadmills, though. To me they're total torture. It's so BORING. Even if I have a TV on, I'm bored.

I wish I lived in a big city where walking was the custom.

Fort Worth is not meant for walking. I mean people walk, but it's to walk their dog or exercise. They don't usually use walking as a means of transport. It's more like people get in their car; drive to a park; and then take a walk. And I'll admit it. We do that too sometimes. But I also try to walk to destinations. Jack and I will walk to the nearby shopping center sometimes.

It's hard for me to write this post without thinking of Steve Fielding and his I'm-not-a-skeptic promise. I'm wondering if he read Flannery's book in his quest to seek out the truth.

I'm going to look at book reviews for The Weather Makers on Amazon. I like seeing the variety of opinions. I'll look at one 5 star review, one 3 star review, and one 1 star review. I usually pay most attention to the 2-4 star reviews because I think they're more balanced. I feel the 1 and 5 star reviews are often from fanatic fans or people who are completely anti.

Stephen Haines from Canada loved the book. He says, Flannery's presentation is that of the convinced scientist and caring individual. His abilities as a science writer provide us with clearly spelled out conditions and solutions. He is an ardent supporter of personal steps to be taken to reduce that rate of change underway around us. He also shows how industries and governments can contribute to slowing the threat to our biosphere and thus, our children's future.
Bob from South Carolina thinks the book is mediocre. He says, the writing is engaging in this first part of the book, and Flannery's love of the interconnectedness of Earth's environments sets a fine tone. However, the last third of the book is a political polemic against "big oil" and "big coal," and a confusing call for governments to band together to do something immediately to regulate CO2 emissions, while somehow trying to distinguish this from Orwellian, alarmist responses. Flannery goes from a sensible scientist to an extreme scenarioist (if there is such a word).

I find I often have that feeling when reading a nonfiction book. I'll love the first part. Then when it gets to the end, I feel the author has become boring or is too dogmatic. I'll think yikes. Shut up already.

That's probably the same thing people say when reading my posts. What can I say for myself?

PHd G hated the book. He says, Tim Flannery is a paleontologist and mammologist. And a good one. He is also an environmental activist. As an activist, he has no background in climatology, meteorology or any subject even vaguely related to anthropogenic GW. Sorry.

I strongly disagree with this guy. Flannery has no background in climatology? I'm guessing what PHd G means by this is he never got a degree in Climatology. Who cares? He obviously got enough degrees in science to prove he's an intelligent and educated individual. Is it not possible that he could educate himself on climatology? I'm educating myself about Australia. I don't need a degree and/or a university to do so. There's the Internet. There are books. There are museums.

Flannery has an Andrew Denton interview. I'll read that next.

It was aired in September 2008.

Climate change became a big issue for Flannery in the late 1990's.

Flannery believes we are in big trouble.  Deep shit. We need to get our act together.

Denton and Flannery talk about how people avoid the subject because the earth changing is unimaginable for them.

Flannery says And it’s also hard for people to imagine the sea being six metres higher if that Greenland ice cap collapses. Six metres higher that’s a lot of coastal cities will be in serious trouble if that sort of thing happens.

That's the part in Al Gore's slide show that scared me the most...all these great cities going underwater.

Flannery and Denton talk about how Earth will become scary and horrible if Global Warming happens the way Flannery predicts. There will be chaos and scare resources. There will be fighting. Life will kind of suck.

Flannery talks about the rainforest. He says And all of that carbon is stored in them, otherwise it would be out there in the atmosphere heating our planet, so incredibly important. And also they create rain. Rainforests create their own rain and cool the planet in the process. So we cannot remove one of the most important organs in the Gaian system without profound consequences. It’ll be like taking out your pancreas and saying “we’ll get by without it.”

I have to say it again.

We humans are dumb.

Maybe it would be better if we all died. No. Don't worry. I'm not planning anything scary or drastic.

Flannery is nicer than me. He thinks we're smart enough and good enough to make a change and save the world.

I should try to be more optimistic like him.

Flannery and Denton talk about how cities keep all these lights on.

Denton says Wouldn’t that be the simplest symbolic statement for a State Government to make to say we’re turning off the lights in our cities because they’re just showing off, we don’t need them?
Not only would that save a lot of electricity, but as Flannery says we'll also be able to see the stars again.

In a big city, I wonder how many lights are essential and how many are there just to make the city twinkle with excitement?

Denton talks about the climate skeptics. He asks Flannery if it's possible that he's wrong. Flannery says, It’s possible that I’m wrong, and I would be so relieved if I was wrong. Because we wouldn’t be looking at such a depressing few decades. But when I look at the science, the science that’s published, we go back to the projections of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001, they presented a pretty wide range of projections from modest warming through to very alarming warming. What we’re seeing in the real world is that we’re tracking the upper level of those projections; we’re tracking the worst case scenario, you know. I suppose I’d ask people like Andrew Bolt who given all of that information would you be happy for your Government to do nothing and risk your future and your family’s future on the hope that you’re right.

I think the point is there very well may be a problem. Really. What scenario would be worse?

1. There is no global warming. We save the rainforest. We take shorter showers. We use solar energy. We drive less. We walk more. We reduce, reuse, and recycle. Then it turns out we weren't responsible for global warming in the first place. There was nothing to worry about. We wasted our time and energy making those changes.

2. We decide the skeptics are right. We take long car rides just for the fun of it. When we stop off to shop we leave our spouse in the car with the ignition on. We buy. We waste. We throw away. We blast the air conditioner. We turn the heat on high. Then global warming happens. Cities are destroyed. Our grandchildren have horrible futures.

You know thinking about what I just wrote....I'm getting a bit pissed off.

Maybe Flannery is a bit of an alarmist. Who knows. It might not be as bad as he believes. I pretty much DO believe it's probably as bad as he believes. But let's say it's not. I think we can agree that it's at least a little bad. And even if it's not at all bad, the changes Flannery asks for should probably be made anyway. We shouldn't be cutting down trees left and right. We shouldn't be buying stuff just to throw it away a year later. We shouldn't be driving so much just for the hell of it. We SHOULD be walking more. I don't think it's just about global warming and the environment. I think it's about being decent and not wasteful.

Denton asks Flannery if he misses hanging out with dinosaur bones. Flannery says Yeah I do, I do. I mean, I enjoyed it, you know the, I suppose in a way that pre-prepared me for the climate stuff, because you can’t pick up a fossil without seeing evidence of the past climate, it’s changed through time.

So Flannery might not have a degree in climatology, but his degrees related to animals are strongly connected to what he's learning now.

I'm going to end soon, but first I want to see if I can find any good stuff on Youtube. Here's an interview. Flannery is asked about skeptics. He says there will always be people who don't believe. There's always going to be people that, no matter what you do, they won't budge. They won't change. But on the bright side, there ARE people who will listen, read, and open their mind.

This is scary and depressing. I can see why people want to believe Flannery has it all wrong. It's so much easier to be lazy and ignorant rather than knowledgeable and responsible for making changes.

Flannery says Australia is like the Middle East of renewable energy. That's a cute analogy.

Flannery is asked how Australia will be affected by global warming. He says anyone with a nice ocean view out their window will probably end up losing their house. In other words, they'll be underwater.

The great thing about Flannery is he's able to be an alarmist but, at the same time, have hope. He talks about how people have changed the world in the past. He uses the example of slavery. Past economies were dependent on it. The slave owners probably used the same argument that people use today about energy. Yes, it's not right. But our economy will collapse if we demand too many changes too soon. There were probably people who said Think of how families will starve and be destroyed if we get rid of slavery.

Unfortunately, though....slavery in some forms still exists.

Despite Flannery's attempts at optimism, all this makes me feel a bit hopeless. But I'll try to be more like Flannery. Sometimes I think the best we can do is just make changes in our own life. We can't wait for other people to agree with us and make the changes. Maybe there's enough people out there who will do the right thing. I hope.

I'm going to quit now, because my eyes are still bothering me


  1. Tim made a great documentary with another chap, called Two Men in a Tinnie. Very Australian.

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks. I'll go look it up.

  3. flannery then had another series called 'two across the top' which looked at development in the northern parts of australia. both series are interesting and show the beauty of the australian bush. the humour is also quite dry and laid back and typically australian.

  4. Andrew,

    They sound interesting. I'm wondering if YouTube has any of the shows. I might check later.

  5. Hi Dina,
    I used to work with Tim Flannery at Macquarie but only met him once. I think he is highly intellegent but like everyone is not always right but at least he is thinks outside the box. I do think that he tends to look at the worst case scenarios but that can often be a good thing.
    You can do an Arts degree with a Science major at some universities in Australia.
    P.S I love Bill Bryson too, i think his hilarious, especially like Down Under.

  6. Matt,

    I should read the Bill Bryson book again. When I read it the first time I had never been to Australia before. It would be fun to read the book now that I've been there. Although maybe I should wait until we visit more places.

    That's so neat that you met Flannery.

    I don't think it's bad to look at worse case scenarios. I think it's only a problem when you present it as the definite future. And I don't think Flannery does that. He seems level-headed to me. I feel he says this is what is LIKELY to happen if we don't get our act together.