Defiant Earth by Clive Hamilton

Clive Hamilton always writes cogently and passionately. His latest book, Defiant Earth, is a more difficult read, more technical philosophy than science exposition or polemic, and I confess that although I worked my way through the arguments, my overall takeaway is limited. Nonetheless, it does caution me away from two philosophical/political stances commonly witnessed. Beware the geoengineering gung-ho guys: messing with the atmosphere, for example, is just another iteration of “humans rule,” something they patently never did and don’t now. Be careful also with recently traditional environmentalist fixations on “Gaia,” “the biosphere,” “one species among many,” etc.: we are the only species now walking hand in arm with the planet towards a new future. In other words, the new Anthropocene Epoch is a geological phase in which planet Earth and the only sentient influence, the Human Race, interact. (I’m sure I mistate Hamilton’s formulation, so if interested, read his book.)

The birding big year that isn’t

A day off on Monday. Of course such a drastic step provoked feelings of guilt but we soaked up six hours birding at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, seventy kilometers east of Darwin. Swoon! Wonderful species of Flycatcher, the lovely Arafura Fantail, so easy in a new state to accumulate lifers.

If only 2017 was a birding big year, I’d be doing this each day!

A 21st century fear: Have you backed up your data?

After a few days away, I boot up the desktop. It hangs in limbo. I switch it off at the power point. On reboot, all is fine.

A power outage plunges desktop into blank-screen limbo. Restart looks fine except the mouse and keyboard don’t work and panic hits when I don’t have access to any of my files. Googling eventually points out a kludgy solution – maybe the new Windows version snarls up some software, eh?

I cannot describe the terror of losing all my data. I’d rather watch the home burn down. Do I back up often enough? The answer is yes. Are my backups diverse enough? The answer is yes. Is recovery certain? The answer is yes.

Does my fear abate? No.

Future climate change big year: A hotter world means higher seas, now quickening

Another clearly written article from Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, this time on a sobering technical article (Mooney’s article can point you to the source but it is behind a pay wall) by eight researchers, five of them from Hobart or Sydney. Before the 90s, sea level was creeping up at one millimeter a year but now, mainly due to the Greenland ice sheet beginning its inexorable meltdown, the annual global sea rise is over three millimeters a year. We’re talking over 3 cms a decade, which might not sound like much, but ally that to more hot wet air slopping around the world and bringing extreme weather events, and suddenly (so it seems) we know we’ll witness towns washing away in our lifetimes. Chris Harig, one of the coauthors of this study (Mooney says this is the third independent study confirming the same thing already this year), puts it baldly: “We understand why the sea level is accelerating . . . It’s no longer a projection, it’s now an observation.”

(Image from the article.)

Big Decade: My 533rd day

The Big Decade ends December 31, 2025. Five hundred days swept past me a month ago. Quick, Andres, off the top of your head, name three emotions from those 532 days . . .




Richard Ford and the siren call of memoir . . .

Peter Craven’s reviews in The Australian Review remain a highlight of that wonderful weekly. Last weekend he crowned Richard Ford’s memoir, Between Them: Remembering My Parents, with this final phrase: “But this is, in the end, a memoir beyond praise.”

Haven’t we all in us a memoir yet unwritten? We might label it a “life history” or a biography, but I’m forever meeting people who tell me they have a book in them, as the phrase goes. Memoir encapsulates our need to explain ourselves to ourselves. I’m no different. My gestational, ill-defined memoir pops into my mind every week or so, and I keep buying landmark memoirs to peruse (how do they do it?) but rarely find the needed time. After reading Craven’s glorifying review, I snap up the Kindle version of Between Them and chuck it on my (imaginary Kindle) bedside table.

(Image from The Australian)

A future Sci-fi Big Year?

After a quarter century of tech reporting, Walt Mossberg’s column in The Verge offers parting generalities. What he describes as “ambient computing” convinces me yet again that we should embrace the full force of the modern tech age and reshape/shape it to fit our vision of the “better world,” rather than decrying our anxieties. For those interested, Kevin Kelley offers a fuller picture, elegantly told, in “The Inevitable.” I tell you, brewing over this kind of thing makes me yearn to write sci-fi. (iPhoto from The Verge website)

I long for a Movie Big Year . . .

In this New Yorker review, Anthony Lane nails my discomfort with a film (Alien: Covenant) that ticked boxes for me but left me puzzlingly disenchanted. In a nutshell, Ridley Scott, master in so many ways, has lost the plot with the Alien saga. The plot is naff. When I grow up, I aspire to write reviews as good as this one! (Image from the New Yorker)