10 March 2011 – From The Economist. Australian mammalogist and palaeontologist, Tim Flannery is an environmental celebrity. His 2005 book,The Weather Makers, about climate science and global warming, was a bestseller. His latest Here on Earth is his most ambitious book so far.

The publisher calls it 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.

He muses on whether humanity counts as a superorganism  –a classification usually reserved for bees and ants – why we have yet to discover intelligent aliens, the poorly understood effects of dumping industrial chemicals into the environment, the power of planet-watching networks of satellites and the benefits of aboriginal scrub-burning.

There is an effort to organise the chapters around two competing models of human behaviour, a co-operative, far-sighted wisdom that Mr Flannery dubs the “Gaian” approach and a reckless, ultimately destructive short-termism that he calls “Medean”, after the bloodthirsty enchantress of Greek myth. Read the whole story

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