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Tim Flannery

Here on Earth

Some people think of the Earth as an organism, but this raises the question of what effect humans are having on this organism. Are we a benevolent control centre or are we more like a disease. Such questions are considered by Tim Flannery in his latest book Here on Earth: a new beginning

Flannery starts with a look at the development of the Earth and the evolution of life on it. He considers the idea of 'Gaia' - Earth as an organism - and goes on to look at the challenges that Gaia has faced, looking at the alternative 'Medea' hypothesis, that species will eventually destroy themselves through competitiveness. The book then gets on to the arrival of humans, showing the extinctions which have followed in their wake. Flannery considers the role of culture and society in the creation of 'superorganisms'. The later part of the book looks at the effect humans are having at present, through pollution, global warming and overexploitation, and Flannery discusses what we might do about it.

I felt that the book lacked a central theme. Sometimes Flannery's arguments seem vague and unconvincing. For instance in arguing against the idea of a 'selfish meme' (he prefers the word 'mneme') , he says that philanthropy probably won't lead to more offspring for philanthropists. But of course that's irrelevant, it's whether one person's philanthropy encourages philanthropy in others that's important. The book has a bit about the origin of the earth, a bit about early humans, and a bit about the damage we are doing to the planet. If Flannery is trying to argue that we should change our ways, then I feel that the whole book should be devoted to that argument.

Amazon.com info
Hardcover 288 pages  
ISBN: 080211976X
Salesrank: 362335
Weight:1.3 lbs
Published: 2011 Atlantic Monthly Press
Amazon price $9.80
Marketplace:New from $6.58:Used from $2.40
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Amazon.co.uk info
Paperback 336 pages  
ISBN: 1846143969
Salesrank: 204068
Weight:0.84 lbs
Published: 2011 Allen Lane
Marketplace:New from £33.34:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 320 pages  
ISBN: 1554689813
Salesrank: 422350
Weight:1.45 lbs
Published: 2011 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Amazon price CDN$ 29.69
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 16.88:Used from CDN$ 5.66
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Product Description
Beginning at the moment of creation with the Big Bang, Here on Earth explores the evolution of Earth from a galactic cloud of dust and gas to a planet with a metallic core and early signs of life within a billion years of being created. In a compelling narrative, Flannery describes the formation of the Earth’s crust and atmosphere, as well as the transformation of the planet’s oceans from toxic brews of metals (such as iron, copper, and lead) to life-sustaining bodies covering 70 percent of the planet’s surface. Life, Flannery shows, first appeared in these oceans in the form of microscopic plants and bacteria, and these metals served as catalysts for the earliest biological processes known to exist. From this starting point, Flannery tells the fascinating story of the evolution of our own species, exploring several early human species—from the diminutive creatures (the famed hobbits) who lived in Africa around two million years ago to Homo erectus—before turning his attention to Homo sapiens. Drawing on Charles Darwin’s and Alfred Russell Wallace’s theories of evolution and Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis, Here on Earth is a dazzling account of life on our planet.