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Sierra's May/June 2006 Let's Talk selection:
The Weather Makers
A book by Tim Flannery
Review by Pat Joseph

The Weather MakersWhat it's about
If you read only one book on global warming, make it The Weather Makers. Tim Flannery, an Australian scientist and explorer, has crafted a concise, eminently readable overview of climate science while passionately and persuasively arguing for immediate action. "In the years to come this issue will dwarf all the others combined," he writes. "It will become the only issue."

Where to get it
The Weather Makers is widely available at libraries and bookstores.

About the author
Tim Flannery is one of Australia's most well-known conservationists. The director of the South Australian Museum, he also serves as chair of the South Australian premier's Science Council and Sustainability Roundtable and as a director of the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. He is a regular contributor to ABC Radio, NPR, the BBC, the New York Review of Books, and the Documentary Channel.

His previous books include two ecological histories, The Future Eaters (on Australia) and The Eternal Frontier (on North America), and an account of his scientific expeditions to New Guinea, Throwim' Way Leg: Tree-Kangaroos, Possums, and Penis Gourds.

Discussion questions

  1. In the introduction, Flannery notes that President Bush "wants 'more certainty' before he acts on climate change; yet science is about hypotheses, not truths, and no one can know the future." He then writes that we act in the face of uncertainty all the time. What are some examples from everyday life?
  2. In chapter 1, Flannery invokes James Lovelock's compelling and controversial "Gaia hypothesis" that Earth is a single organism. Do you agree with this way of looking at things? Why or why not?

  3. What are the implications for civilization of ushering out the "long summer" and entering the Anthropocene?

  4. In chapter 23, Flannery reflects on chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the Montreal Protocol, the international agreement that successfully addressed the threat such substances pose to the planet's ozone layer and life on Earth. What lessons can we draw from that example?

  5. Do you agree or disagree with Flannery that global warming will soon become the "only issue"?

  6. The Weather Makers is an alarming, daunting, even depressing book, yet Flannery doesn't despair. Do his prescriptions for confronting the crisis seem reasonable and adequate?

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