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Last updated on August 6th, 2017 at 02:05 pm
Everything Tim Flannery says should be viewed in relation to this comment, from a Bulletin profile published last week:
“This year’s election is the critical moment for us all. It’s a bit like the days before World War II.”
Flannery’s at war! Which might explain his tendency to exaggeration and alarmism; all’s fair when you’re fighting the denialist Nazis. The rest of the article is a subtle comic masterpiece, as Julie-Anne Davies (broadly sympathetic with Flannery’s aims) encounters Flannery’s spectacular ego:
“I’m not into celebrity,” he announced straight up. “I’ve not run for political office. I am a private person and, anyway, it’s the message that’s important, not me.”
There will be some people – notably scientists and politicians – who are probably picking themselves up off their floors after reading that one.
And, presumably, Bulletin readers. Non-celebrity and private person Flannery somehow appears on the Bulletin’s cover, in one of the most sick-making compassionate-tilt images ever published:
Brief pause while sawdust is deployed. The article continues:
Some in the Green movement believe he should have knocked back the honour because of the Coalition government’s woeful record on climate change. Did he consider it? “Not for a second. It’s the people’s honour, this is the year of climate change and that is why it has been bestowed upon me.”
And here were we thinking climate change is some kind of long-term problem.
Those few Australians who haven’t read his The Weather Makers better bone up, because Flannery promises it is all he is going to talk about for the next 12 months.
The majority of Australians haven’t read The Weather Makers. Still, thanks for the warning.
Even as a child he was aware of the footprint man was making on the environment. “When I was very young, there was so much space but gradually it began to disappear and with it the birds and the trees. That was the depressing thing about Melbourne even back then: the relentless march of the suburbs. I remember commenting on it to my mother and she said, ‘that’s progress’.”
Australia is approximately the same size as the US but with a population of only 20 million. If Flannery thinks our space is “disappearing”, he’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope. (By the way, Mrs Flannery sounds like she’s got a good handle on things.) The Flannery ego now commences to emerge:
Flannery also has a reputation in some circles – bitchy scientific academia mainly – as being a bit of a media tart. He is always available. For this story, he bent over backwards to help out with photos and took more time than his packed diary permitted, to explain himself and his life …
He’s a private person.
Trying to get Australians to think, really think, about climate change and how they’ll vote in the coming election. That’s what Tim Flannery wants to talk about. So quizzing him about his partner Alexandra, or his relationship with his children (a son and a daughter, both in their early 20s) ends up sounding trivial and, as he bluntly wrote later in an email, “their own business”.
Given Flannery’s estimate of our optimum population, he’s probably ashamed they’re alive.
When he travelled the river with his mate John Doyle for the ABC series Two Men in a Tinnie, more than a million viewers tuned in … A second series is planned for later this year.
He’s a private person. Beyond this point, Davies’ responses to Tim’s Flannerisms become delightfully frosty:
“There is nothing that is more important for me than influencing government policy towards halting the amount of greenhouse emissions, nothing. Our climate is so fragile, it’s like it has cancer. We’re at the point where we are not sure if it has metastasised or not. I think we can still pull it back, but if we don’t act now, we will spend trillions of dollars trying to ward off the new dark ages that will surely follow.”
Bloody hell. He bandies around ideas that seem so big, so impossible, that one’s first response is to dismiss them. It is also many people’s second response.
And so on:
He makes no apology for his apocalyptic predictions and has a checklist of solutions, including a new city which he calls “Geothermia” to be built in central Australia on the borders of NSW, South Australia and Queensland. A new desert city? But that’s not going to happen, surely? “I know it’s radical but we have no choice,” he shoots back in that quiet, earnest, assured way that galvanises many but also infuriates his critics. Later, he sends me his list which he headlines, again without a trace of irony, “A New Industrial Revolution for Australia”. Flannery is happy to provide the list because “this is important, you have to get this stuff right”. By that he means me.
Next, a terrible threat:
In July, Flannery will begin a new phase in his life when he takes up a professorship in environmental and life studies at Sydney’s Macquarie University. He is also girding his loins to write another book. “I’m dreading it in a way … “
You ain’t alone, professor.
But before that, he’s got another project to complete. Flannery the serious enviro-scientist is part way through writing a work of fiction.
Flannery shouldn’t have too many problems with that.
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