Monday, February 21, 2022

Contemplating the End of the World -Two Reviews

 

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY


 

Have been a bit busy in the real world this week so just a couple of reviews for today. One is about the new book “Full Circle – a search for the world that comes next” by former Greens Senator Scott Ludlum which was released last week. The other is about the new Hollywood blockbuster “Don’t Look Up” which has just come out on Netflix, but had a much too short a run in cinemas here a couple of weeks ago. Both are directly or indirectly related to saving the world, so they are not entirely off topic. Let’s start with the film and finish with the book because it has a more positive outlook.

 

Don’t Look Up,” has a stellar cast which includes Leonardo Di Caprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchette. It's a dark tale about an approaching comet which threatens to end all life on earth. By and large it’s regarded as a metaphor for Climate Change in that we have an imminent global disaster of the sort which wiped out the dinosaurs. Unfortunately no one takes it seriously except for a couple of astronomers until it serves as a momentary distraction from a political scandal.

Suddenly the humble scientists are swept up in a media frenzy which is more interested in their entertainment value than the message. The politicians make reassuring noises – they have the matter in hand, preparations are being made and so forth. I don’t think I can tell you more without giving away too much of the plot but mostly it’s a satire with a rather ironic twist at the end, but underneath there are some urgent messages such as don’t necessarily rely on media or politicians for the facts. By the time you find out the truth for yourself, it may be too late. It highlights how helpless and unprepared most individuals are in the face of cataclysmic events and how to deal gracefully with things over which we have no control. You might not agree with my interpretation. My friend thought it was about the pandemic, but definitely thought -provoking and worth a watch. You may even get the odd laugh.

 

 

"Full Circle- a search for the world that comes next "

 

Copyright 2021  Available from Black inc. in paperback edition ( $AU 34.99) or as an eBook  ($AU 14.99) 384 pp. Blackinc.Books


Scott Ludlam’s book is also about where the world is headed, but is more serious in tone and yet somewhat more optimistic. Scott Ludlam was Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens and a Senator from 2008 -2017 until his citizenship was challenged and he was forced to resign. [Ludlum was born in NZ and came to Australia as a child]. Experienced in media and communications, he spent the intervening years travelling and studying and trying to find answers to some of the world's biggest challenges.

His book traces the great arc of the earth’s history as a minor agglomeration of debris and gas in a vast universe, through the emergence of life on earth, to the eventual and rather recent arrival of humans with their increasing propensity to destroy themselves, along with almost everything else. If that sounds a bit depressing, Ludlam does not believe that this is inevitable. This is a book about hope, not despair. He argues that though humans may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, we do not have to be helpless witnesses to our own demise. To support his case he shows us a number of practical examples from around the world where people have changed the trajectory of their lives for the better. Indeed, he argues that despair itself is our worst enemy. He quotes Nobel Prize winner and human rights activist Alice Walker right there in the first Chapter.

“The most common way people give up their power

is by thinking that they don’t have any.”

The book's other saving grace is that Ludlum is also an excellent writer. We can literally see the stars above and smell the smoke as protesters sit around a long ago fire in a remote valley trying to prevent giant trees being felled and whole ecosystems being destroyed. We can also visualise the quiet house in the quiet street where everyone diligently recycles, but now we can also see the threads which bind it to  the surrounding economy – the physical structures -its hidden pipes and wires, but also the bank loan and the economic system that underpins them and its enormous environmental impact.

If there's one phrase which sums up the book, it's this one seen on a nameless footpath:

 

“Stop imagining the apocalypse

Start imagining the revolution”

 

If you don’t read another book this year, read this one.

 

 

 

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