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Tim Flannery at the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists, 2007
Professor Tim Flannery (born 28 January 1956) is an Australian mammalogist, palaeontologist, and environmental and global warming activist.

Flannery was named Australian of the Yearmarker in 2007 and is presently a professor at Macquarie Universitymarker. He is also the chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, an international climate change awareness group. His controversial views on shutting down conventional coal fired power stations for electricity generation in the medium term are frequently cited in the media.

Scientist

In 1985, Flannery earned a doctorate at the University of New South Walesmarker for his work on the evolution of macropods. Prior to this, he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree (1977) at La Trobe Universitymarker and a masters degree in earth sciences at Monash University. He holds bachelor degrees in English and Earth Science, a doctorate in Palaeontology, and has contributed to over 90 scientific papers.

Flannery has held various academic positions throughout his career including Professor at the University of Adelaidemarker, director of the South Australian Museummarker in Adelaidemarker, Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Museummarker, Visiting Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard Universitymarker, and an adviser on environmental issues to the Australian Federal Parliament.

In 2007, he took up a role within the Climate Risk Concentration of Research Excellence at Macquarie Universitymarker. Flannery is also a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists.

Mammalogist

Flannery's early research concerned the evolution of mammals in Australasia. As part of his doctoral studies, he described 29 new kangaroo species including 11 new genera and three new subfamilies. In the 1990s, Flannery published The Mammals Of New Guinea (Cornell Press) and Prehistoric Mammals Of Australia and New Guinea (Johns Hopkins Press), the most comprehensive reference works on the subjects. Through the 1990s, Flannery surveyed the mammals of Melanesia – discovering 16 new species – and took a leading role in conservation efforts in the region.

The specific name of the Greater Monkey-faced Bat (Pteralopex flanneryi), only described in 2005, honours Tim Flannery.

Flannery's work prompted Sir David Attenborough to describe him as being "in the league of the all-time great explorers like Dr. David Livingstone".

Palaeontologist

In 1980, Flannery discovered dinosaur fossils on the southern coast of Victoriamarker and in 1985 had a role in the groundbreaking discovery of Cretaceous mammal fossils in Australia. This latter find extended the Australian mammal fossil record back 80 million years. During the 1980s, Flannery described most of the known Pleistocene megafaunal species in New Guineamarker as well as the fossil record of the phalangerids, a family of possums.

Activist

Despite his scientific achievements, Flannery achieved prominence through his environmental activism. His advocacy on two issues in particular, population levels and carbon emissions, culminated in being named Australian of the Yearmarker at a time when environmental issues were becoming prominent in Australian public debate.

Population and land use

In 1994, Flannery published The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People. The controversial bestseller covered the impact of humans on the natural environment in Australia and New Zealandmarker.

Flannery argued that firestick farming, carried out by Australian Aborigines over thousands of years, had drastically reshaped the continent's ecology. He further argued that European settlers had, in addition to introducing unsustainable agricultural practices, intensified bushfires by effectively ending the practice of firestick farming.Both arguments are subject to considerable debate. Even more controversially in some quarters, Flannery recommended that, ideally, Australia's population should be as few as 6 million (less than a third of its current level) and that European-imported livestock should be phased out in favour of native species such as emus, kangaroos and crocodiles.

The Future Eaters enjoyed strong sales and critical acclaim. Redmond O'Hanlon, a Times Literary Supplement correspondent said that "Flannery tells his beautiful story in plain language, science popularising at its antipodean best". Fellow activist David Suzuki praised Flannery's "powerful insight into our current destructive path". Some experts disagreed with Flannery's thesis, however, concerned that his broad-based approach, ranging across multiple disciplines, ignored counter-evidence and was overly simplistic.

The Future Eaters was made into a documentary series for ABC Television and was republished in late 2002.

Acclimatisation

Chacoan peccary can be brought from Paraguay to North America, to replace the extinct Flat-headed Peccary
In The Future Eaters, Flannery was critical of European settlers introducing non-native wild animals into Australia's ecosystem. At the same time, he suggested that if one wanted to reproduce, in some parts of Australia, the ecosystems that existed there ca. 60,000 years ago (before the arrival of the humans on the continent), it may be necessary to introduce into Australia, in a thoughtful and careful way, some non-native species that would be the closest substitutes to the continent's lost megafauna. In particular, the Komodo dragon can be brought into Australia as a replacement for its extinct relative, Megalania, "the largest goanna of all time". The Tasmanian devil could also be allowed to re-settle mainland Australia from its Tasmanian refuge area.

In The Eternal Frontier, Tm Flannery made a proposal for what later became nicknamed "Pleistocene Rewilding": restoring the ecosystems that existed in North America before the arrival of the Clovis people and the concomitant disappearance of North American Pleistocene megafauna ca. 13,000. He wonders if, in addition to wolves that have been already re-introduced to Yellowstone National Parkmarker, ambush predators, such as jaguars and lions should be reintroduced there as well, in order to bring the number of elks under control. Furthermore, the closest extant relatives of the species that went around the Clovis period could be introduced to North America's nature reserves as well: the Indian and African elephants to substitute, respectively, for the mammoth and the mastodon; the Chacoan Peccary, for its extinct flat-headed cousin (Platygonus compressus). Llamas and panthers, who still survive outside of the USA, should be brought back as well.

Carbon emissions

In The Weather Makers: The History & Future Impact of Climate Change, Flannery outlined the science behind anthropogenic climate change. "With great scientific advances being made every month, this book is necessarily incomplete," Flannery writes, but "That should not, however, be used as an excuse for inaction. We know enough to act wisely."

Concepts outlined in the book include:

  • That a failure to act on climate change may eventually force the creation of a global carbon dictatorship, which he calls the "Earth Commission for Thermostatic Control", to regulate carbon use across all industries and nations - a level of governmental intrusion that Flannery describes as "very undesirable"; and


  • the establishment of "Geothermia" - a new city at the NSW-South Australia-Queensland border - to take advantage of the location's abundance of natural gas reserves, geothermal and solar energy. Flannery argues that such a city could be completely energy self-sufficient, and would be a model for future city development worldwide. Of the city project, Flannery told The Bulletin that "I know it's radical but we have no choice".


The book won international acclaim. Bill Bryson concluded that "It would be hard to imagine a better or more important book." The Weather Makers was honoured in 2006 as 'Book of the Year' at the New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards.

Flannery's work in raising the profile of environmental issues was key to his being named Australian of the Year in 2007. Awarding the prize, former Prime Minister John Howard said that the scientist "has encouraged Australians into new ways of thinking about our environmental history and future ecological challenges."

That said, Howard – along with many others – remains unconvinced as to Flannery's proposed solutions. Flannery joined calls for the cessation/reduction of conventional coal-fired power generation in Australia in the medium term, the source of most of the nation's electricity. Flannery claims that conventional coal burning will lose its social license to operate, as has asbestos.

In response to the introduction of proposed clean coal technology , Tim Flannery has stated: "Globally there has got to be some areas where clean coal will work out, so I think there will always be a coal export industry [for Australia] ... Locally in Australia because of particular geological issues and because of the competition from cleaner and cheaper energy alternatives, I'm not 100 per cent sure clean coal is going to work out for our domestic market."

Flannery is an advisor on climate change to South Australianmarker Premier Mike Rann, and is a member of the Queensland Climate Change Council established by the Queensland Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation Andrew McNamara.

In contrast to the views of many members of the 'environment movement', Flannery is supportive of some uses of nuclear power.In May 2007 he told a business gathering in Sydney that while nuclear energy does have a role elsewhere in the world, Australia's abundance of renewable resources rule out the need for nuclear power in the near term. He does however feel that Australia should and will have to supply its uranium to those other countries that do not have access to renewables like Australia does. In May 2008 Flannery created controversy by suggesting that sulphur could be dispersed into the atmosphere to help block the sun leading to global dimming, in order to counteract the effects of global warming.

Sustainable whaling

When, in the concluding chapters of The Future Eaters (1994), Flannery discusses how to "utilise our few renewable resources in the least destructive way", he remarks that
A far better situation for conservation in Australia would result from a policy which allows exploitation of all of our biotic heritage, provided that it all be done in a sustainable manner. ... [I]f it is possible to harvest for example, 10 mountain pygmy-possums (Burramys parvus) or 10 southern right whales (Balaena glacialis) per year, why should we not do it? ... Is it more moral to kill and consume a whale, without cost to the environment, than to live as a vegetarian in Australia, destroying seven kilograms of irreplaceable soil, ... for each kilogram of bread we consume?


In late 2007, Flannery suggested that the Japanese whaling involving the relatively common Minke Whale is sustainable:

In terms of sustainability, you can't be sure that the Japanese whaling is entirely unsustainable... It's hard to imagine that the whaling would lead to a new decline in population


This raised concerns among some scientists, and environmental groups such as Greenpeace, fearing it could add fuel to the Japanese wish of continuing its annual cull. In contrast to his stance on the Minke Whale quota, Flannery has expressed relief over the dumping of the quota of the rarer Humpback Whale, and further was worried how whales were slaughtered, wishing them to be "killed as humanely as possible". Flannery suggested that krill and other small crustaceans, the primary food source for many large whales and an essential part of the marine food chain, were of greater concern than the Japanese whaling.

Humanitarian initiatives

In 2009 joined the project "Soldiers of Peace", a movie against all wars and for a global peace.

Bibliography

  • Tim Flannery (1990 - revised 1995), Mammals of New Guinea, ISBN 0 7301 0411 7
  • Tim Flannery (1994), The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People, ISBN 0-8021-3943-4 ISBN 0-7301-0422-2
  • Tim Flannery (1995), Mammals of the South-West Pacific & Moluccan Islands, ISBN 0-7301-0417-6
  • Tim Flannery (1998), Throwim Way Leg: An Adventure, ISBN 1-876485-19-1
  • Tim Flannery (2001), The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples, ISBN 0-8021-3888-8
  • Tim Flannery & Peter Schouten (2001), A Gap in Nature, ISBN 1-876485-77-9
  • Tim Flannery & Peter Schouten (2004), Astonishing Animals, ISBN 1-920885-21-8
  • Tim Flannery (2005), Country: a continent, a scientist & a kangaroo, ISBN 1-920885-76-5
  • Tim Flannery (2006), The Weather Makers: The History & Future Impact of Climate Change, ISBN 1-920885-84-6
  • Tim Flannery (2007). Chasing Kangaroos: A Continent, a Scientist, and a Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Creature, ISBN 978-0802118523
  • Tim Flannery (2008). Quarterly Essay, Now or Never: A sustainable future for Australia?, ISBN 978-1-86395-271-2
  • Tim Flannery (2009). Now or Never: A sustainable future for Australia?, ISBN 978-1-86395-429-7


In addition, Flannery has edited and introduced:
  • The Birth of Melbourne, ISBN 1-877008-89-3
  • The Birth of Sydney, ISBN 1-876485-45-0
  • The Explorers, ISBN 1-876485-22-1
  • Watkin Tench, 1788, ISBN 1-875847-27-8
  • Terra Australis, Matthew Flinders' Great Adventures in the Circumnavigation of Australia, ISBN 1-876485-92-2
  • John Morgan, The Life and Adventures of William Buckley, ISBN 1-877008-20-6
  • John Nicol, Life and Adventures: 1776-1801, ISBN 1-875847-41-3
  • Joshua Slocum, Sailing Alone Around the World, ISBN 1-877008-57-5

Journalism



References

  1. Copenhagen Climate Council (2008). Tim Flannery. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  2. http://www.latrobe.edu.au/alumni/profiles/full-profile?mode=results&queries_given-name_query=Tim&queries_family-name_query=Flannery
  3. Helgen, K. M. (2005). Systematics of the Pacific monkey-faced bats (Chiroptera : Pteropodidae), with a new species of Pteraloplex and a new Fijian genus. Systematics and Biodiversity, 3(4):433-453.
  4. Tim Flannery, The Future Eaters, pp. 384-385. ISBN 0802139434
  5. Flannery, The Eternal Frontier, ISBN 1-876485-72-8, pp. 345-346. On the peccary, p. 158
  6. "Coal Can't Be Clean - Flannery", Melbourne Herald Sun, February 14, 2007.
  7. Nuclear power a turn-off: Flannery changes stance - Environment - smh.com.au
  8. Tim Flannery, The Future Eaters, pp. 402-403. ISBN 0802139434
  9. Flannery says whaling is OK. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 2008-01-02
  10. Flannery's views on whales 'curious'. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved on 2008-01-02
  11. Tim Flannery lampooned by sustainable whaling claims. LiveNews. Retrieved on 2008-01-02
  12. Flannery worried about small fish, not big whale culls. Brisbane Times. Retrieved on 2008-01-02


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