Simon Butler


Author Ian Angus at the launch of 'Facing the Anthropocene'. Sydney, May 13.

Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism & the Crisis of the Earth System
By Ian Angus
Monthly Review Press
New York, 2016

We are living in a time of unparalleled ecological breakdowns and the crisis is much worse than most people realise. There are other books that tell this harrowing story, but Ian Angus's Facing the Anthropocene is different.

When he announced his bid to unseat Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull promised a “new style of leadership”. The problem is that is about all we can hope for from the new prime minister: a change in style but not in substance.

Partly due to luck, and partly due to the heroic efforts of severely overstretched firefighters, the huge bushfires that swept southern Western Australia in early February resulted in no loss of life. These devastating fires also provide a glimpse into our future on a warming planet unless we cut carbon emissions fast.

Scientists had long thought the giant East Antarctic ice sheet was barely affected by global warming and that its glaciers were stable. It turns out those assumptions were wrong.

A team of scientists returned on January 26 from a 7-week expedition to East Antarctica with the bad news: warm ocean water is melting the huge Totten glacier from below.

For those paying attention to the science of climate change, it might seem counterintuitive to talk about hope.

To some it might even seem in bad taste, given that the future impacts include the melting away of the Himalayan glaciers that provide fresh water for 1.3 billion people in Asia and the possibility that many low-lying island nations may become uninhabitable.

More than six years ago, 21-year-old Australian backpacker Jock Palfreeman was walking home with friends after a night out in Sofia, Bulgaria, when he saw a group of 15 men attacking two others. The next morning he was in a police cell — accused of “unprovoked murder” and “hooliganism”. Held without bail, he was convicted two years later and sentenced to 20 years jail.

One of the most frightful ironies of climate change is that it will wreak the most havoc on the people who have done the least to cause it. Pacific Island nations are in the climate frontlines — affected by rising oceans, coastal erosion and extreme weather.

Should Scotland’s people decide to separate from Britain in next month’s independence referendum, the English establishment may well be very unhappy with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose recent ham-fisted attack on Scottish nationalism appears to have given the Yes campaign a boost.

As civilian casualties climb from its brutal assault on Gaza, Israel has met growing condemnation for the carnage from human rights groups and many governments.

In Latin America, the response has been especially strong. Since Israel began its assault a month ago, El Savador, Chile, Peru, Brazil and Ecuador have withdrawn their ambassadors in protest.

The repeal of Australia’s carbon price is a milestone for a Coalition government that thinks nothing should stand between a mining company and big pile of money.

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