Archives For Tim Flannery

A few quick news notes on this Sunday morning.

Predictions for a New Year: CNN’s Belief Blog asks various religious leaders for their “faith-based” 2011 predictions. Circle Sanctuary’s Selena Fox sees a growth of interfaith involvement for Wiccans and Pagans.

“More Wiccan ministers and other pagan leaders will be actively involved in interfaith organizations, conferences and initiatives in the United States and internationally. Interfaith endeavors will grow in importance in addressing ongoing needs in the world today as well as in responding to natural disasters and other tragedies.”

Most of the predictions are aspirational, though Pagans have made great strides in interfaith recently. CNN’s senior Vatican analyst John Allen Jr. predicts that “Christianophobia” will become a buzzword in 2011, though I’d argue variations on that theme have been popular for generations.

(Don’t) Legalize It: Romania has changed its labor laws to make witchcraft a legal profession, but the local witches and fortune-tellers aren’t lining up to thank the government for it.

“The move, which went into effect Saturday, is part of the government’s drive to crack down on widespread tax evasion in a country that is in recession. In addition to witches, astrologists, embalmers, valets and driving instructors are now considered by labor law to be working real jobs, making it harder for them to avoid income tax.”

One Romanian Witch has already stepped forward to threaten spells against the government, nor is this the first time Witches have fought back against government intervention into their affairs. In a country where mystical attacks are still taken seriously by politicians, the economy must be truly bad for them to move forward on this initiative. As for the Witches, they opposes legal recognition for the same reasons marijuana growers in California do, because it would hurt their bottom line.

Gaia is (coming) Alive! At a recent symposium in Sydney, Australian professor, scientist, and environmental activist Tim Flannery apparently had some interesting things to say about our Earth and the Gaia hypothesis.

Robyn Williams: So there you’ve got an image of the earth, the planet as a god, but also a very sophisticated and credible scientific idea.

Tim Flannery: That’s right. I was tempted in the book to simply give in and call it Earth System Science, because Gaia is earth system science and in many university departments around the world, as you’ll know, Robyn, earth system science is a very respectable science. But as soon as you mention Gaia of course, the scepticism comes out. I didn’t do that though, because I think there’s a certain elegance to Gaia, to that word and the concept, and also because I think that within this century the concept of the strong Gaia will actually become physically manifest. I do think that the Gaia of the Ancient Greeks, where they believed the earth was effectively one whole and perfect living creature, that doesn’t exist yet, but it will exist in future. That’s why I wanted to keep that word.

Robyn Williams: How will it exist in the future? Because an organism is one thing; the earth is complicated, but it is after all a lump of rock with iron in the middle and a veneer of living things outside, and a very thin atmosphere. It’s not an organism, so how is the feedback system such that it stabilises things, temperature anyway, like an organism?

Tim Flannery: That’s the great question. I must admit that as I wrote the book I was unable to come to a clear landing on the extent of Gaian control over the system, because much of the data is equivocal. I think that there is clear evidence for something that I call in the book geo-pheromones, which are elements within the earth system, which when present in very small amounts have very large outcomes, a bit like ant pheromones. But they often do multiple jobs. Some ant pheromones do as well, but many of them are specific. One of those is course carbon dioxide, a trace amount in the atmosphere, four parts per ten thousand is enough to keep the earth habitable. Ozone is another one present in just a few parts per billion. Human-made CFCs are yet another one. Atmospheric dust may well be another one. So these elements in the earth system have a profound impact on the system, and there is some evidence that there’s some sort of homeostasis established, if you want.

This theory that Earth/Gaia is becoming a unified living organism has incensed conservative journalist Tim Blair, who blasts the idea of a “sentient Frankenplanet spirit” and rips into James Lovelock, largely credited with popularizing the Gaia hypothesis, for good measure. Behind the sneers of “general occult weirdness” and “summoning of a dirt god” is the same fear of an environmental “green dragon” seen among American Christians, the over-zealous backlash against the idea that Christianity isn’t the only or final truth in this world.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!