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Sunlight and Seaweed: An Argument for How to Feed, Power and Clean Up the World (Tim Flannery, Text)

It is difficult to overstate the importance of this concise, convincingly argued view of our world’s prospects for its survival and improvement over the next 33 years (ie to 2050). Tim Flannery begins Sunlight and Seaweed with a summary of the environmental state of our planet today with alarming conclusions: ‘Freshwater lakes, rivers and streams are the most environmentally stressed. Given the deteriorating state of rainforests and coral reefs that is quite a statement’. He then outlines the potential of advances in clean-energy technology, including wind, solar, battery storage and water, with a particular emphasis on concentrated sunlight (CST or concentrated solar thermal). Next comes a sobering analysis of air, soil and water pollution and the intractability of these threats without coordinated global action, which leads to an examination of the need to provide clean water and nutritious food for an ever-increasing global population, and some possible solutions involving large- and small-scale sustainable farming. Perhaps the most challenging to our world’s conventional approach to food issues is a chapter entitled ‘The Power of Kelp’. Despite all these challenges, Flannery’s final chapter, ‘A Vision of the World in 2050’ is, fortunately, cautiously optimistic. Every one of this slim treatise’s 127 pages packs a punch, and its timely content deserves to be read by all of us.

Max Oliver is a retired Australian bookseller


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