Sunday, 31 January 2010


Tim Flannery is an Australian scientist, explorer and writer. Even so, there doesn't seem to be a single website that does justice to the whole man. He was Chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Change Council and must have been very disappointed by its outcomes. I would like very much to read his account of it all.

As an author he fits more into every sentence than any other writer! That is why I am only reading the second page of his book "Throwim Way Leg" and already have discovered some extraordinary things about geography, history, culture and cloves..... yes cloves, the spice we all know so well. (In France we finally discovered the French name for it was clous de giroffles..... or giraffes' claws! When you think about it, I guess cloves could refer to cloven ie clawed, in English.... I wish we had thought of that when we were standing at the spice section of the supermarket in France!)

Anyway, back to the book..... It seems that this funny, prickly little fellow (the clove..... NOT Tim Flannery!) is the dried flower bud of a lilly pilly that only grows on islands just to the west of New Guinea. The ancient Romans flavoured their food with cloves which must have come from those remote islands.... amazing.

And did you know that they have kangaroos in New Guinea, only they live in trees! And that nine thousand years ago New Guineans living high in the mountain valleys had already developed intensive agriculture where they grew sugar cane.... amongst other things. Even today there are no roads connecting the country because it is so rugged and, because they have no pack animals, walking is often still the norm.  One sixth (about 1,000) of the world's languages are from New Guinea because of the isolation of the peoples.

Tim Flannery's book "The Future Eaters" I would put up as one of the best books ever written on human civilisation and how it is eating itself into oblivion. This was written way before climate change and carbon credits and water issues were in the public mind and certainly started me thinking seriously about how I, as a human, fit into this planet. Then there was "The Weather Makers" which was a very early publication on climate change and what it means. He write so well, so clearly and fills the pages with such fascinating and inspiring images that you could never find them dry or boring. Neither does he speak down to you though, nor make silly, frivolous comments..... unlike me, I am afraid! His books are all listed and discussed here.

Now I am up to page 3....


chaiselongue said...

Yes, Kate, if only more people had listened to Tim Flannery and others like Rachel Carson whose 'Silent Spring' was published nearly 50 years ago but the politicians are only just beginning to catch on ... very slowly and inadequately.

I like your image of cloves as giraffe's claws, but 'clou' in French means 'nail' (as in hammer and nails' and I think must come from the shape. I wonder if 'girofle' is a corruption of the botanical name for cloves?

Kate said...

Interesting, C-L.... I am right now going to look up the botanical name. I must say we only called them giraffe's claws in fun and it made it easy for me to remember.I never did even check if girofle is giraffe! In this way, pidgin French develops, like the pidgin English "Throwim way leg" which means "Begin a journey" as you thrust out your leg to take the first step.

Kate said...

Syzigium aromaticum..... hmmmm... not much help there!

Kate said...

Oh..... girafe is giraffe .... well, it was a fun way to remember!