- Living with the Anthropocene: Love, Loss and Hope in the Face of Environmental Crisis. Edited by Cameron Muir, Kirsten Wehner and Jenny Newell. NewSouth Publishing. $34.99.
Once upon a time the weather changed what we did, now, what we have done has changed the weather.
And the Anthropocene - the age of humans - looks likely to ring down the curtain on our brave little drama (comedy? tragedy?) not with a bang or a whimper, but with the gathering silence of a dying planet.
Does this sound unforgivably pessimistic? Perhaps not, with the awful weight of COVID-19 pressing down on all our daily lives, and sweeping everything else, including the vast environmental tragedy of climate change, from our thread-bare attention span.
This BC (Before Coronavirus) collection of essays owes its existence to an Australia Research Council project that ran from 2016 to 2019, providing an outlet for more than 40 contributors to chronicle their collective grief at the loss of an ecology evolved across millennia.
A sense of despair at the way warnings have been shamefully ignored is memorably expressed with Justine Hyde's chilling reminder that we could be "the first of our kind to contemplate the possibility of our own extinction".
Perhaps I should confess - despite being at the other end of the age spectrum - to sharing Greta Thunberg's anger, frustration and disappointment.
If someone from her generation doesn't have the right to speak out against environmental neglect, I don't know who does.
And to place the dreadful dilemma in stark context: with a vaccine for COVID-19 the danger will pass.
But our climate change extinction catalogue will still be thickening, like the grisly portrait of Dorian Gray locked away in an attic.
That said, I'll leave you with this beautiful passage from Jo Chandler's "Weekend in Gondwana", as she steps inside one of Tasmania's ancient forests:
. . . It's a tangle of moss and lichen, carpets of russet and yellow, and labyrinthine branches.
They've meandered over centuries of unhurried life, bulging joints wrapped in the wrinkled flesh of grey, flaking bark.
The foliage, tendrils of delicate green, utterly unlike the familiar dressings of nearby eucalypts, turns to shades of pink and burgundy where it falls into the litter of magnificent decay.
These elegantly thoughtful essays make a passionate plea in defence of our wilfully abused planet.
Read them and weep.
- Ian McFarlane's chapbook of climate change and bushfire poems, "The Crucible", is published by Ginninderra Press.