Book Review: No Place to Hide, by Jim Flynn

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_no_place_to_hidJim Flynn encourages the reader of his book to “critically examine” what he has written about the climate debate, not elevating it to “the status of scripture, but assess[ing] everything I say”. He, himself, set out to discover the true facts after, as he puts it, “being assailed by contradictory opinions that ranged from nightmare scenarios to reassurance”.

In his extensively researched book, Flynn comes to the sobering conclusion that at a certain date, likely as early as 2050, global warming may become a self-sustaining process – a state of no return. The greatest illusion, he states, is that the nations will agree to cut their carbon emissions in time to avoid this point of no return.

He sums his findings up with two propositions that were put forward by climate change observers in past studies. The first is that even if current emissions were cut immediately by 20, 50 or 80 percent, 2050 would still be the point of no return where the melting of the polar glaciers, the acidity of the oceans and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere will mean new higher temperatures that will persist for thousands of years.

Secondly, there is no way of de-carbonising the world’s economy that is viable within the next fifty years. For various reasons, all thoroughly explored, conversion of dirty technologies to cleaner ones will initially raise emissions, as the infrastructures of the latter are created and put into place.

The staggering amount of research Flynn has done in producing this book, gives the reader an idea of the complexities of the situation we find ourselves in. There are many factors involved, all interrelated in ways that add to the effects of the damage our planet is sustaining.

Writing before the results of the election in the US were known, Flynn comments – “If the Republicans win the election in 2016 you can kiss American carbon targets goodbye”. He further states that “even if a sane president is elected…” the pressure from the coal, gas and oil lobbies will make it extremely unlikely that the phasing out of the use of fossil fuels will be on the political agenda.

In the last chapter, Flynn puts forward suggestions founded on various studies, of possible solutions, which, in light of his preceding conclusions, seem almost like wishful thinking, a clutching at straws with little hope of seeing a fulfilment. He concludes by asserting that global planning is needed. Clean energy and climate engineering are fundamental to any effective long term strategy. 2050 need not be the point of no return if governments stop making gestures and face reality.

As a reader I feel his earlier words are more likely, that the greatest illusion is that all nations will agree to cut carbon emissions. But one thing this book does is inform those who take the time to read it, of the immensity of the problems facing us as we head into the future.

Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra

No Place to Hide
by James Flynn
Published by Potton & Burton
ISBN 9780947503246

Book Review: Fate & Philosophy by Jim Flynn

This book is in bookstores now.

I was a little apprehensive before I started reading this book, given its lofty subject matter: free will, morality, God, and the nature of reality. I needn’t have worried – while it’s not exactly light reading, it’s also aimed at readers who are mere dabblers in philosophy, rather than experts. Jim Flynn’s prose is also highly readable, bringing a potentially dry topic to life.

I found the page-turning quality of the writing was something of a double-edged sword; I kept forging onwards even when I knew I ought to stop and let concepts settle in my mind. This is a book that really needs to be absorbed in a leisurely manner.

Possibly due to my impatient reading habits, I found much of Fate & Philosophy left me feeling both vindicated and confused. In each chapter Flynn goes through a specific philosophical quandary and explores alternative viewpoints on the issue. I found this disorienting at times as it felt like the author was switching ‘sides’ mid-stream. Also frustrating was that so many of the chapters seemed to end on the note of ‘Well, actually there isn’t one true answer to this question.’ Apparently ‘I don’t know’ is a perfectly legitimate philosophical conclusion – good to know!

Fate & Philosophy certainly covers some potentially knotty problems. Is there an objective moral standard with absolute rules on what’s right and wrong? This is a question that’s mildly bothered me for years. I’ve always instinctively rejected the idea that right and wrong depend on your point of view, but I’ve never been convinced of the existence of an objective standard either. Jim Flynn also admits defeat in his search for an objective moral standard, but suggests that this doesn’t mean it’s necessary to abandon humanist ideals. I’m completely on board with his conclusion, but I have to admit I didn’t entirely follow the chain of reasoning that led to it.

Although in his introduction Jim Flynn states that this is a book for philosophy newbies, I occasionally found myself floundering. He is constantly mentioning past philosophical thinkers and schools of philosophy – I had a hard time keeping track of all the names, arguments and time periods.

I initially had quite a lot of enthusiasm for the book, but I started to flag about halfway through. I’m not sure if this is because there’s only so much philosophy one can take over a relatively short space of time, or if the writing/topics became less interesting as they went on. The last few chapters deal with the subject of religion, but even as an atheist I found the arguments against God weak and unpersuasive.

Overall, I enjoyed Fate & Philosophy. This isn’t a book that will persuade you out of whatever beliefs you currently hold, but anyone keen to dip their toes into the philosophy waters will find it an engaging and thought-provoking read.

Reviewed by Amber Carter

Fate & Philosophy
by Jim Flynn
Published by Awa Press
ISBN 9781877551321

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