How to be a Climate WatcherDecember 13, 2014

If you're a literary aficionado, then you might be tired of the news about the panel of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards being accused of political bias. Hal Colebatch's "Australia's Secret War: How unions sabotaged our troops in World War II" was the winner, but you might be interested in something else. The telly showed images of Buffalo, New York blanketed by snow. It might be exciting to some viewers, as this would recall the icy waters of Niagara Falls early this year. Then it would dawn on you that Sydney had been experiencing a seesaw temperature. It didn't take long for you to recall the hail in Brisbane, which was rather unusual. Charles Dickens. Climate change?

Dickens, one of the eminent figures of Victorian literature, was the editor of Household Words, a weekly gazette that ran through the 1850s. He oversaw a weather article called Air Maps. It would seem to be hard to believe, as his novels often depicted the working-class conditions in London. Writers must make a living.

Don't wonder if there were books on weather. (The imagination has no limit.) But Dickens wasn't one of those authors on this subject. Let's look at some titles:

"The Cloudspotter's Guide" (2006) by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. We learned (at school) how clouds were formed, and the water cycle, which would be essential for the maintenance of the ecosystems. But why were artists inspired by it? Find out what Pretor-Pinney, who grew up in West London, have written about.

"Cosmos" (1980) by Carl Sagan. If you were a fan of the Cosmos television series, then this book must not be missed. You might have read (or heard) "Contact".

"The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea" (1997) by Sebastian Junger. In 1991, Halloween Nor'easter (or the The No-Name Storm) lashed the East Coast of the United States. The crew of F/V Andrea Gail were fishing the North Atlantic Ocean out of Gloucester, Massachusetts when they were caught up in the storm. Junger, a print journalist, recaptured those scary moments. The success of the book led to an adaptation to the big screen (starring George Clooney).

"Solar" (2010) by Ian McEwan. A project on climate change was the only certain thing in Michael Beard's life. Other than that, the Nobel-prize winning physicist was leading a complicated, if not chaotic, existence. Five wives (and he was unfaithful to all of them). Overeating (to relieve the stress). Ailing body. The author of "Atonement" wasn't judgmental, not even sending a message that the life of a scientist was anything but peachy. But solar energy had an influence.

"State of Fear" (2004) by Michael Crichton. Only the author of "Jurassic Park" could come up with a character like the eco-terrorist. You read it right. Many dismissed the storyline, calling it erroneous. But the native of Chicago knew which to push buttons. Let's not forget that the outcome was entertaining.

We might have missed something. Let us know.

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