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Terra: Tales of the Earth

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In Terra, Hamblyn fuses history and science to explore the relationship between the earth and its inhabitants. The book is in four key sections – earth, air, fire and water. In each he explores a historical disaster through first-person accounts: the Lisbon earthquake of 1755; the European weather panic of 1783; the eruption of Krakatau in 1883; and the Hilo tsunami of 1946.

Hamblyn muses on the earth’s deep connections: each of these events was precipitated by another natural disaster – a volcano caused both the tsunami and the strange weather, for example. These testify to the planet’s energy, but is life on earth sustainable in the face of such devastation? Searching for an answer, he wonders why humans are unable to learn from past catastrophes.

Despite fascinating material, at times Terra reads as a stream of blurred facts rather than a sustained narrative or argument.

Published in the Financial Times

Written by Magda M Ali

January 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm