Ends of the World – Peter Brannen

This book came to me when I needed it most. At the beginning of the year, towards the harrowing end of Australia’s Black Summer (you know, in that time before Covid), I was feeling at a complete loss. I was grieving for a world we are on the brink of losing, overwhelmed with climate anxiety. Questioning what the fuck was I thinking bringing two children into this world, a world of fire and brimstone, a world that soon may no longer host koalas. It was an idle Monday afternoon at the library, just passing time when The Ends of the World jumped out at me.

This book is brimming full of knowledge and science, history and theories – it’s absolutely mind blowing. If, like me, you can at times feel anxious about the world and feel suffocated by the climate change horror story narrative, but feel somewhat relieved that we are a mere blip in the earth’s (and the universe for that matter) time scale then read The End of the World.

Although, on appearance, the content may seem dry, Brannen uses language that is engaging and in some places entertaining. Each chapter briefly outlines a geological epoch, Brannen then goes into detail on the theories of what brought it to it’s knees, detailing the Earth’s five previous mass extinctions. In each description Brannen lays down multiple explanations for the mass extinction, however, the five previous mass extinctions have all been associated with changes to the planet’s carbon cycle – exactly what we’re doing now.

I take solace in some final points. Brannen ends the book quoting his recently departed mother, “what will be, will be”, (or something like this anyway – I no longer have the book and it wasn’t in my notes). After we’re (humans) gone, all we will leave behind is a layer of stuff. It will only take around 150,000 years for the carbon to be washed out of the atmosphere. Que sera sera…

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