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Beyond the Limits launched in Byron Bay

There was a full house for local author Tom Jagtenberg when he launched his latest hard hitting book Beyond the Limits: A Planet in Crisis (Cilento Publishing) at Mary Ryan’s bookshop on Thursday 19th.

Speakers included magistrate David Heilpern (MC), local environmental heroes Jan Barham and Ian Cohen, and the author himself.

Tom spoke about the genesis of his book in the work performed by the first Club of Rome group in the early 1970s. The fact that there were limits to growth on planet Earth was established then with the aid of computer modelling. His contemporary extrapolation of that theme addressed the ‘three elephants in the room’: climate change, over-population and an obsession with economic growth. These three factors are part of a culture of denial – also expressed by apocalyptic media, over-consumption, and narrowly focused political parties. All these elements are well known; the unique feature of Tom’s work is a multi-disciplinary overview that is often bleak and darkly humorous.

The book was highly praised by the three panel members. Each found the book absorbing and very readable, despite being highly disturbing – a considerable accolade from three well-seasoned, highly engaged, and very busy people.

The savage critique presented in the book was however too much for Messrs. Turnbull, Hunt, Dutton and Vanstone, whose notable absence was roundly lamented by MC Heilpern. His unsuccessful efforts to secure their attendance drew hearty applause from an audience that was, it has to be said, in no mood for any further denial of current and imminent ecological disasters.

Despite the odds, Jan Barham found hope in the sheer honesty of the book, and reflected on the positive political action that it is still possible to take locally. She encouraged those present to voice their concerns about the proposed Rural Land Use Strategy and to maintain the rage about the idea of rock walling Belongil Beach.

Ian Cohen reminded the audience of the important role that ‘conservative’ activists such as Milo Dunphy, a young Bob Brown, and other conservationists, had played in the early days of the Australian green movement. On at least one occasion, Ian recalled, Bob was very careful to be arrested wearing the tie that he carried in his backpack.

In general there is much about the history of environmental protest that has not been sufficiently aired. Both he and Jan Barham agreed with the proposition in Tom’s book that Left historians had radically ignored the contributions of conservationists, hippies and all manner of counterculturalists to the formation of a global green social movement. This will not be news in Nimbin.

Good company, lively discussion, food, wine and the very pleasant surroundings of Mary Ryan’s bookshop produced a great night in the twilight hours of human civilization.

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