The Pulse of The Earth

By Adam Bobbette

Adam Bobette works in Glasgow’s West End as a Geographer and Lecturer at The University of Glasgow. He has written and published for multiple magazines including Drawing Matter, n+1, London Review of Books and his latest essay ‘Shells and Shell’ for e-flux. His other publications include Political Geology: Active Stratigraphies and the Making of Life, New Earth Histories, and Berita Gunung Berapi.

The Pulse of the Earth

Review – Chloe Bate

On a journey through central Java, Adam Bobbette leads us through the rich tapestry of the last century of Javanese history, and the seismic impact a small island in the Indian Ocean had on shaping modern geological theory. Java, with the highest density of volcanoes on earth, remains in constant activity, with an ever-changing landscape mirroring its dynamic history, marked by political and religious upheaval.

Through meticulous documentation, The Pulse of The Earth unravels a complex narrative, specifically through the intertwining of scientific theory and its profound co-evolvement with culture, politics, and religion. Through all this, Bobbette comes and finds you, drawing out the real thread to follow in such a story. Each religious folklore, each myth, each political event, every theory that builds upon the geological sciences, is succinctly given their own space; their own time without needing to convince you of their importance. It’s a satisfying puzzle, where there is a palpable feeling of the unbounded and free, within the very greatly bound layers of magma and rock.

Humanity’s Connection to the Earth

Offering a compelling insight into the dynamic relationship between humanity and its geological and cultural roots, The pulse of the Earth reaffirms science as social production and the social from scientific production. In a nod to namesake Dutch colonist Johannes Umbgroves’s 1942 work, we have an account that includes the wonder and beauty of the landscape portrayed by Umbgrove. He also pays homage to the role of Indonesian culture and mythology that allowed for all the research carried out in the area. There is no isolated narrative and the messiness of it all makes for a thrilling read. You observe the story unfurl, like the plumes of smoke so often seen from volcanoes like Mount Merapi.

Where the book sings, is through the story of Suparno and Santoso, two men who live below Merapi’s summit in Keningar, and in their reflections on the heart and human condition gained from having lived in a volcanic region. After hearing the story of their land, you yourself have taken the place of the very observatories spoken of in the final chapter, bearing witness to the culmination of a century of physical, political, and spiritual instability. 

Ultimately, The Pulse of The Earth transcends geology, becoming an introspective inquiry into human existence; and what our connection is to this immense and fragile Earth. It serves as a beautiful account of communication that strengthens the claim that science and society depend on the same foundation: they cannot be separated. Bobbette first learned about Indonesia’s role in modern day geology after turning a corner in central Java.

You, luckily, will be able to by turning a page.

The Pulse of the Earth by Adam Bobbette is available from Amazon or through Duke University Press.

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