Nobel laureate Peter Doherty's latest book is Sentinel Chickens: What birds tell us about our health and the world. Growing up as an avid reader of everything and anything, Peter Doherty considered career paths as diverse as journalism and medicine, then took the least obvious path and enrolled in veterinary science at the University of Queensland. Apart from giving a solid grounding in disciplines like biochemistry, pathology, microbiology, beer drinking, windmill pipe-pulling and bore drain maintenance, that very pragmatic training also introduced him to the harsh realities of life in the Australian outback. Distanced from that culture by the spectacular discovery that led to his Nobel Prize, he spent years focused narrowly on understanding the basic nature of T cell-mediated immunity in virus diseases. While that, and understanding pandemic infections, remain major passions, the science spokesman role that adds a job description for Nobel Prize winners has in some sense returned him to the breadth of his early experience. He is increasingly obsessed with the linked questions of how we communicate the necessity to confront reality and act to promote long-term sustainability in our increasingly challenged world. Science identifies the problems that we face and, given adequate resources, has the capacity to develop solutions. But how do we achieve the consensus required for meaningful action?