In a stellar (and readable) example of interdisciplinary historical research, Davis lays bare the skeleton underlying many of the popular conceptionsIn a stellar (and readable) example of interdisciplinary historical research, Davis lays bare the skeleton underlying many of the popular conceptions regarding the nature of the "Third World" and its economies. Drawing from sources as diverse as scientific accounts of El Nino and La Nina cycles at the turn of the last century, missionary writings, accountancy notes, travelers' journals, newspaper clippings, and other exhaustive primary and secondary works, Davis describes how the British empire, along with other colonial forces, took advantage of periods of what would have been survivable drought in India, China, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Brazil, and used the circumstances of need to crush the local structures of governance and food-sharing networks and create a horror show of poverty, disease, and the starvation deaths of millions upon millions of people, while simultaneously setting the stage for a further century of economic privation and authoritarian control....more
This text should be required reading for participation in the planetary exchange of resources; i.e. breathing, drinking, eating, excreting.
What LynasThis text should be required reading for participation in the planetary exchange of resources; i.e. breathing, drinking, eating, excreting.
What Lynas has provided here is a comprehensive summary of international research on climate change and carbon emissions from a variety of perspectives and methodologies. The result is a harrowing projection of the kinds of shifts in ecosystems around the world - water tables, weather patterns, food production, biodiversity, ocean acidity - that are likely to occur if the average temperature of the earth goes up by as much as 6 degrees C. In each successive chapter, degree by degree, Lynas walks the reader through the gradual changes humanity can expect to experience, based upon a combination of state-of-the-art computer modeling, statistical probabilities, current observable trends, and historical precedence. The end result walks a fine line between igniting profound motivation for change and tripping the wire of paralytic despair.
A major criticism I have of the work is that, in all but the sketchiest senses, Lynas fails to make the connections between the emissions/warming circumstances and the sociopolitical systems that have precipitated them. Only once or twice does he point directly to global capitalism and consumption at both the industrial and individual levels, and then to predict that - at the point of societal collapse - popular political theory may shift to point blame where it is "deserved." His intention is only to provide an accessible reference for the scientific research as it exists - a moral choice that, given the severity of the circumstances he describes, seems to me cowardly and untenable. Nonetheless, an important book....more
I met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her beautiful novel, The Jump-off Creek. She was a local hero for the sI met Molly Gloss when I was in high school in Eastern Oregon, the setting for her beautiful novel, The Jump-off Creek. She was a local hero for the simple reason that she wrote about our world, our hills, our familiar tamarack forests and sagebrush, our quiet people and the lives they lead. In a state best known for Portland and the accessibility of natural wonder to the urban I-5 corridor, it was a refreshing bit of acknowledgment to see real - published! - art showing an interest in and sensitivity to the rural eastern expanse of the state.
Not to wax too nostalgic: I didn't like growing up there. To me, the hills were beautiful, boring boundaries carefully dividing my sheltered little town from the weird, varied world I knew existed outside the valley. People were mean, and small-minded, and often simple and hateful. I was mocked until I got too strange, and then I was just feared; stupid, superficial things like purple hair and noserings became metaphysical symbols of all that the down-home culture despised, and they made damn sure I knew it.
It is odd, then, that a book like this should come along - a tender, honest portrait of a small community in Eastern Oregon, not directly inside the valley where I lived, but near by a county or two, which in rural terms means practically the same place - and completely break my heart. Never have I had so much longing for a thing I never loved.
First of all, don't judge a book by its cover. No, really. Never in a thousand years would I have chosen to read something with a golden sunset and a girl-on-horseback silhouette. Hell, I even try to avoid anything with the word "heart" in the title, unless it's closely followed by "darkness." If you can't get past it, I recommend wrapping the book in a plain brown wrapper and pushing on through, because if you don't, you will miss one of the more interesting examinations of small-town life, and with it, a young female hero demonstrating perfectly that role models don't need to be princesses, warriors, or ravishingly beautiful to be strong and, more importantly, real....more
This novel is both spare and rich, quick-moving and richly imagined. It is also devastating.
In the tradition of animals-as-protagonists, The White BoThis novel is both spare and rich, quick-moving and richly imagined. It is also devastating.
In the tradition of animals-as-protagonists, The White Bone relies the least upon clever and familiar anthropomorphic mannerisms and worlds, relative to other classics of the genre, like the weirdly wonderful Duncton Wood, about moles, or the fantastically creepy Watership Down, (whose portrayal of rabbits left me with a permanent fascination and mild fear of the fluffy creatures). Barbara Gowdy creates, instead, a definite and partly alien culture for her characters, complete with kinship structures, celebrations and rituals, hymns, cosmology, care-giving practices, hierarchies, and time/space measurements, all distinct and largely unrelated to our own. What makes this work so beautifully is the research upon which these speculative systems are based, and the genuine love and wonder she has for the species. The other element that makes it all so powerful is her gentle but pointed interweaving of the destructive influence humans have had upon this culture in the "real" world.
The White Bone serves not only as an excellent example of an alternative fiction, but also as a clear statement of protest against the ivory trade and poaching practices in general. Gorgeous, sad, strange. Very highly recommended....more
My father is an adventurer at heart. He rode a motorcycle through South America a decade before Che; he jumped out of airplanes at night and landed inMy father is an adventurer at heart. He rode a motorcycle through South America a decade before Che; he jumped out of airplanes at night and landed in Southeast Asian jungles; he spent 40 years fishing in Alaska, both off Kodiak and in the Bering Sea. Now, he and my mother are retired, and they spend a good deal of their time traveling still - on a motorcycle. They have a great set-up: a trailer packed with a beautiful tent and an air mattress; picnic goodies, bottles of gin. They tool around Mexico and the continental U.S., camping in the back yards of breweries and hanging out for weekends at bluegrass shows. They've definitely got some things figured out.
They met Ted Simon, and enjoyed an afternoon of story-swapping; my dad said this book made him want to take off across the world again. Knowing my own taste for travel and the edgy, dangerous, or uncomfortable experience, my dad lent me his signed copy of this book as a way of sharing something he cares about.
Most critics say that this book gave them an uncontrollable attack of Wanderlust. Strange - having spent most of my life in the grips of such restlessness, this book actually made me reflect on the temporary contentment I now enjoy after years of being anywhere but here.
Simon was a journalist prior to becoming a self-styled hero, and we are grateful - his writing is adequate, and often even lucid and beautiful. The Journey is strangely bodiless, for the most part. Simon writes like a pair of traveling eyes with an ego attached; rarely do we get saddle sores, headaches, heat rash, or dysentery on this 4-year odyssey. Perhaps he is a remarkably hardy specimen; perhaps he didn't think it necessary to put us through more than the occasional swarm of mosquitoes. Nonetheless, there is a closely observed richness to his writing, and an immediacy that shows he took good notes, and was able to revisit his experiences in sequence as well as through a greater common narrative.
Despite his occasionally inflated sense of self (he is extremely proud of his accomplishments, throughout), Simon makes for a thoughtful and sensitive tour guide. I chalk his accidental chauvinism up to a lack of insight - few informants for the world of women, as he traces his global story through the men he meets, with the occasional entrance of a woman as a beautiful or admirable thing, though rarely world-shaping or responsible for the building of human history.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone with a fondness for things other than the familiar, with a taste for travel, or even for the casual motorcycle fetishist. His trip is worth admiring, and worth using as an example - both of the possibilities that lie before individuals who choose to take the roads less traveled, and of the uncertainty that comes with any spiritual quest....more
I have a special thing for Molly Gloss. Her books "Jump Off Creek" and "Outside the Gates" were both startling finds for me in high school. She even vI have a special thing for Molly Gloss. Her books "Jump Off Creek" and "Outside the Gates" were both startling finds for me in high school. She even visited my English class once - an unusual bit of luck for a girl stranded in the smallest of small-town isolations - 19 people in my class, 17 of them boys. My English teacher took her and me out to lunch and she showed Gloss some of my writing. I was mortified, but she, at the very least, pretended to be impressed, inscribed a book for me, and urged me to carry on with my writing. One of these days I'll track her down again and thank her. Even if the 16-year-old girl wasn't ready for the encouragement, the 32-year-old reminds herself of it daily.
This book is what reviewers often call "richly imagined." In a seemingly short number of pages, she unearths whole complex worlds full of introspective and believable humanity, the sort not often found in science fiction. Her meditation is less one of technology and more one of universals, of the persistence of human tendencies, human fears and loves and works, in the most unlikely of settings.
The plot is an escape from a broken world, a flight from a dying planet to a new one that spans hundreds of years and generations of humans aboard a living spaceship full of streams and fields and insects and all the necessary trappings of an agrarian existence. The most interesting aspects are that these people 1. are Quakers, and 2. speak Esperanto, an artificial language that never quite took root anywhere since its creation as a hopeful global lingua franca in the late nineteenth century.
I have little background in the beliefs and practices of the Quakers, other than a vague familiarity with their meeting styles and a consciousness of their contributions to civil rights and peace movements. I am impressed with their practice of shared silence, and the weight Gloss gives this form of consensus-shaping as a political and community model. I love that, even in fiction distant from our own contexts we still find reflection for our practices.
This is a heart-breaking book, in the way that life is heart-breaking. It is full of questions and rolling continuity rather than neat answers and ends. It is both very complete and totally open-ended, in a hopeful sort of way.
I originally read this in college, but lately have returned to Bookchin's writings for a number of reasons; one, his recent death, and the impact thatI originally read this in college, but lately have returned to Bookchin's writings for a number of reasons; one, his recent death, and the impact that has had on my husband, who studied with Murray at the Institute for Social Ecology; two, a reinvigoration of my sense of urgency regarding ecological matters; and three, a desperate need to find a way to offer answers rather than anger and, simply, more questions when confronted with "the way things are."
There are many things in this book to love. Currently, I am struggling to make it to those points, as I got mired in the first chapter and grew angry and impatient with what I took to be a gross oversimplification of the development of hierarchy and the nature of pre-capitalist social organization, cross-culturally. I'll finish this review once I've returned to the thick of things, the summaries of the social ecological principles that guide so many of us, in spirit if not in explicit paths to liberation....more
This was written by my current employer, environmentalist and economist Dr. Eban Goodstein, at Lewis and Clark College. He founded the non-profit projThis was written by my current employer, environmentalist and economist Dr. Eban Goodstein, at Lewis and Clark College. He founded the non-profit project Focus the Nation, now called the National Teach-In on Global Warming Solutions (http://nationalteachin.org). We're in the process of organizing a national educational project to raise awareness about the current climate crisis; our intention is to spark a coherent social movement that will both participate in direct actions and demand policy changes from the bottom up.
Reading about global warming is not fun. It's often redundant, pessimistic, relentlessly quantitative, and in general, difficult to relate to. All of these things combine with the overall silence of our media on the issue and our own senses of powerlessness, ultimately resulting in despair, which transmutes quickly into indifference or apathy.
What I like about Eban's book is that he clearly came to his own conviction regarding the need for action from a very personal place. He understands that it isn't always economics or fear that motivate people, although they are common tactics in the short term. People can also be moved by their senses of love, or experience, or even morality - and it is from this direction that he brings the reader to his own place of urgency. I think a lot of people that to this point remain unconvinced, or at the very least unmotivated to act on the issue of climate change, may find a voice here that they can relate to....more
This book was written by a close friend of my parents, one of the old-school members of the "outlaw" community in which we lived. Andre was in AnchoraThis book was written by a close friend of my parents, one of the old-school members of the "outlaw" community in which we lived. Andre was in Anchorage for much of his life, given to chain-smoking and wearing berets; we were in Dutch Harbor and Kodiak. We lived on a boat. We had a paperback copy of this book of his, signed in a friendly scrawl that has faded over the years, due to wear, sun-exposure, salt spray, and the fact that I read the thing 17 times between the ages of 9 and 19. He was an accidental hero of mine, just one more example of the possibilities of what a life could look like, and another instance of what was commonplace in Alaska seeming like the lunatic fringe everywhere else.
This is the original Into the Wild, only instead of being an arrogant, self-centered, privileged kid that ends up dead in the wilderness, Andy is a grown man (with a history of self-abuse), who heads into the wild to save his own life. What results is a beautifully honest, lucid, first-person account of the authentic Alaskan outback lifestyle. I hesitate to use the predictable descriptor "gritty," but be prepared for uncomfortably "real": as in, seal clubbing and other less savory acts of human interest.
On the other hand, Andy's writing style has a freshness and a clarity to it that comes from being an interesting man with a story to tell, with none of the conceits or distractions of a "writer's" identity. I suppose it would be considered a "naive" work, when "naive" means self-taught; for all I know, the book was self-published, as well, and sold primarily in gift stores in Kodiak and the Anchorage airport.
This book is one of my secrets; I hereby share it. Find it and read it. It's great....more
This is an exciting book, a thrilling, weird read. Worms! Did you know they make choices about how to drag leaves into holes, that they contemplate geoThis is an exciting book, a thrilling, weird read. Worms! Did you know they make choices about how to drag leaves into holes, that they contemplate geometry?! Wow.
The author is a gardener, and brings to her writing a gentle compassion for her subject that is both endearing and infectious. She clearly spends a great deal of time kneeling in her garden patch, communing with the variety of critters that call it home. She is thoughtful and clear, excited and fun - she manages to walk a fine line between memoir and journalism that is very accessible. I raced through this in three bus rides and an evening on the couch.
One of the nicest aspects to this work is the way she builds character relationships for her readers. The worms themselves are real and approachable without being anthropomorphized. My favorite character was something of a surprise: Charles Darwin himself, in his later, homebound years, when he apparently left studies of the origins of species in exchange for the quieter contemplation of his own backyard. He, too, was excited about worms.
I'm sold. I've asked for a vermicomposter for Christmas, and I'm convinced that you should, too....more
I don't know what it is about Jared Diamond - I just can't seem to get as impressed by this man as I'm apparently supposed to be, Genius Award and allI don't know what it is about Jared Diamond - I just can't seem to get as impressed by this man as I'm apparently supposed to be, Genius Award and all. The man needs an editor, for one thing: at least 200 pages of this 500-plus monstrosity were parenthetical tangents that belonged in footnotes. His work is often referred to as "staggering," which, I'm now convinced, refers not to his intellect so much as to the overwhelming quantity of minutae he presents the reader as if it were a substitute for analysis. It is staggering - and incredibly boring at points. I had to force myself to finish this book, and it took weeks - I usually devour good books in a matter of days.
There are fascinating details in here - all is not lost. I loved the sections dealing with the Maya, the Anasazi, Easter Island, and the successful anarchism of the New Guinea highlanders. However, I fear that anyone reading this book with the intention of understanding better how to avoid the global collapse we seem to be heading for will be sorely disappointed. His summaries and, ultimately, his thesis are weak and hidden within a snow flurry of excess detail....more