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Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D. PHOTO: Woodland Park Zoo’s twin red panda cubs get an exam, July 26, 2018, in Seattle. Looking for books on earth care, global justice, and the process of change? Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by E. 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World by Howard G. Dancing in the Glory of the Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa by Jason K.
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Political Systems of Highland Burma: A study of Kachin Social Structure by E. Trafficking in Humans, Cameron and Newman, eds. The Future of Life by E. Using interviews with workers and movement leaders from around the world, Orleck paints a clear picture of a global movement to find dignity and opportunity in spite of the near chokehold of the forces of racism, sexism and corporatism. 100,000 more powerful than the one used in the Apollo mission to the moon, thanks to miniaturization. Steve Jobs, and most interesting to NCP, the environmental and human impacts of its production and disposal.
Need another reason to move away from a meat-based diet? This is pretty much the conclusion of this well-researched volume on the health impacts of eating more protein than we need, and having that protein come mainly from animal-based sources. Better than any book we have seen, this one lays out the causes and effects of poverty in a world where billions of people have been left behind in the economic boom that currently benefits a sliver of the global community. The book combines good research with compelling human stories to not only analyze poverty, but to help the reader feel its implications for those struggling under its burden.
19th century removal of the Cherokee people from their homeland in the Southeast to points west. This is the eco-techies Holy Grail, as it provides dozens of green strategies for curbing climate change. The biggest challenge to poorer societies is obvious but neglected, according to this enlightening and enraging book by Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros. The authors make the case that violence and the broken justice systems of many countries are keeping hundreds of millions people from achieving economic prosperity. The authors effectively use real life examples of their thesis. They describe detention of slave laborers in India, the random detention of local business people in Kenya and the violation and killing of girls in Peru—with impunity. And many of these same countries are seen by international investors as some of the better examples of the rule of law.
How do these same big businesses deal with the violence around them? Private security services—a luxury not afforded the poor. One problem of this book—it tends to overlook the many other hurdles facing the poor. We could mention the legacy of colonialism, climate change, gender bias, international trade agreements, greedy corporations and oblivious consumers, to name a few. And the authors sometimes seem to see western NGOs and governments as necessary parts of solution to the problems they describe—perhaps a bit of paternalism—and self-interest, as they run one of these organizations. Of course we’re going to like anyone who quotes NCP’s Tom Benevento’s review on the back cover and mentions NCP as one of four exemplary groups.
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But even without this, Martins’ book is very much worth the reading—perhaps even required reading for those looking for a tangible strategy for changing the world. As his title implies, Martin draws on the life, teachings and actions of Mahatma Gandhi as his inspiration and guide for brining change. He is especially drawn to Gandhi’s genius in challenging systemic issues with very personal and local actions. For instance, the Salt March called Indians to the sea to make their own salt in resistance to Britain’s colonial empire having put this essential commodity.
Even as Martin is enamored with Gandhi, he doesn’t idealize him. But he also reveals what we can learn Gandhi and his life-long campaign for Indian and human rights. Half Earth – Our Planet’s Fight for Life by E. Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard, puts forward an eloquent description of the way the world works, with species woven together to create a tapestry of life—and sustaining human life in the process. In a world where inequality prevails both within and between countries, the author tries to explain why this is so and what might be done about it. Between countries, the gross domestic product of the richest 15 countries is now 44 times that of the poorest 15 countries—up from 38 times in 1990. He notes that even automation is in some ways a response to overseas competition, as this is one way to compete with cheaper human labor elsewhere.
The author prescribes remedies for both between-country gaps and intra-country disparities. For the former he calls for opening Rich World markets to Poor World producers so as to diversify their economies beyond the sale of commodities, the promotion of good governance, equalizing opportunities, and the continuation of foreign aid. Within countries, he suggests redistribution of wealth via progressive taxation, supporting education, and reigning in the excessive profits of the financial sector. He laments that in the richer nations, efficiency is valued over equality. Raising profit is the essential motor of globalization.
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That’s the bottom line in this primer on the economics of a warming world. The authors consider various scenarios for bringing down our CO2 emissions before it truly is too late, but spend most of the time on two: geo-engineering and making carbon emitters pay. The geo-fix would put sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s energy before it strikes the earth. They give this option a thorough look, but in the end worry that the risks may outweigh the benefits.
Getting off fossil fuels is one of the most difficult challenges modern civilization has ever faced, and will require the most sustained, well-managed, globally cooperative effort the human species has ever mounted. What separates economically prosperous countries from those mired in poverty? According to our authors, it all comes down to whether a nation’s leadership and elites are willing to unleash entrepreneurship, guided by a functioning state ruled by laws that ensure a level playing field and a free market economy. While the authors give little or no attention to the role of such things as Rich World subsidies in undermining Poor World economies, or the impact of neo-liberalism in forcing reductions in social programs in the interest of paying back foreign debt, there is a good deal of attention given to the legacy of colonialism all around the world—and how it set the mold for the centralized and often brutal nation states that stifled creativity and failed to reward it. Societies need newcomers to introduce the most radical innovations, and the newcomers and the creative destruction they wreak must often overcome several sources of resistance, including from powerful rulers and elites. All too often, regulation of the chemical industry comes down to safety vs. Warren Buffett, on the one hand, this book has helpful, commonsense advice for dealing with poverty and hunger in our world.
Department of Defense, and large NGO’s like World Vision, who are dedicated to charity, not justice. If you are going to read one book on the Congo, make it this one. Employing a very effective technique of story-telling, Stearns combines a good overview of the geopolitical realities with personal vignettes and not a few personal tragedies to give a holistic look at one of the most tragic chapters in recent human history. Car rant: In almost every imaginable way, as it is deployed and used today, the automobile is insane.
It is a rolling disaster in terms of economics, environment, energy, efficiency, climate, health and safely. Our failure to acknowledge the social and real-dollar costs of these automotive shortcomings amounts to a massive hidden subsidy. The modern car could not exist without this shadow funding. It was on the back of cotton, and thus on the backs of slaves, that the US economy ascended in the world.
For most of us, this is probably news, but Beckert convincingly details the role of cotton in empowering the US onto the world economic stage in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and how this was only possible due to the availability of slave labor and cheap land–land from which native Americans had been expelled, usually by force. This is a fascinating and deeply troubling look at how cotton fueled globalization and helped launch the industrial revolution. Pithy quote: “The all-encompassing control of workers – a core characteristic of capitalism – experienced its first great success in the cotton plantations of the American South. Chris Hedges begins this book describing how movements to change society are born and what inspires the people who birth them. Reasons for his conclusions about this moment being momentous include the deep economic disparities within and between nations, ecological crises such as climate change, and the insidious influence of corporate power over our lives and our leaders. People will sooner or later become fed up with these realities and find ways to express this—either with violence or impassioned nonviolent resistance.
Hedges clearly promotes the latter option. In these moments, it matters more what is felt than what is said. To rebel against insurmountable odds is an act of faith, without which the rebel is doomed. Shapiro has given us one of the best books out there for understanding the implications of climate change for the way we live.
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Keeping these carbon costs a mystery has been fundamental to our economic growth. Jeter takes on economic globalization with the passion of someone who has seen its impacts first-hand. He spends a little too much time in his final chapters with personal stories from inner city America, but all in all, a very comprehensive and comprehensible look at the real impacts on real people of international financial policies. Globalization is an international shake-down, and its targets are ordinary people. Paul Farmer is one of the world’s most respected authorities on dealing with disease in the Poor World.
Haiti and Rwanda, which has given him real world experience in what it takes to successfully treat disease in the midst of challenging circumstances. A good read for any of us—should be required reading for med students and workcampers and mission-trippers of any stripe. It’s easy to be dismissive of accompaniment in a world in which technical expertise is advanced as the answer to every problem. But expertise alone will not solve these difficult problems. This was the les of the earthquake in Haiti. We all waited to be saved by expertise, and it never came.
Accompaniment does not privilege technical prowess above solidarity or compassion or a willingness to tackle what may seem to be insuperable challenges. Part travelogue and part investigative reporting, Timmerman sets out on a global quest to find out by whom and under what circumstances his attire was made. This is the engaging tale of two old women who found within themselves strength and courage neither they nor their people thought they possessed. Living among the Gwich’in of northeast Alaska, the women were left behind in the clutches of a coming winter as tribal leaders had to make hard decisions about how the group would survive in the face of near starvation. What happens next was enough to keep me and my 12 year-old granddaughter enthralled for duration of the small book’s 90 or so pages.
Along with a fine story of human resilience and reconciliation, the tale also offers a revealing window into the lives of Alaska’s tribal people before the arrival of outsiders. The story is told by Velma Wallis, a Gwich’in woman, who had it passed down to her by her mother some years ago. At least let us die trying. From humble beginnings as an entrant in the elixir wars of the late 1800’s to the world’s most valuable brand, Coca Cola has grown alongside—and in many ways led—modern consumer society. The NAACP wouldn’t support New York’s mayor Bloomberg in his effort to cap soft drink sizes at 16 ounces, even though African Americans have the highest rate of obesity in the US. Coke had made donations to NAACP programs, and many minority-owned businesses depend on soft drink sales for a large chunk of their income. This is a comprehensive but easy to read study of a dominant global economic and cultural colossus and the ingenious way it has manipulated consumers, the government and the environment in a ceaseless quest for growth, power and profit.
For over one hundred years, the company maintained the semblance of sustainability, in both economic and environmental senses, because the essential supply chains of abundance that fuel its growth never ended up on its books. Wilson, the eminent ant-specialist from Harvard and leading voice for conservation, I was excited to see this book on the library shelf. Wilson felt he had to launch another attack on one of his favorite foils—organized religion. Here and elsewhere he finds religious mythology a hindrance at best and a direct and derided adversary at worst for his vision of a world where respect for others and our planet should reign supreme. Where Wilson fails, at least to this reader, is to recognize that many in the religious community fit none of these categories, and indeed have been on the forefront of efforts to respect people and planet. The cost to society as a whole of the bowed head has been enormous. Poet laureate of Nebraska John Niehardt interviewed Lakota medicine man Black Elk in 1930, creating what turns out to be an autobiography that is at once fascinating and deeply troubling, as it tells the story of the demise of Native American society at the hands of white settlers and soldiers.
The book is essentially a transcript of a conversation between Niehardt and Black Elk that takes place at the old man’s home in Manderson, South Dakota when he was 67 years old. Two things are particularly compelling about Black Elk’s story. First, in this interview he reveals for the first time that when he was nine years old, he had an experience that was to haunt him the rest of his life. He contracted an unidentified illness and was semi-comatose for 12 days, during which time he had an extremely intricate and powerful vision full of symbols of Lakota spiritual beliefs.
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At one point in the vision, he saw himself standing at the center of the universe. This is what mythologist Joseph Campbell refers to as “the axis mundi, the central point, the pole around which all revolvesthe point where stillness and movement are together. In other words, Black Elk was residing at the axis of the six sacred directions. Secondly, his growing up years coincided with the invasion of the lands of the plains peoples by the westward expansive of whites. He recounts Custer’s Last Stand, which he observed as a nine year-old. Later he was present during the massacre of Indian women and children at Wounded Knee. All in all, this is a deeply moving recounting by one who was there for the erasure—or at least severe diminishment and displacement—of a once free and proud people, the American Indian.
Wherever we went, the soldiers came to kill us, and it was all our own country. It was ours already when the Wasichus made the treaty with Red Cloud that said it would be ours as long as the grass should grow and water flow. That was only eight winters before, and they were chasing us now because we remembered and they forgot. This is an extremely well-documented and engaging look at the in-corporation of the US food system, along with what this has done to small farmers, our health, the economies of rural communities, and the well-being of the environment. 3 trillion business in the USA, and with that much money on the table, you can bet Big Business is going to be interested—and use every trick up its sleeve to control as much of this process as possible.
Hauter does a nice job of reviewing the history of local resistance to industrial food production, which includes some successes along the way. She places a lot of blame for the current system on politicians, who make promises during the Iowa political primaries they can’t find the courage to keep once in Washington, and who trumpet free trade even when this promotes food imports instead of locally available seasonal foods. The incidence of heart disease in the USA tripled in the first half of the 20th Century. Reeves puts the blame squarely on unhealthy air, unhealthy food and the pollution and stress of living in urban environments. Studies have shown that areas deforested by the Emerald Ash Borer saw higher cardiovascular disease rates as a consequence of fewer trees around to clean the air, provide cooler temperatures, produce air-borne molecules that lower blood pressure, and increase the aesthetics of neighborhoods. Quote: “Human beings seem to have sacrificed the health of their arteries in the name of progress.
This annual report is perhaps the most comprehensive overview of the situation of the world’s 2. 2 billion children, showing both progress in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable ones, and the work yet to be done. Good news: child deaths from measles declined from 482,000 in 2000 to 86,000 in 2012, thanks to widespread immunizations. 6 million children under five still die every year around the world from preventable causes. This annual assessment of life on earth presents the grim reality facing many of the world’s living creatures—along with a few success stories. 2009, and mountain gorilla numbers have modestly increased in Congo’s Virunga National Park, both thanks to more stringent protection.
But the overall picture is far less rosy. The tropics have suffered the greatest losses, followed by the Indo-Pacific region and African tropical areas. Reichman examines the impacts of such global realities as the coffee industry, migration and the benefits and liabilities of remittances, and neo-liberal economic policies by zeroing in on one small Honduran community that has been dramatically affected by all of the above. Land ownership is central to the well-being of the rural poor of Honduras, yet the best land is increasingly in the hands of ten wealthy, politically-connected and often ruthless families. Working in concert with national and international groups—including the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development—they control the production of products like palm oil, a process than begins with acquiring the necessary land by any means possible. 1 percent of the wealthiest farmers control 25 percent of the land. Naomi Klein turns her impressive analytical and writing skills toward climate change—and the result is a challenging indictment of our inactivity accompanied by a clarion call to recognize the urgency of the moment and get busy reversing course.
Otherwise, she says, we get a 4 degree C rise in temperature by the end of the century, and a world incompatible with organized, civilized, equitable human society. Klein gives climate deniers credit for being right about one thing: if we admit the climate is changing due to human impacts—as the vast majority of scientists assert—we will indeed have to make drastic changes. And that’s something not even Big Green will say. In people and groups of people who reject the culture of consumption and who practice interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, who value reciprocity over dominance, and who practice living more with less and raise a moral voice calling society toward a better future.
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Fish and humans go way back—but may not have much of a shared future if we don’t quickly begin to exercise common sense in using them as a food source. That’s the thesis of this well-written book, which highlights four fish that symbolize our use of seafood for sustenance over the centuries. Greenberg combines his personal love of fishing with both scientific and local knowledge to present a compelling call for conservation of these creatures, both in order to insure the future productivity of the oceans and for their own sake as creatures worthy of our respect—and restraint. 9000 giant bluefin spawners left in the wild? Leach, a British anthropologist, lived among and chronicled the cultural patterns of these communities in the middle of the past century. So this isn’t necessarily a recommendation to read this particular book, but to find something to read that pulls back the layers on these kinds of land-based societies—if for no other reason than to see what we’ve left behind on our rush to modernity. His main concern is capitalism’s tendency to accrue wealth to those who already have it, thus inexorably widening the gap nationally and globally between a thin strata of fabulously wealthy people and the rest of us who often struggle to get by.
United States, as the most unequal of all other comparable economies. He suggests investing in education as a way of helping workers have skills to market—and thus perhaps demand a fairer wage. He believes the only way to make this tax work is for it to be a global agreement—otherwise people and corporations will shelter their money in tax havens. No doubt the veritable cult of Bill Gates is an outgrowth of the apparent need of modern democratic societies to make sense of inequality. This small book is full of helpful observations for anyone who is or wants to be a public speaker. Wyeth has written this for businesspeople, but I found it applies equally as well for preachers, teachers and even nonprofit directors.
This book lays out in a convincing and engaging manner the evidence that humans alter – typically in a destructive manner – any environment they enter. Within decades of the Maori arrival on New Zealand, all nine species of giant moas were extinct. The book reads like a well-paced crime novel – in investigating the demise of everything from bats to rhinos, every path leads to the same suspect: humankind. But her overall analysis of human tendencies don’t leave much room for optimism for non-human species – and then perhaps eventually for ourselves. Notable quote: “Though it might be nice to imagine there once was a time when man lived in harmony with nature, it is not clear that he ever really did.