The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet

The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet
John Bellamy Foster, New York: Monthly Review Press, 2009, 328 pages.

Do you ever suspect that there is something fundamentally wrong with our capitalist society? Have you wondered what advice Karl Marx would give to the modern environmentalist? If so, The Ecological Revolution by John Bellamy Foster may interest you.

A professor of sociology at the University of Oregon at Eugene, Foster begins the book in no uncertain terms, arguing that humans need to revolutionize their relationship with Earth, or else suffer many dangerous consequences. He believes that this revolution must be a socialist one, and uses the bulk of The Ecological Revolution to explain why.

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The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights

The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights
David E. Gumpert
White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green, 2009, 288 pages

The Raw Milk Revolution, by David E. Gumpert, would more accurately be entitled “Milk Wars.” Any attempt to sell raw milk creates a froth of such proportions that we must conclude that it is symptomatic of something bigger.

The war is all about politics and ideology – about food control and food beliefs. So when battle lines are outwardly drawn around issues of food safety and the right of citizens to choose the food they want, it takes Gumpert’s sharp journalistic skills to uncover what risks to profits and livelihoods could lie beneath….[Click here to read more!]

Genius of Common Sense + Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad

Genius of Common Sense
Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch
Boston: David R. Godine, 2009, 128 pages

Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad
Frances Moore Lappé
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Small Planet Media, 2007, 208 pages

How do you change the world? Where do you start, locally or globally? For inspiration and a way out of the paralysis that stymies so many of us, two remarkable­ women – Jane Jacobs and Frances Moore Lappé – offer some practical­ ideas.

Jacobs, the late, great thinker, activist and author, is the subject of a new book written for people aged “10 to 100.” It is the story of how Jacobs’ seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, came to be written, and what shaped and influenced her life.

Younger readers will enjoy meeting Jacobs as an inquisitive, fearless child who never lost her propensity to think independently until the day she died in 2006, just a week shy of turning 90. The book’s title, Genius of Common Sense, is not hyperbole. Jacobs’ observations about what makes cities livable ran counter to urban theorists in New York City, where she lived at the time. Lacking a university degree, she wasn’t taken seriously until she began writing articles and making her voice heard in neighbourhood protests.

Augmented with photographs and pencil illustrations, Genius of Common Sense chronicles Jacobs’ life [Click here to read more!]

Some Like It Cold: The Politics of Climate Change in Canada

Climate change, climate forcing, global warming – all these terms frame a collective public debate about the future of the world as we know it. Since that “world” is dynamic and geographically diverse, it is not surprising that political responses range widely from hand-wringing to commitment and resignation, to disbelief and reticence, or even outright denial.

Bush’s Fringe Government + Welcome to Doomsday

n Bush’s Fringe Government, Garry Wills identifies the origin of the administration’s overwhelming religious support: the recent pragmatic alliance between evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics in the United States.

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance to Save Humanity

Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe And Our Last Chance to Save Humanity
James Hansen, New York: Bloomsbury, 2009, 320 pages.

It’s odd. At 68, James Hansen, arguably the planet’s most renowned climatologist and one of the earliest prophets of human-induced global climate change, has finally published his first book.
“Odd” is a fitting description for the book as well.

Storms of My Grandchildren is an expansive treatise on the perils of increased carbon dioxide emissions, juxtaposed with anecdotes of Hansen’s meetings with the likes of Dick Cheney and his Climate Task Force, … [Click here to read more!]

Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent

Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent
Andrew Nikiforuk
Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2008, 208 pages.

It’s no secret that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have designed their environmental policy to fit a full-speed-ahead exploitation of Alberta’s tar sands. It’s important, therefore, to have an understanding of the industry’s environmental impact. Andrew Nikiforuk’s award-winning Tar Sands offers precisely that.

First, “oil sands” is a misnomer. The resource is actually a mixture of sand and clay that contains a small percentage of bitumen – a sticky concoction of hydrocarbons that also contains sulfur, nitrogen and heavy metals. Energy companies scour vast reaches of the … [Click here to read more!]

Climate Wars + Global Warring

Climate Wars
Gwynne Dyer
Toronto: Random House, Canada, 2008, 288 pages.

Global Warring
Cleo Paskal
Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2009, 288 pages.

Here’s a fact I had never considered: the word “rival” comes from the Latin word rivalis, meaning “those who draw water from the same source.” Rivalry is closely related to the availability of shared resources, and tensions are easily triggered when food and water are at stake.

Now, let’s take this to the extreme: climate change projections suggest that the flow of  many of the world’s major rivers will be seriously reduced as glaciers retreat. The scale of potential conflict is staggering. The Himalayan watershed alone, which includes the Ganges, Indus, Yangtze and Mekong Rivers, supplies water to almost half the people on this planet, including nuclear powers China, India and Pakistan.

But this is about more than rivers. Two new books on the issue, Climate Wars and Global Warring, introduce a bevy of reasons for concern: natural disasters, disappearing low-lying island states, shifting coasts and access to oceanic exploitation zones, the melting Northwest Passage, desertification and altered patterns of food production. Each has the potential to redefine how we interpret and conceptualize international law, how we interact diplomatically with other nations, and how and why we engage militarily.

Cleo Paskal, a fellow at Chatham House who boasts journalistic stints at The Economist and the Chicago Tribune, seeks to “introduce and legitimize the idea that environmental change is about to have enormous, and specific, geopolitical consequences.”…[Click here to read more!]

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics
Roger A. Pielke, Jr.
New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 188 pages.

A stranger approaches you and asks for a referral to a restaurant in your town. How would you respond?

With this engaging question, Roger Pielke, an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, opens his book concerning four idealized ways that science and environmental policy interact.

It would probably surprise the stranger if you handed him… [Click here to read more!]

Instituting Change

Canadian Water Politics: Conflicts and Institutions
Mark Sproule-Jones, Carolyn Johns, B. Timothy Heinmiller (eds.)
Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press
2008, 360 pages.

Institutions and Environmental Change: Principal Findings, Applications, and Research Frontiers
Oran R. Young, Leslie A. King and Heike Schroeder (eds.)
Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press
2008, 400 pages.

Admitting a keen interest in policy reform won’t make you popular at cocktail parties. Trust me. But policy is simply shorthand for decisions that determine our collective action, and those havea way of exciting people. The rights, rules and procedures that we use to make decisions and take action are woven
together by the machinery of institutions. While confirming that institutions are important, both Canadian Water Politics and Institutions and Environmental Change describe how we might tinker with, or even renovate, institutions so that they make better decisions – particularly environmental ones.

Canadian Water Politics addresses a fundamental problem in managing water: the incompatibility between the fluid properties of the resource and the seemingly immutable characteristics of its management. Institutions give rise to social practices and guide social interactions, and in this context, Canadian Water Politics examines how institutions mediate, amplify,… [Click here to read more!]

Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia

Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia Tony Penikett Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre 2006, 303 pages. The Supreme Court of Canada issued judgment in 1973 on the land rights of the Nisga’a Indians of the Nass Valley in British Columbia. Named after Frank Calder, a well-known Nisga’a chief and former member of the provincial…

Dry Spring: The Coming Water Crisis of North America

Wood identifies two possible strategies to address our uncertain freshwater future. We can build more dams, reservoirs, river diversions, aqueducts, canals, pipelines, wells, recycling plants and desalination facilities. Alternately, “we can choose how we use what we have now.” The latter, an approach Wood advocates, involves changing the way we manage our watersheds; using ecologically sound appliances and irrigation techniques; and changing our markets, our bookkeeping, and the laws that undervalue this life- giving resource.

Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy

Perhaps it is the economic crisis. Maybe it is climate change, soaring extinction rates or the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor. Or then again, it could simply be the nagging sense among more and more people that the human project has somehow gone awry. Whatever the case, in recent years, we have witnessed an explosion of popular interest in books that question, even excoriate, the most fundamental assumptions of our current, growth-at-all-costs economic system.

Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster

In his newest book, Managing Without Growth, York University professor Peter Victor makes a convincing case that rich nations, such as Canada, can abandon economic growth as a national goal without compromising their citizens’ happiness. He suggests that helping developing nations approach the Western world’s standard of living would provide a better and safer future.

Wilderness Committee Slams BC Throne Speech

Vancouver, BC – The Wilderness Committee is raising concerns regarding inconsistencies and misinformation in the BC throne speech for 2009. Tuesday’s throne speech was a disappointing example of rhetoric over reality. The government is pushing forward a number of environmentally harmful initiatives all the while trying to pass them off as green. It’s green-washing, plain…