Review: Eaarth–Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

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4.0 out of 5 stars Starts Weak, Ends Strong, Not the Whole Picture

July 21, 2010

Bill McKibben

EDIT of 2 August 2010: However great the mind or the man, we all make mistakes. Paul Hawkins made his with Monsanto, I've made mine. ClimateGate established with clarity the fraud associated with both the fabricated science and the intended “sub-prime mortgaging” of the Earth's atmosphere. Maurice Strong and Al Gore are pushing fraud, not fixing. Mercury and sulfer and methane are bigger problems than carbon, and global warming is a small element–not even close to being the main event–within Environmental Degradation, threat #3 after poverty and infectious disease. It troubles me when people vote against the messenger–McKibben is a great man–he's also made a mistake. Get over it and do more reading, integrate more, and it will all come out fine.

. . . . . . .

I was so annoyed with the narrow first third that glorifies the likes of Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, and Larry “women can't think like scientists” Summers that I was actually contemplating three stars. This is a weakly researched book that buys into the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Maurice Strong carbon fraud, while ignoring the vastly more intelligent findings of the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, in which Environmental Degradation is #3 and more broadly defined.

Any book that quotes the discredited James Hansen of NASA and that builds a case around Op-Eds and undocumented assertions is a stain upon scholarship, and the first third of this book falls into that sinkhole. Despite many references to the Copenhagen summit, there is not a word in this book about ClimateGate (see the Rolling Update at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog) and therefore I find this author guilty of active misrepresentation bordering on a lack of integrity in this specific instance. The author is spending too much time with newspapers and not enough time with books representing the distilled reflections of others.

Having said that, and deducted one star for the lapse, I find the balance of the book absorbing, fascinating, and rich in gems of insight and fact. It should be read in conjunction with:

Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
Human Scale
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them
The Future of Life
Acts of God: The Unnatural History of Natural Disaster in America
The Next Catastrophe: Reducing Our Vulnerabilities to Natural, Industrial, and Terrorist Disasters
The Real Global Warming Disaster: Is the Obsession with “Climate Change” Turning Out to Be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder in History?
Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Revised and Updated 5th Anniversary Edition: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits

My criticism and praise of this important work are based on the above and the other 1,600 non-fiction reviews I have posted to Amazon, all more easily accessible in 98 reading categories at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Network.

Early points that got my attention:

+ Altered planet (elsewhere I have read that changes to the Earth that once took 10,000 years now take three years

+ Need to scale back, strive to restore 58-60 degree Fahrenheit global average

+ Every additional degree in Celsius brings with it roughly 6% more lightning that starts forest fires and tundra fires

+ The number of abandoned boats on the shores once populated by fisherman is beyond alarming

+ Excellent analogies by the author of what is needed (mindful that we have blown $12 trillion we did not have on the Iraq-Afghanistan misadventures and the bailing out of criminally-unethical Wall Street speculators)

– Green Manhattan Project
– Ecological New Deal
– Clean-tech Apollo mission

Biomimicry or Ecological Economics (Herman Daly), True Cost, Cradle to Cradle, and Sustainable Design are not in this book. This is an Op-Ed survey that is also very weak on history (Civil War to 9/11) hence the book is unbalanced. It is so busy sounding the carbon fraud alarm it ignores mercury and sulfur while also ignoring all the other terrible things we do to wheat and corn and other crops through pesticides, genetics, political mis-direction, and active fraud.

There is also nothing in this book about the human brain, moving into the sea, or the forthcoming disclosure of extraterrestrial technologies and cultures that are beginning to sweep through governments (see the free online DVD “The Day Before Disclosure,” summarized and linked with many books at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog.

Other details that impress:

+ Impact of global warming on mosquitoes spreading disease among humans, and beetles spreading disease among trees.

+ Impact of floods in Bangladesh and other previously war-torn countries in surfacing and relocating land-mines that took years to mark and isolate.

+ Generic discussion of how shortages of land and water lead to war.

The second half of the book is easily five-star stuff, focusing on the management of a graceful decline. The author is, however, oblivious to crime and corruption and the many reasons why a power shift is going to be needed that elevates the five billion poor while isolating the damage that the Rothchilds and their banks can do.

He prescribes:

01 Mature
02 Stop doing many things–move to Slow Food, Slow City, Slow Money
03 Decentralize and scale back
04 Local first, local currencies, keep money local
05 Change concept of national security from global to local
06 Recognize the cost of global war at the local level to local taxpayers
07 Achieve food security across America (where I might add, poverty is doubling)
08 Restore small family farms as “just right” mix of scale and product cost to consumer
09 Stop pesticides so fish can be part of water-flooded crops–elsewhere I have read that the only two sustainable forms of agriculture today are those of the Amish and the Cubans
10 Change world diet (Frances Lappe Moore addresses this in Diet for a Small Planet)
11 Reverse the use of oil as a substitute for human muscle, revert to people-intensive processes

+ I learn that a gallon of diesel can move a ton 59 miles by truck, 514 miles by barge

+ The author touches on the hidden wealth of communities and relationships, this is an emerging field of literature, see the brilliant book, The Hidden Wealth of Nations

+ Livestock (and I would add pets) are 50% of the global warming problem (to which I would add also the feces in ground water and then vegetables problem)

+ Conservation means no less than a 20% cut in present uses of fossil fuels

+ Author cites Anthony Lovins with respect to being able to cut oil use by 50% and electricity by 75% with proper conservation processes.

+ LOCAL wind turbines and solar are stressed, instead of the mega farms that have been proposed

+ Author believes that fossil fuel consumption must be cut by a factor of 20

+ The Internet, rather than driving places, will be the novelty machine that also creates social capital via electronic mail and forums–I am impressed by how local forums create local community in what were once “bedroom” sprawl areas.

The concluding insight is alone worth the price of the book: eliminate middlemen and intermediaries everywhere, this will cut prices in half while also conserving fuel and other costs associated with layers of control and price increases that are simply not necessary.

Citing Phillip Longman and T. A. Frank in their article “Too Small to Fail,” on page 106, he speaks of “informational capital” and the manner in which centralization and the disconnect between those granting loans and those servicing them helped fuel the sub-prime mortgage crisis–this is of course after Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) and the other 99 unethical Senators passed the deregulation bill written by lobbyists, without reading it.

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