Review: Floods, Famines, And Emperors–El Nino And The Fate Of Civilizations

4 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Disaster Relief, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions)

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4.0 out of 5 stars Weather Side of History–One Really Big Core Idea,

November 12, 2001
Brian Fagan
This book is an excellent complement to David Key’s book on “Catastrophe”, and I found it a worthwhile fast read.It has one really big core idea that ties environmental, political, economic, and cultural readings together–it explores the inter-relationship between sustainability of any given society within the constraints of the time and the legitimacy of the government or other form of political organization.

Two things appear to help: long-term vision on the part of the leader, and whatever it takes to maintain the people’s faith in their leadership.

The author concludes with an overview of where we stand today, and draws attention to the especially dangerous combination of overpopulation, global warming, and rapid climate changes occurring all at once.

For me, this book combined an overview of how seriously we must take ocean currents and related climate changes; and how important it is that our leaders understand these issues and take long-term views that add stability and sustainability in the face of varying challenges to our well-being.

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Review: The Biodiversity Crisis–Losing What Counts

5 Star, Environment (Problems)

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5.0 out of 5 stars

World-Class in Every Way,

November 5, 2001
American Museum of Natural History
This is very much an edited work, with most of the entries being but two or three pages in length. All of the authors are world-class proven naturalists and related professionals, and the photography that accompanies each work is top of the line. Of all the bio-diversity books available, this one appears to be both the easiest to digest and the most pleasing to the eye.Biodiversity is an option-generator. More diversity, more options for the future. See also Howard Bloom, World Brain.

Hyperdisease happens more often than we might think, and is very relevant to concerns today about the collapse of public health. See also Laurrie Garrett, Betrayal of Trust.

Biological elements are being inserted into commercial off the shelf products with unanticipated effects, some of which are damaging to humans. One noteworthy example: Corning added an ingredient to its tubes to make them less brittle, and scientists were finding their experiments infected and contaminated. Corning would not reveal what had changed, claiming it was a trade secret. Independent investigation finally determined that there was a synthetic chemical mimicking estrogen and having the effect of an estrogen injection on the cells exposed to the Corning tubes. Buyers beware–there would appear to be some disclosure standards required!

Mass catastrophes have occurred many times over history, eliminating up to 75% of all living things, with varied outcomes in the millions of years thereafter. See also David Keys, Catastrophe, on the most recent, the Dark Ages, circa 535 A.D.

Naturalists and natural science–the study of nature in its own environment, are endangered. Most universities are failing to support this vital area of study, with a result that our understanding of nature stems largely from lab work and computer models that are far removed from reality. See also John Paul Ralston, Voltaire’s Bastards.

I highly recommend this book. It is both discouraging (so much yet to be done to stabilize the world) and encouraging (many good things being done by many small groups).
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Review: Protecting Public Health and the Environment–Implementing The Precautionary Principle

4 Star, Best Practices in Management, Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Science & Politics of Science, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution
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4.0 out of 5 stars On Target but Fragmented–Needs New Edition with Summary

June 2, 2001

Carolyn Raffensperger (Editor), Joel Tickner (Editor), Wes Jackson (Foreword)

This is the second best of several books on environmental policy I have reviewed, and it merits careful scrutiny in part because it brings together a number of expert authors and there is in essence “something for everyone” in this edited work. What is lacks, though, is a good summary chapter that lists how the “precautionary principle” should be applied across each of the top ten environmental areas of concern–something that could circulate more easily than the book, and perhaps have a beneficial policy impact at the local, state, and national levels–and I suggest this because the meat of the book is good, it needs an executive summary.

The chapter that was most meaningful to me, the one that I think needs to be migrated into business education, international affairs education, science & technology policy education, is by Gordon K. Durnil, Chapter 16, and it deal with “How Much Information Do We Need Before Exercising Precaution.” This is a brilliant piece of work that dissects our current environmental policy information collection, processing, and analysis system, and finds it very deceptive, disingenuous, and consequently seriously flawed.

For the best on the environment, read Pandora’s Poison. For the best on public health, read Betrayal of Trust. For a very fine cross-over book that has good chapters from various good people, this is the book to buy and enjoy.

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Review: Pandora’s Poison–Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy (Paperback)

5 Star, Environment (Problems), True Cost & Toxicity
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5.0 out of 5 stars Double Value: on Environmental *and* Information Strategy

June 2, 2001
Joe Thornton

This is the best of the several environmentally-oriented books I have reviewed recently, and it offers a double value: not only does it lay out a persuasive social, economic, and political case for abandoning the Risk Paradigm of permissive pollution in favor of an Environmental Paradigm of zero pollution; but it also provides a very fine–really excellent–case for why the current government and industry approaches to information about the environment and threats to the environment are severely flawed. In a nutshell, the current approach divorces “good science” (code for permitting what you can’t prove will kill the planet today) from social consciousness and good policy; and the current approach insists on studying risk one contaminant at a time, rather than as a whole.

This book is persuasive; I believe author has the right stuff and should be consulted on major policy issues. I believe the underlying moral values and intellectual arguments that this book makes, about both science and social policy, should be adopted by the Cultural Creatives and the independent voters of America, and that the recommendations of this book are so serious as to warrant country by country translations and promulgation.

This book is exceptional in that is combines a readable policy essay for the non-technical citizen, with deeply documented technical appendices and notes that support a middle ground series of chapters relating scientific findings to long-term policy issues.

From many small actions come revolutionary change–this book is a necessary brick in the road to environmental reform. The bottom line is clear: every year more and more toxins are building up in our blood streams, and this is going to have an overwhelmingly negative impact on the humanity, capability, and survivability of our great grandchildren three generations down–we have not have grandchildren seven generations down if the insights from this book fail to reach the people, and through the people, the policy makers and legislators.

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