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

4 Star, Atlases & State of the World, Capitalism (Good & Bad), Civil Society, Complexity & Resilience, Congress (Failure, Reform), Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Disease & Health, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Executive (Partisan Failure, Reform), Future, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Public Administration, Science & Politics of Science, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Amazon Page

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:

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Review: Deep Economy–The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

5 Star, Economics, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Deep EconomyGreat Book, I’m a Fan, But Other Works Exist

May 28, 2007

Bill McKibben

I’ve been a fan of the author since I read his book on The Age of Missing Information, and I then lost touch with his work. I was reminded of him by Paul Hawken, whose book Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming I will review this afternoon.

DEEP ECONOMY is a very fine personal effort with a very straight-forward prescription for localizing food production, energy production, radio, and currency. The author is a gigantic intellect, and writes clearly.

The core point in the first part of the book is an emphasis on a need to restore humanity to the process, to reduce industrial era efficiencies in order to enable more intangible values such as community. The opening chapter is a great review of the literature the author is familiar, but I take off one star because the other books I list below are not mentioned, hence this great book is incomplete in that sense.

The author puts forward three areas where life as we know it is going downhill:

1) Our political systems continue to emphasize industrialization and consolidation that is not affordable by our current rates of depleting energy and water;

2) There is not enough energy for China, let alone Brazil, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and Wild Cards like Turkey and South Africa, to follow in our steps.

3) All this “more” is not making us happier. Indeed the author documents, as others have, that the US was happiest in 1946, and it’s been downhill from there. He pegs financially-stimulated happiness at $10,000, after which more money does not bring more happiness in relation to self, community, and eternity.

He educates in pointing out that 50% of the global economy is tied up in food systems; that 50 acres can support 10-12 families; that a gallon of gasoline releases five of its six pounds of weight as emissions.

He introduces Bob Constanza and the calculated value of the ecosystem we are destroyed at $33 trillion annually. I learned of the Earth Stakeholder Report and about Behavioral Economics from this author. To that I would add the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) and the inspiring works of Paul Hawken with “true cost” metrics and Jon Ramer with local currencies, Interra.

The middle book focuses, as others have, on the loss of community, on hyper-individualization, and on how Wal-Mart can save someone roughly $58 a year, but cost them their entire local economy. He uses this to emphasize the urgency of restoring our sense of community so we can make decisions as a collective, for the common good.

Like Al Gore, but with less pomp, he rails against advertising as the engine for unnecessary consumption.

I was surprised by, and then in agreement with, his voiced need to restore local radio stations that actually focus on local needs and concerns and news. His critical comments on the conglomerate shows that feature Rush Limbaugh and morons talking about pornography are properly devastating.

Take home message: localization is the only way to achieve resilience–the federal government is not going to be effective in the short or long term as things now stand. We learn that the ideal community size for participatory democracy is no more than 500 voters, of whom 40% can be expected to show up for a town hall meeting.

We learn that Anthony Lovins has reported to the Department of Defense that if they spend $180B over the next ten years–$18B a year–that can cut US oil imports in half, and save $70B a year in addition. Now that is what I consider to be a key piece of public information.

He is generally negative on Tom Friedman, with which I agree, and Jeffrey Sachs, for whom I hold out more hope.

Below are the books that teach us beyond and before the scope of this book, which I am very happy to have read and added to my library.

Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
The Future of Life
The Ecology of Commerce
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
Pandora’s Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy
Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict With a New Introduction by the Author
Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming

Review: The Age of Missing Information

5 Star, Censorship & Denial of Access, Consciousness & Social IQ, Culture, Research, Information Society

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars Information is not a substitute for nature–or for thinking,

April 7, 2000
Bill McKibben
The author taped all the TV shows being broadcast for 24 hours, then watched all of the shows over the necessary time period, and then spend 24 hours alone with nature. There are some well-thought and well-articulated insights in this book. Information is not a substitute for nature. The information explosion is drowning our senses and cutting us off from more fundamental information about our limitations and the limitations of the world around us. Television really did kill history, in that it continually celebrates and rehashes the 40 years of time for which there is television film on background, and overlooks the 4000 years behind that. The worst disasters move slowly, and the TV cameras don’t see them.
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