Book Reviews

Here I share reviews of  books I read and find worth mentioning. Writing a review is a nice way to read a book, as it forces you to read it much more carefully, extract main messages and reflect on those from your own standpoint, knowledge and experience.

The Five Stages of Collapse, Dimtry Orlov
In the parking lot of the guest house where I stay in Banga, Burundi, 105 people were killed in the civil war which ravaged the country from 1995 to 2005. It is a coincidence that I read Orlov’s book The Five Stages of Collapse in Burundi. This small, but densely populated country on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, experienced a deadly kind of collapse in the shape of a civil war. Over 200,000 people were killed in that war. How does Burundi fit into Orlov’s stages of collapse? Not so well, I am afraid.
Read more:
Systematic collapse or collapsing systems? Review of Orlov's The Five Stages of Collapse

The Wealth of Nature, John Michael Greer
Blindness to the impact of non-economic factors on economic processes, belief in the infallibility of free markets and the reliance on irrelevant statistics such as the GDP worked reasonably well during the economic expansion that reached its peak in the late twentieth century. But the end of cheap energy, which doubtless is a reality, means that the challenge is no longer in managing abundance but in managing the end of abundance. 
Read more:The World After Money.

Full Planet, Empty Plates, Lester Brown
“Food is the new oil, land is the new gold” writes Lester R. Brown in Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity (Earth Policy Institute).
The world food situation is deteriorating. Grain stocks have dropped to a dangerously low level. The World Food Price Index has doubled in a decade. The ranks of the hungry are expanding. Political unrest is spreading. On the demand side of the food equation we have a rapidly increasing population and people moving up the food chain, consuming grain-intensive livestock and poultry products. In addition, in some countries, notably the USA, huge quantities of grain is used for bio fuels.
read more: Lester Brown: Full Panet & Empy Plates

Eearth, Bill McKibben
Why on Earth is it Eaarth with an extra ‘a’? Perhaps it is a smart trick to draw attention to the book: Eaarth: Making a life on a Tough New Planet. However I do realize that Bill McKibben has chosen this to convey a very serious message—the message that the blue-green grand oasis we have seen on the pictures taken from Apollo 8 has become a very different planet; our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that we never experienced before. “It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name. Eaarth”, he says.
read more at Anything too big to fail is too big!

End of Growth: Richard Heinberg
Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with; only relative growth is possible. The world economy is now a zero-sum game, with a shrinking pie to be divided. According to Richard Heinberg in End of Growth, Adapting to Our New Economic Reality, the three factors that stand firmly in the way of further economic growth are: resource depletion (oil, minerals, fresh water), negative environmental impacts (climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity), and financial collapse (debt crisis
Read more:  Heinberg: growth will end.period.
Enough is Enough, Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill
Lagom, a Swedish word, is perhaps a key concept for a really sustainable society. According to popular but contested folk etymology, it is a contraction of "laget om" ("around the team"), a phrase used in Viking times to specify how much mead one should drink from the horn as it was passed around so that everyone received a fair share. The closest you could come in English would be: “just right”.
Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill authors of Enough is Enough, take on the task of how to build a sustainable economy in a world of finite resources. They say, ”Perhaps the most important number is one - one single blue green planet with finite resources that we all must share”
Read more in Lagom is good enough

What has nature ever done for us?:  How Money Really Does Grow On Trees, Tony Juniper
Vultures can clean up a cow carcass in minutes, leaving only bones. In India, considering the resistance for eating cattle, most cows have historically been eaten by vultures. At a certain point, however, vulture population collapsed from some 40 million to just a fraction. Dead cattle were left to rot with disastrous effects. "There was an explosion in the population of wild dogs," says environmentalist Tony Juniper. "More dogs led to more dog bites and that caused more rabies infections among people." The disease killed thousands and cost the Indian government an estimated $30bn, he adds.The cause for the drop in number of vultures was that Indian farmers began using a new anti-inflammatory drug on their cattle. Traces proved to be lethal for vultures, which were killed in vast numbers.What was done to increase profit by the farmers caused enormous problems for society.Read more in Money does grow on trees

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Did you know that if you make people think about old age, they will walk more slowly? Or if you have a poll about more money to the schooling system more people will support that proposal if the poll is in a school than in the municipal building? Those are effects of what is called priming.
I just read Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. He shows that if you make people think about ”money”, even by simply having dollar bills in your screen saver, people don’t only become more interested in money they also become more selfish, they are less inclined to help someone in need and show more preference for being alone. In short, the thought of money feeds individualism.
Read more in Thinking fast and slow about the world.

Standards: Recipes for Reality,  Lawrence Busch
Standards are not innocent technical specifications, but tools of power and dominance. Standards and the conformity assessment linked to them are a vital components of the neo-liberal project.
read more in :Standards as tools for power

Prosperity without Growth, Tim Jackson
I just finished reading Tim Jacksons book Prosperity without Growth, one of rather many recent books challenging conventional wisdom about growth. The book makes an easy read, and it is well written and structured. It has a large listing of references but the text is not littered with tables or charts. It deals with both ecological, social and psychological challenges in a discourse about what it is the creates prosperity, or flourishing as Jackson also calls it. It shows, convincingly, that growth isn't, or shouldn't be a prerequisite for a good life on earth. On the contrary growth, and the thereby linked constant quest for more makes us less satisfied
Read more in Jackson's Cinderella economy

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