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Apr 21st, 2005 - 21:10:55 



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Arts & Letters



Winter Reading Off the Charts

A Few Fine Books about Ecology

By Ryan Ramon, reviewer

Posted on Dec 26, 2003

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General Plenty
Always and Only the Path to Peace

by Mike Nuess
PerfCon
Spokane Washington
www.telologics.org
2001

This self-published book by Washington state energy engineer, philosopher, historian and storyteller Mike Nuess is probably one of the best books ever written or read on the political and human task of achieving (simply put) peace and prosperity. They are linked in an abosolute way. A true renaissance man, he weaves together several strands of narratives including that of Al, Anna and others that give context, science, and alternative technology a hguman voice. Nuess turns our social puzzle of ecology versus economies into a viable equation of long term sustainbility. He is convinced we can have general plenty, the condition that finally makes peace a real potential, not just a dream or ethos, with carefully applied technologies that make it actually possible for the first time in human history. For everyone on the planet.

Mike Nuess is a cautious optimist, demonstrating the means is the end. He looks at the histories of oil, empires, war and peace, labor, culture, governmental authority and different kinds of oppression. Unlike many, he does not wallow in tragedy or hopelessness of the human condition as it takes down the planet. Mike Nuess celebrates the citizen activists, and the scientists who have been key to asking the questions, pushing humans to the point where it is truly possible for the first time in human history to imagine and to make actual a path of salvation from the swamp of dispair to a livable planet.

This brilliant, complex book works on several levels all at once. If you want an overview that gives you specific understandings, get this book. It is very readable. (West By Northwest.org will present a detailed review/interview of General Plenty: Always and Only the Path to Peaceby Mike Nuess in the future.)


The Earth Remains Forever
by Rob Jackson
forward by John Graves
University of Texas Press
Austin, Texas
www.utexas.edu/utpress
2002

A new book of the University of Texas’ Generations at a crossroads series, this is a wise, sometimes, funny, coherent, informative and literate read in Environmental Studies is provided by Rob Jackson, a associate professor in the Department of Biology and Nicholas School of the Environment.

Even though Mr. Jackson once worked in industry he is not an apologist for the havoc wreaked by our current “post-industrial” world on nature. He is reaching out to all readers but especially those who have wondered about the real state of the natural world beyond the political confrontations. He explains the current ecological dilemma better than most, acknowledging the deep problems. But he is hopeful we will find a way to save the world before it is too late. He stresses that we can succeed if we can muster the understanding and political will. He evokes the saga of Easter island as a n example and a metaphor for what can happen to an ecosystem and a cultural when it fails fast. Rob Jackson cites various programs that have worked to reverse an ecological problem. Now we need a concerted effort. He covers the big areas such as bio-diversity, water, habitat loss, deforestation, sprawl (farming, land use and the automobile) and the oceans, pesticides, greenhouses gases and climate change, ozone and the challenges of sustainability. Regarding climate change and global warming Jackson cites a US Dept of Energy study that shows how we can cut emissions and turns greenhouse gases around today with little cash outlay and lots of tax incentives and policy development. All the elements of remediation are in place. It is a matter of doing it.

How to start? There are the little things we can do as individuals; simplifying our lives, rebuilding the cultural fabric of community, learning to live without so many machines, walking, biking. We need to do “big things, ” too to encourage our laws and governments and institutions to become truly sustainable in practice and policy. We can’t indulge in the luxury of despair. The sky isn’t falling. The earth remains “forever.” But what else remains is up to us. This book that reads like a conversation with your dearest and best professor is a “must share book.”


The Intemperate Rainforest
Nature, Culture and Power on Canada’s West Coast

by Bruce Braun, University of Minnesota Press
Minneapolis and London
2002

Bruce Braun is an assistant professor of geography at the University of Minnesota. This sophisticated, multilayered study is a “must have resource” book for anyone concerned with the intersection of ecology and geography, history, culture and politics. The northern rainforests of Canada’s West Coast are the foci of this very exciting book, especially Braun’s research on Clayoquot Sound. The Intemperate Rainforest demonstrates the way this unique landscape has been “viewed” and used by Natives, white explores, foresters, adventure travelers, scientists, politicians, environmentalists and artists. There is even the best discussion of the work of Canadian artist Emily Carr this reviewer has come across concerning how it has shaped environmental awareness- of iconic landscape without humans.

Braun tackles the difficult questions an environmental movement committed to the long-haul must ask. Regarding the use of the satellite images disappearing forest of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, he wrote, “In the face of apolcalyse of such magnitude, who could suggest anything else but to preserve what remains?”(his new paragraph)” Apocalyptic environmentalisms are not in themselves wrong. In some cases, they risk presenting a sense of inevitability and thus promote quiescence, but they can also provide powerful reasons for political mobilization.

It is important not to lose the sight of the stakes involved in images like these, even as we explore their construction. Forestry is not benign...” but neither is the image “neutral.” His discussion is worth a trip to the library or bookstore. "One of the aims of the book is to recognize the rainforests as a contested domain, where epistemology and politics are not separate.” People and nature are in continous flux. As Braun formulates the politics of nature he gets us to reflect on definitions over time. We are in flux with nature if we can realize what this means to our species future.



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