BOOK REVIEW…This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate

This is the first book I have read by Naomi Klein and it came with a recommendation to stop reading everything and read this instead. The message she gave was too urgent and life-changing to wait. The lasting impression I felt is a feeling of appreciation for those who give their time to protest, and I was grasping the relevance of political participation more than ever before. Continue reading

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BOOK REVIEW… How Much is Enough? The Love of Money, and the Case for the Good Life

Authors: Robert Skidelsky & Edward Skidelsky

ISBN: 978-1-846-14448-6

An interesting question that is never asked in our modern society. Because surely everyone wants more? “How much is Enough?” begins by looking back at how we set off on this road to growth, and how the economy has provided real progress to remove the risk of extreme poverty. In the developed world, we have succeeded. Crops fail and droughts occur, leading to famines for the developing world, but these no longer impact us. We can buy our way out of hunger. We have support structures that protect us from pestilence and disease. What we are now facing is relative poverty, one person’s wealth against another. We should be celebrating this interim success, by helping those who haven’t reached this level yet. But along the way, we forgot where we were aiming for. We are all still climbing upwards, but towards what? Economic growth and GDP are the only measures that politicians believe we are interested in, and so we continue without an end. Written in 2012 after several years of economic depression, the authors review Keynes’ attempt to foresee the future of work and poverty as he saw it from the depths of the 1930s recession. Keynes saw the use of capitalism as a necessary evil in order to reach the point when we would get the results we were after. When we reached this point of abundance for all, when our ‘needs’ were met, we would reduce our working hours accordingly. Greater mechanization would mean less work would be required to create products, and so we would have more time for leisure, and life. Whilst Keynes’ predicted many drivers correctly over time, he underestimated the insatiable growth of ‘desires’ to replace our dwindling list of ‘needs’. The twentieth century saw the introduction of advertising to teach consumers to buy because of our desires, rather than our needs. We no longer had natural or moral limits to our greed. (You might really like eating cheesecake, but there is still a natural limit to consumption. With greed for money, this limit doesn’t exist.) Greed and competitive consumption were encouraged, and the concept of avarice, as one of the seven deadly sins was buried. Conspicuous consumption had become a requirement for modern living, rather than an embarrassment. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW… The Lugano Report on Preserving Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century

Author: Susan George

ISBN: 0-7453-2206-9

This is the most intense, chilling books I have ever read, leaving me speechless for hours. It appears to be morphing from fiction to non-fiction as time moves on. George’s astute observations of our world helped her foresee the path we have stumbled along since 1999, when the first edition was published. Reminiscent of Swift’s A Modest Proposal, the straight-faced satirical style led to difficulties if readers did not finish the book and believed the report to be real. The new edition, published in 2003, includes an introduction by the author to avoid this misunderstanding.

The premise of the book is that a group of experts have been asked to determine how capitalism can survive in the 21st Century, what the threats are to its long-term preservation and what actions should be taken now to reduce the risks of these threats. See this excellent summary by Frances Hutchinson, for more details.

Following the book, you may feel as powerless and wordless as I did. I recommend visiting these sites for further guidance on what can be done.

TNI: Transnational Institute of Policy Studies.

Feasta: The Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability

Whilst the messages in the book are not the easiest to digest, it is a superbly written book that I couldn’t put down until I had finished. Read it, and then lend it to a friend.

BOOK REVIEW….Oil: A concise guide to the most important product on earth

Author: Matthew Yeomans

ISBN: 1-59558-028-X

This is Matthew Yeomans’ essential guide to a product that now rules every aspect of our lives. The book aims to highlight the enormous influence we have allowed oil to have on our standard of living. In so doing, we are provided with the knowledge of what the future holds if we can’t break free.

The book commences with a race through the last 150 years of oil growth and dependency in 30 short pages. The aim is to show that this timeframe is a blink-of-the-eye in terms of human Continue reading