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Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki

The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki
Grey Stone Books 1997
ISBN: 9781553651666

David Suzuki (b.1936) has been an environmental activist for most of his adult life.  He has written over forty books and is the co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.  His passion and dedication for the natural world are on full display in The Sacred Balance. This book explains humanity's fundamental link to the natural world in great detail. Suzuki uses the four elements (air, fire, water, and earth) as a jumping off point and each chapter expounds on them until the reader is left without a doubt that we are all part of an intricate and beautiful natural system.  The final chapter in The Sacred Balance is called "Restoring the Balance" and that is where my only problem with the book lies.  In this chapter Suzuki briefly profiles some significant activists (Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai) but it is in his mentioning of William Mcdonough, architect and author of the Book "Cradle to Cradle" that he loses me for a few pages. Mcdonough has worked with many businesses including Wal-mart, convincing them to build more "sustainable" megastores (or superstores, or whatever they call them).  This includes putting skylights in the building and using building materials that are free of CFCs and other toxic chemicals.  These are all good things, obviously, but when Suzuki mentions in passing that a new Wal-mart store is built somewhere every two days it makes me wonder why he included this information on Mcdonough in a chapter called, "Restoring the Balance".  Wal-mart has nothing to do with restoring the balance of the natural world.  You can still rape the planet with thousands of "sustainably" manufactured buildings, especially when you are littering the land with them at the rate of one store every two days.  This soured the last chapter for me and I wish that Suzuki would have dug a little deeper and come up with a better example to use.  Having said all that, this only takes up a few pages in an otherwise inspiring book that I hope you will all read and enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shadow Mountain by Renee Askins

Shadow Mountain by Renee Askins
Anchor Books 2004

Shadow Mountain is a beautifully written Memoir by Renee Askins.  She tells the story of the founding of The Wolf Fund which was dedicated to the re-introduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.  This book was moving, informative and inspirng.  Her dedication to wolves and the biodiversity of Yellowstone National park, combined with the personal and political struggles she overcame to make her dream a reality left me in awe.  The writing is amazing, the author is a hero and the story will leave its mark on you for a very long time.  Incredible book!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A wonderful poem by Robert E. Howard

Just thought I would share this with everyone:


You have built a world of paper and wood,
Culture and cult and lies;
Has the cobra altered beneath his hood,
Or the fire in the tigers' eyes?

You have turned from valley and hill and flood,
You have set yourselves apart,
Forgetting the earth that feeds the blood
And the talon that finds the heart.

You boast you have stilled the lustful call
Of the black ancestral ape,
But life, the tigress that bore you all,
Has never changed her shape.

And a strange shape comes to your faery mead,
With a fixed black simian frown,
But you will not know and you will not heed,
Till your towers come tumbling down.

-Robert E. Howard

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Population Woahs!

I am taking an environmental conservation class this semester, and today we were discussing population. I've been thinking about a few of the topics we discussed and I am a little frustrated.  The estimated human population is expected to reach seven billion by mid-2011.  There is a slight hope that by the year 2050 the population will stabilize at nine billion people.  If the current rate of reproduction continues it will be closer to eleven billion people.  It seems to me that either one of these outcomes will have major repercussions for the planet as a whole.  We are spiraling out of control and have been for a very long time.  In 5,000 B.C. the population was approximately fifty million people.  It took us until the beginning of the industrial revolution to reach our first billion (mid-1700's) and now we have added another six billion in less than three hundred years.  I don't think it is a stretch to say that we have (or are on the verge of) exceeding our carrying capacity.  This is an enormous problem and the proposed solutions that I often hear are short-sighted and rather aggravating.  Recently, I heard the proposal (from someone that I respect) that in order to ensure that we will reach the goal of a stabilized human population (a replacement rate of 2.1) of nine billion people by 2050 third and fourth countries need to be built up and made ready to join the industrialized world (industrialized nations tend to have a less population growth). This seems particularly short sighted to me given the reality of the machinations that keep our western world running full speed ahead.  The post-industrial west can't continue without blatant exploitation of the third world countries (both their natural resources and their human labor are essential, we could not even get out of bed and make breakfast in the morning without this exploitation).  So how (and of course this isn't mentioned) do we bring the countries that we are exploiting up to our current level of exploitation without destroying every living thing in sight?  If we somehow were able to get around this little dilemma the population might stabilize, albeit temporarily, because relatively soon after the stabilization environmental and health problems will become out of control!  This will result in a major population drop.  Human population growth is a problem RIGHT NOW and in order for industrialization of third world countries to even temporarily fix this problem, the industrialization must be rapid. This will inevitably result in reckless procedures from multi-national corporations that only see dollar signs (as always).  And the cycle will continue. They will make millions of dollars while forcing people into wage slavery, poisoning the ground water and destroying the habitat of any flora and fauna in their way.  And they will do this while passing themselves off as humanitarians, and of course "GREEN".  I don't claim to have any viable solution to our over population problem, it is too complex and serpentine and I can hardly wrap my head around it.  The first and most important aspect of a solution is the world wide liberation of women.  Women across the globe must be allowed to make their own decisions regarding their bodies and child rearing.  This is a fundamental first step.  I believe that starting there, and using this as a jumping off point will point the way to a more realistic solution and not the temporary (at best) drivel proposed by the very people that are stomping on the collective backs of the rest of the world.

- Jeffrey T. Bumiller                                    

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book club selection for February 2011

For the month of February the Stone Country Book Club has selected "World Made By Hand" by James Howard Kunstler for our next book.  We will be reading this book throughout the month of February and will be meeting to discuss it on March 5th.  Please contribute any comments or discussion topics as the month progresses!

World Made By Hand-James Howard Kunstler

World made by hand is a post industrial age novel written by James Howard Kunstler(The Long Emergency, The Geography of Nowhere, etc).  The book takes place in a fictional town in upstate NY called Union Grove.  I am very excited to begin reading this book.  I grew up in upstate NY and have always loved the area very deeply.  I have been very interested in James Howard Kunstler ever since I stumbled upon his weekly podcast called, The Kunster Cast. (  I love listening to this podcast, especially while cooking (not sure why that is) check it out.  It's funny, informative and often frightening.  I have high expectations for World made by hand and I hope you will join us in reading it this month!