In an early genesis of post-carbon living in 2008 we were influenced by a project called the “Yellow House“. It was a run-down, former council-house, in Oxford that had under-gone a drastic make-over to make it a (self-styled) “environmental dream home”. It’s influence upon us was formative – the work done was so drastic as to turn a home into (what we perceived as) a science experiment. We were so aghast we actually specifically stated that Superhome 59 would NOT be a science experiment. To his credit the home-owner at Yellow House was some six years ahead of us and we came to credit him as somewhat of a visionary. His name was George Marshall. But he wasn’t all about crazy DIY and we soon signed up to his “Climate Denial” blog and soon saw him as the deep-thought on the topic of why we don’t think about Climate Change. Six years later and George has not only re-located to Wales but has written a book about the topic of just why we cannot deal with Climate Change. It is an important read for anyone who wishes to communicate in this area. But is it any good? Continue reading
What happens if America’s brightest dissident philosopher of the left gets to write for the newspapers? In “Interventions” [Penguin 2007 ISBN: 978-0-141-03180-4, review copy 2008 “updated & expanded edition] Noam Chomsky gets his chance to reach out through pages of daily newspapers by writing bite-sized chunks of reality – tiny little logic bombs making noises where they should not. This collection of op-eds was written & published between 2002 to 2008 covering the usual gamete of topics. To give everything a little context there is both an “Editor’s Note” (by Greg Ruggiero) and a Foreword by Peter Hart. These alone are worth the price of admission given that most of the rest of the contents has been churned up from the usual body of canonical Chomsky from that period. So, what should the reader expect? Most media in the USA is like that in the UK – far to the right of the political spectrum yet they define what is “normal” in political discourse. Theirs is the spectrum of acceptable debate. Yet here we have Chomsky’s little hand-grenade. It simply shouldn’t belong. Continue reading
In 2013 I described “The Burning Question” by Mike Berners-Lee & Duncan Clark as “one of the most important books on man-made climate change” yet written. So I was looking forward to reading “The Burning Answer – A User’s Guide to the Solar Revolution” by Keith Barnham (ISBN 978-1-7802-2533-3 Weildenfeld & Nicolson in 2014, 3rd paperback edition, with new preface, April 2015). Although the title of Barnham’s work seems likely to cash-in on the Berners-Lee/Clark book there is no (to my knowledge) mention of it whatsoever in “The Burning Answer”. This is not a direct answer at all! It is an entirely different beast. The author is a Professor of physics and used to work at CERN. Needless to say his work is therefore…, how shall we put it? “Sciencey.” He left CERN mid-career to pursue solar energy research and has given us a book of two halves: one; a long and tedious description of the solar energy development with all the physics, two; an up-to-date critique of UK Government policy pertaining to renewables. It is the latter to which the readers will be rewarded with their attentions. Continue reading
Just how significant was the end of the Cold War? Could we have seen its rapid replacement with the “War on Terror”? In “Deterring Democracy” by Noam Chomsky (ISBN 9780099135012 first published by Verso in 1991, review edition by Vintage in 2006) we learn that, maybe, it was a bit of an inconvenience for all concerned. But business-as-usual prevailed. It remains disturbing to learn how little we know about how the world works. Chomsky’s lengthy 440+ page study was compiled during the time of the Gorbachev reforms of 1989/1990 with an afterword added here from 1991. This is a work of its time: this isn’t hindsight, yet to read it through it is refreshing to see all that followed was comfortably predicted by “the most important intellectual alive” as those historic events were underway. How did he know? Well by simply looking at what Washington and the West were doing in their domains: in Nicaragua, in Kuwait, in Grenada, in the Dominican Republic and all those other places that the USA considers to be its “backyard”. Continue reading
Is science and reason declining? Is ignorance spreading at the cost of the enlightenment? Is this drift of acceptable-political-dialogue to the right, killing science? Is conservatism destroying rational, evidence-based thinking? In short, are we losing our grip on reality? If so, what are the consequences? Donald E Prothero’s 2013 book “Reality Check – How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future” [ISBN 978-0-253-01029-2 Indiana University Press] launches a broadside at those the CalTech lecturer believes threaten science. Prothero is a Geobiologist who has written several books on science including works on fossils, dinosaurs and evolution. His work is littered with quotes by Carl Sagan and the influence is clear. But the manner of the work is certainly that of Richard Dawkins. It comes out fighting and concedes absolutely nothing to the new breed of science deniers with whom he engages battle. It is hard not to agree with him but does he really get to the heart of the matter? What causes rational people to reject science and what will be the cost? Continue reading
ISBN: 978-0-241-96524-5. “Power Systems” – conversations between David Barsamian and Noam Chomsky – was published by Penguin in 2013 (from an original 2012 US publication by Metropolitan Books). Once again another outing for the “world’s greatest public intellectual” although not an original book written by the great man himself. On this occasion we see his thoughts extracted from a collection of conversations between 2010 and 2012. This is as up-to-date as you get. Like a great deal of his more recent work we can witness his greater concern about environmental issues in this book. For the first time he reviews the impacts of fracking and talks at length about climate change and how fossil fuels must be kept in the ground. It seems that, with age, Chomsky just gets better and better. The book boasts eight separate conversations parts of which had already appeared in the International Socialist Review as well as airing on Alternative Radio in the USA.