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World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?

8 Jan

by Chris Knight / Times Higher Education

9780670024810_custom-b3591917da92ff0caa7cd6a26012bdf93091465b-s6-c10The world has been waiting for this book. Others have attempted to persuade us that tribal people can teach us how to live. Most, however, have failed to convince, presenting us with yet another version of the Noble Savage myth. Jared Diamond is no romantic. He writes with conviction and erudition. It is probably no exaggeration to describe him as the most authoritative polymath of our age – the man who, in his 1997 book Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, explained the true reasons for the West’s ultimate dominance over the globe and in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), warned that this same civilisation may now be digging its own grave. In The World Until Yesterday, Diamond turns his massive erudition to an equally necessary project. The fact that Western civilisation conquered all does not necessarily make it sustainable or prove that we have superior ideas about bringing up children, keeping healthy or living well. Continue reading

Review: Imperiled Life, by Javier Sethness-Castro

1 Nov

Revolutionary Tradition Against Climate Collaborators

By Sasha

Picking up Imperiled Life by Javier Sethness-Castro (AK Press 2012), I felt the urgency of the work immediately. Illustrated with profound, gorgeous art by the fabulous Just Seeds Collective, the work mobilizes through an active discourse between theory and science. Measuring the weight of 20th Century Continental and Post-Colonial theory by its accuracy in predicting the ecological crisis of today, Sethness-Castro looks to the classic works of the Frankfurt School to show the way forward for anticapitalist revolution.

If you wanted to find a book that honestly and faithfully lays out the disaster of climate change, this is the book to turn to. Continue reading

Review: scott crow’s Black Flags and Windmills

1 Nov

Hope, Anarchy, and the Common Ground Collective: An Epic Tale Past the Point of No-Return

by Sasha

When I began reading Black Flags and Windmills (PM Press 2011), by scott crow, my imagination was sparked by the power of scott crow’s commitment to radical organizing. There is a sense of no return that pervades this deep and intense work. In passionate and effusive prose, crow describes the nature of Hurricane Katrina’s impact as well as organizing efforts to support communities of color and poor people in the Algiers neighborhood. But crow lends an equal amount of time to exploring the logistical aspects of organizing, and how they relate to an unshakable faith in anarchism. For the fascinating and courageous insight into strong, though radical in its self-critique, anarchist praxis, Black Flags and Windmills has become a classic in the genre of non-fiction, and an important tool for folks today working in the context of rising cats-tastrophy (hint, hint, Hurricane Sandy…).

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Armed Struggle for the Redwoods

28 Sep

A belated review of The Big Trees

by panagioti, for the Earth First! Newswire

If you like the idea of blowing up dams, burning down court houses, and standing side-by-side with Quakers in a reluctant armed revolt against the corrupt logging industry—and you can tolerate a tacky romance—you might wanna watch this 1952 film, The Big Trees, starring Eve Miller and Kirk Douglas in a battle for the old-growth Redwoods of Northern Cali.

That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Read more exclusive EF! Newswire reviews here

Who Bombed Judi Bari?

15 Sep

Poster for the documentary, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”

Who Bombed Judi Bari? documentary presents the unsolved mystery of the 1990 car bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, chronicles the FBI’s refusal to investigate the car bombing of these two Redwood activists, its arrest of victims; and a 1st amendment lawsuit against the Feds.

After winning four awards, filling theaters, and receiving media and audience acclaim, Who Bombed Judi Bari?, the 93-minute documentary, will meet a new audience on September 22 in Malibu, for more details check out the schedule of events at: http://whobombedjudibari.com

The movie chronicles one of the great American unsolved mysteries: Who, on May 24, 1990, tried to kill with a car bomb one of the most prominent environmental organizers of her day — Judi Bari? The movie is composed of 100% archival footage including a special Humboldt County live version of “Angel from Montgomery” performed by Bonnie Raitt, a live version of Shady Grove by the David Grisman Quintet performing at a tree-sit, rare footage of Woody Harrelson Climbing the Golden Gate Bridge, a tribute to Judi Bari by Jerry Brown, and a powerful press conference held by the late, legendary environmentalist, David Brower. The movie is narrated by Judi Bari herself, shot on camera as she told her life story through her deathbed testimony. As she weaves her tale under oath, the movie flashes back and forth to footage of the daring, action-packed, yet often humorous and musical scenes she depicts.

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“What Would Robin Hood Do?” A Review

11 Sep

Robin Hood and a Tradition of a Radical Nature

Another great review by Sasha: “Revolutionary times call for revolutionary measures, but what is to be done? Paul Buhle’s latest book, Robin Hood: People’s Outlaw and Forest Hero [PM Press, 2011], certainly gives the reader a sense of radical tradition, of what has been done over the centuries—at least in a European context…

“In a world where indigenous populations are pushed to the edge of nonexistence, along with the flora and fauna around them confronting malign ‘development’ and resource exhaustion,” Buhle explains, “the defense of the Greenwood gains a desperate relevance.”

Read the full review here

Canaries in the Mineshaft – Miner Strikes Worldwide, Art, and the Environment

11 Sep

Punk art surrealist Winston Smith, who named him­self after the indelible pro­tag­o­nist of Orwell’s 1984, was once quoted (referring to a popular idiom), “You could say that artists are the canaries in the mineshaft. We see things before others do. We set off alarms and alert those who are distracted by other things. It’s not that we’re more sensitive or more aware…it’s just our job.” This is an allusion to the age-old practice of mining workers carrying caged canaries down into the tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases killed the canary before killing the miners.

Winston Smith Collage

Exemplifying Smith’s assertion of artist-as-indicator-species, this week Yoko Ono launched Artists Against Fracking, with a focus on New York hydraulic fracturing. Yesterday, just days after premiering his new video We Want Peace — Reloaded,” former child soldier, peace activist, and hip-hop artist Emmanuel Jal was reportedly beat unconscious by South Sudanese police. Currently on exhibition in London, Art of Change: New Directions from China reveals how the best contemporary art moves beyond the particular to comment on universal experience. The current imprisonment of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot has sparked outrage and protests in solidarity worldwide.

Real miners endure a more wretched fate than the metaphorical ones referenced here, meeting with shattered health, physical brutality, and even murder for corporate profit, which ultimately are also recognized as an assault to the natural world as well.

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Extinction Explosion

21 Aug

Considered by many to have an intelligence that rivals humankind’s and otherworldly transformative evolution powers, the cuttlefish is among creatures slated for death in a sudden mass extinction of the worlds’ oceans.

Teetering on the dire precipice between existence and annihilation, time is running out for the Royal Bengal tiger, the Great White shark, and Victorian koalas.

There are reports that species in Brazil’s coastal rainforest are disappearing faster than scientists  can keep track of them. This is owed in part to the ripple effect of extinction, creatures toppling off the planet in a chain reaction.

But perhaps the most brutal and rapid decline is coming for the world’s oceans, with scientists predicting a cataclysmic period of mass extinction currently upon us, the ramifications for which will in turn be our own demise. From 1900-2010, freshwater fish species in North America went extinct at a rate 877 times faster than the rate found in the fossil record, while estimates indicate the rate may double between now and 2050.

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Native American Health Traumas Addressed

5 Aug

cross-posted from Indian Country

By Devon G. Peña, Ph.D.

European colonizers destroyed bison populations in North America, creating negative health implications for native peoples.

One of the consequences of the conquest and settlement of North and South America by Europeans was the displacement and destruction of native biological and cultural diversity. The environmental historian Alfred Crosby has called the European invasion of the Americas [sic] a biological conquest and a form of “ecological imperialism.”

No space or native habitat touched by colonialism was spared the effects of this bio-invasion. Indigenous plants and animals were diminished by the violence and displacement associated with the arrival of European colonizers and their biotic baggage. Cattle displaced bison; sheep replaced native deer; wheat displaced maize and amaranth.

Europeans and others benefited from the arrival of the crops of Native America including amaranth, agave, avocado, bean, bell pepper, cashew, cassava, chili, cocoa (for chocolate) corn, guava, peanut, potato, pumpkin, tomato, vanilla, wild rice, and many more.

A demographic catastrophe resulted and native populations declined by 70 to 98 percent. This was caused by genocide through war, enslavement and forced labor, introduced disease (smallpox, measles), and widespread hunger and malnutrition. Many people were worked or starved to death in mines, plantations, and sweatshops.

Historical trauma and native foods

Recently, we have become more aware of the peculiar form of death facing Native peoples as a result of processes that Russel L. Barsch calls ecocide, or death caused by destruction of indigenous ecosystems including the agricultural and food systems of entire cultures and civilizations.

Research demonstrates that access to traditional foods—the nutritional substances a given people co-evolve with over generations of living and adapting to place—is essential to our health. Thus, eating poorly is not a case of persons making “poor personal choices” or engaging in “bad individual behaviors;” it is a matter of systematic discrimination and structural violence when people are denied access to the resources they need to maintain their own indigenous food traditions, cuisines, and diets.

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Alarming Biodiversity Collapse in Protected Forests

31 Jul

{from Mother Jones}

Juvenile howler monkey picking berries: Alphamouse via Wikimedia Commons

In the science journal Nature this week, a piece was co-authored by more than 200 scientists from around the world—a veritable who’s-who of researchers from the world of tropical forest ecology.

The gist of the paper is alarming:

  1. The rapid disruption of tropical forests worldwide probably imperils global biodiversity more than any other force today.
  2. The best hope lies in protected areas.
  3. Yet many protected areas are not effectively protecting biodiversity.

The authors write:

Our analysis reveals great variation in reserve ‘health:’ about half of all reserves have been effective or performed passably, but the rest are experiencing an erosion of biodiversity that is often alarmingly widespread taxonomically and functionally.

Comparison of ecological changes inside vs outside protected areas, for selected environmental drivers. The bars show percentage of reserves with improving vs worsening conditions: Laurance, et al, Nature 2012, DOI:10.1038/nature11318

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