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The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman

The Cartoon Introduction to Climate ChangeThe Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change by Yoram Bauman

My Rating★★★★☆

From the back cover of the book:

“Can’t wait!” —Godot

 

“Stand-up economist” Yoram Bauman wants us to learn more about climate change, and he intends to take us there laughing all the way. After all, climate change is serious business and the best comedy is provided by the most morbid of human fears.

Yoram and Klein’s aims are laudable, and by creating this cartoon introduction (which also throws in a good Big History lesson, to sweeten the pot), they make the ‘gloomy’ topic not only more accessible but also fun to learn about. And that could be an important first step, especially for kids (or those childish adults that run after the shopping carts).

Based mainly on the IPCC reports and statistics, this book is as hard-hitting as any other, but might find itself more digestible even by the nonbelievers. Of course, coming from an economist, there is a marked bias towards ‘market is the Answer’, running throughout the book. It is simplistic and doesn’t put forth any great ideas and the last section was, quite honestly, a waste of time. But the first three educational, non-policy-prescription sections are really worth your time and money.

See here for a quick video guide through the book (you can also donate to the project there): https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/…

You can also get an early b/w peak of a draft of the Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change via this 15-meg 2-to-a-page PDF.

I think this would be a good book to donate to your neighboring school’s library or suggest for your kid’s school, or even stock up for yourself – and hey, it is real eye candy too!

 


This book was provided by Island Press as an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Twilight’s Children: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The LowlandThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

My Rating★★★★☆

 

Twilight’s Children

 

He had found the letter under his brother’s bed.

He had not minded the dust that lit up the damp light of the room. He had read it immediately. But now that he was back in his room, he took it out again, wanting to read it one more time, as always.

He remembered all the letters he used to receive from India and of how he could hear his Udayan’s childhood voice as he read it, even when the voice was long changed. In this letter he could not.

This time he picked up from the third page of the letter, glancing at the parts that did not make sense to him.

What defines identity once you are away from your center? What defines the center when you are away from our identity?

He wondered why Udayan would take the trouble to write all this when it must have been such a struggle to write at all. With that hand of his… Is it because he wanted to take comfort in talking with me? Or does he just write whatever comes to mind, arrange them in a semblance of order and mail them across the oceans? He looked back at the page.

Is it anger in the obvious betterment seen all around you? Is it shame that you were never really part of it? That you were not part of building it? And instead of building one you have just taken the easier path? Is it pride, perhaps, in your independence? Is it the blustering of the intolerable journalist when he talks about the better ‘systems’? Is it just a sense of loss of all that is left behind?

He skipped the last few lines and then skipped to the next page. Udayan’s handwriting always used to deteriorate towards the end of a page and now it was almost unreadable. ‘Not that I am missing much’, he said to himself.

Wherein lies the center of the modern man’s existence?

Is it in an imaginary village consisting of all that mattered to him as he was growing up – do they ever break that circle? Or is it constantly expanded as you grow? Or is it constantly redefined?

If you don’t have the less developed multitudes (relatives like me) to look upon you from that left-behind circle, will any achievement truly matter in life? Can your center, your point of reference and your identity, only be defined from a transpositional view from below? Or is It from a patriarchal view from above that leaves you smarting?

He was not sure why Udayan had taken to writing to him as if the roles were reversed – as if he was the one who had never set foot beyond his home city and as if Udayan was the one who had roamed the world and thought about a home that had been left behind with such ease. Of course, Udayan wouldn’t have been able to leave behind anything. He had been able to. ‘With ease’, he repeated doubtfully.

He had skipped ahead again without noticing it but decided to carry on. He knew he would be reading it over later. Again.

What of the constant sense that assaults you of not being part of the ‘real’ world – of the world you inhabit – the ones outside your country, your center being somehow artificial? Is it this artificiality that gives you wings? Soaring in a flight of fancy to heights you wouldn’t have dreamed of back where the real things are?

It is not as if he didn’t know that this was probably Udayan’s way of teasing him into coming back home. And it is not as if he didn’t know why it was never posted. He started skipping across the letter faster, eager to reach where he was addressed directly. Eager to see if could recapture the childhood voice when he read his brother addressing him directly instead of talking platitudes. He uttered a faint hum as he skipped across increasingly badly scribbled lines.

Is it a requirement to step outside the circle to be able to step outside it?

How do you view the real world then? Are they the dream now that you are living the dream?

Can you sleep knowing that the dream is never to be dreamt?

Why wouldn’t you try to dream up some solutions as well then? Why wouldn’t you start believing that your newfound wings would work in that ‘real’ world too? Why wouldn’t you even consider flying back?

Why wouldn’t you attempt to solve all the problems?

Even if you never attempt it, you know that with these wings of yours, any problem is an easy one, especially those – the ones in that ‘real’ world. The shadow world of reality.

He felt a faint irritation with his brother now. What right did he have to lecture? What had he done except read a bunch of books and preach around? Then he checked himself. Udayan had always stopped teasing whenever he got angry. He used to always know why.

It is not necessary, of course, that the circle of identity had to be a country or a village or a society or family – stepping outside your circle, outside our reality gives you wings and solutions – but the solutions and the wings are never to be allowed back in – you may step back in but you step back in as yourself, without the fancy stuff. And then you have to forget the dream. You can only inhabit the twilight or the sunrise. Never both.

Ah, he remembered, now is when he talks about the book he had asked me to send to Anita. Udayan had ended up reading it first. Mostly because one of the main characters in the book shared his name. He tried to recollect the little he had read of the book before wrapping it. He knew that much of Udayan’s ramblings in this letter might have come from the book.

After all, there were some parallels. It was the eternal afterlife of the exile that Jhumpa Lahiri was always expert at dissecting. ‘Maybe it was all a build up towards telling me why I should read it too’, he mused, ‘maybe he was not taunting me at all’. Or maybe he felt the book could do that job much better.

There are some books which once read you have a compulsion to make others read – as if the enjoyment is not complete until it is shared. Until you can see the expression of amazement in the other’s face when they have read too – your enjoyment growing in the realization of theirs.

This book is not like that – it is a quiet pleasure to read but there is no expectation of pleasure from the sharing of it – there is no compulsion to talk about it – there is nothing much to talk about really. It is boring in its own way: a beautiful and boring stream that you saw on your way – you paused to see it but you don’t run home to get your wife to stare at it together.

I was excited to read it, to see how it would capture the times that we have lived through. Times that held so much meaning for us. But, it was not meant to be of the masses and the loudness of the massed struggle – just of the individuals and of the quietness of their desperation — it requires no knowledge of our complicated history or the nuances of our anger that ignited the streets. It was not even remotely concerned about all that…

He started searching for the book among the shelves. Then under the bed. His brother loved to sleep with a book and let it slide under his bed as one arm arced and drooped. There it was. Almost brand new. Only two pages bent to mark places to return to. He turned back to the letter.

We are Twilight’s Children, brother, the Midnight’s Children was still some way ahead of us – we are the ones without definition. We were born before the darkness set in, and the day too far off.

After reading The Namesake (the one that you had sent me years ago – ordering me to read it and that you wanted me to get a sense of your University student life), I searched for something new in this one… trying to find what excited the author, trying to get a glimpse into your life – the intimacy with the characters was there – that was expected, that was known; the reality of private lives was there – again known, again expected. What set this apart from the other one? Is it the suffering? But what is suffering? Where was it? I couldn’t see it? Is it necessary that your own anguish has to be less than that of a character’s for you to be able to feel empathy?

But, when I read about this one (in an editorial review), I half thought I could get you to read it… to understand me – another book from the same author. There seemed to be a symmetry to that. But it was not to be. It was not about Bengal, at least not the Bengal that I lived through… it was not to be.

I am told the author grew up in Rhode island – that intimacy is visible. Rhode island becomes more of a home to the reader than his own Bengal. Again, my purposes were not being served by the author.

He looked at the marked pages of the book again and noticed that both seemed to be underlined faintly on lines that described their city. The language was exquisite. Maybe the time away from his expected times and places put him off the book. Udayan was never one for relishing language. He always wanted meanings and words to speak loud and bold.

You had told that you would try to read this before sending it to me. If you managed to complete the book, you must have realized that the book is not very atypical of Lahiri. I am afraid she will find it hard to win another Booker until she breaks out of her own mould or a Booker Committee comes along that doesn’t take the trouble to have read the previous winners.

He smiled at his brother’s silly mistake and continued reading. But he found that he was skipping through the lines now, without reading much. Soon he had reached the end of the letter. It did not end with the usual wishes and he knew that it had not been finished. He quietly flipped back to the beginning again. He could hear the milkman cycling outside on his early morning rounds.

Their relationship had been stretched – stretched halfway across the world – refusing to break, no matter how much he tried.

He walked slowly to the window-sill and lit the candle he had placed here. He watched as the ashes settled nearby and turned away as the breeze started to carry them away.

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Creative, Thoughts

 

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Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus

Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity's Most Pressing NeedsBuilding Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus

My Rating★★★★☆

Is Yunus the only practicing (as in the type who never came across the proverbial armchair yet) nobel laureate in economics? (his field is, if not the nobel)

His ideas and beliefs are rooted in and grown from the experience of running what sounds like hundreds of companies and offshoots and sister concerns – almost all successful, launching an entire industry and redefining one of the oldest businesses of the world.

Yet, in spite of full awareness of the credentials of the author, everything inside a reader militates against the seemingly utopian picture Yunus paints. You want to shout at him: all this is fine but REALITY is different! But the reader forgets – Yunus has seen and succeeded in the stark reality of one of the poorest, most torn landscapes in the world and he is proving that the ‘reality’ that economics teaches us is a very constrained reality. All the talk of incentives being the fuel of the human growth engine fall flat. But you don’t give in, you keep drilling deep holes in every cheerful statement of Yunus throughout the introductory chapters, after all you have years of economic training to back you up.

Finally Yunus gets to the case studies, and you read on with growing astonishment that the very principles outlined earlier, the principles that you had in your economic wisdom so thoroughly cut into pieces, all seem to just work on the ground. You scratch your head and try to figure it out. Then you forget your criticism and congratulate yourself on your own positive outlook towards humanity. Until next time.

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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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A Not-So-Dismal Science: A Broader View of Economies and Societies by Mancur Olson

A Not-So-Dismal Science: A Broader View of Economies and SocietiesA Not-So-Dismal Science: A Broader View of Economies and Societies by Mancur Olson

My Rating★★★☆☆

The Octopus

Like Physics, when a science realizes it could underpin all other sciences, it becomes an Octopus. The primary focus of this collection presented by Olson is to be an apologetic for this ‘economic imperialism’: of Economics branching out like an Octopus into almost every sphere of human endeavor. One has to admit that as Economics assumes more and more the role of examining how human beings interact with each other for the attainment of any benefit (in so far as the theory works that any benefit is ultimately economic in a sense, in the broadest meaning of the term), this is almost inevitable. Economics is dominating most policy debates around the world now. Everything has an economic tinge, the green-colored glasses of Oz is now all-pervading. History is written with economic understanding, even science is done from an economic perspective and education is more and more directed by economics.

Most of the essays are meant to illustrate this widening ambit of economics and its integration with the social sciences and beyond. This subset of the essays are not particularly informative as they are exploratory and not argumentative in nature and only attempts to show the growing linkages, not the outcomes of those linkages.

But in the process, Olson being Olson, enough of the essays also try to take on the question of the ‘origin of the world’. And to my chagrin, I have been convinced that I bought the arguments presented by Clark too easily. Olson and co dismantle any productivity based theory by asking a simple question: If the issue was with the people, how is it that they can increase as much as fourfold in productivity on the mere crossing of a border (mexican immigrants to the US etc). Olson has a few counter theories of his own that champion Institutionalism as the answer for most of the economic debates and they seem convincing for now. But the fun thing is that there are as many opinions as there are economists and of course the answers are never to be found in any one camp.

Economics probably has as much to contribute to the various sciences as Olson claims and as he quips glibly, even if economic advice increased the GDP by just 1 percent, that would pay our salaries several times over.

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Posted by on August 30, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities by Martha C. Nussbaum

Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the HumanitiesNot for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities by Martha C. Nussbaum

My Rating★★★☆☆


Indian parents take pride in a child who gains admission to the Institutes of Technology and Management; they are ashamed of a child who studies literature, or philosophy, or who wants to paint or dance or sing.

Nussbaum wants to change this situation with this manifesto, with this call to action. With the very poignantly titled Not for Profit, Nussbaum alerts us to a “silent crisis” in which nations “discard skills” as they “thirst for national profit.”: a world-wide crisis in education. She focuses on two major educational systems to illustrate this: one in the grips of the crisis and in its death-row. The other carelessly hurtling towards it, undoing much of the good done before (and worse, the USA is a leader in most fields, and rest of the world may well follow where it leads).

What is this developing crisis? Nussbaum laments that the humanities and the arts are being cut away, in both primary/secondary and college/university education, in virtually every nation of the world. Seen by policy-makers, parents and students as nothing but useless frills, and at a time when nations must cut away all useless things in order to stay competitive in the global market, they are rapidly losing their place in curricula, and also in the minds and hearts of parents and children.

This is most prevalent and inevitable in the placement-based institutions, especially the IITs and the IIMs and the newspapers that hawk their successes, that measure their success purely on the drama of placements and on the excess of the pay-packages. This sort of a higher education orientation also changes the early school cultures, with parents having no patience for allegedly superfluous skills, and intent on getting their children filled with testable skills that seem likely to produce financial success by getting into the IITs and the IIMs.

Nussbaum says that in these IITs and IIMs, instructors are most disturbed by their students’ deficient humanities preparation. It might be heartening that it is precisely in these institutions, at the heart of India’s profit-oriented technology culture, that instructors have felt the need to introduce liberal arts courses, partly to counter the narrowness of their students.

But it is not really so. Even as professors struggle to introduce such courses, as students at IIM, we have an all-encompassing word for anything that comes anywhere close to the humanities: “GLOBE”, and boy don’t we love using it. This throughly derogatory terms sums up the purely career-minded, profit-driven orientation of education in India’s elite institutions. I now feel a sense of complete despair at every laugh shared in the use of this expression. With the standards of success thus set, is it any wonder that the culture is seeping across the education spectrum?

After this dispiriting survey of Indian education, Nussbaum says that the situation is not as bad yet in the US due to an existing strong humanities culture in the higher institutions, but issues the below caveat:

We in the United States can study our own future in the government schools of India. Such will be our future if we continue down the road of “teaching to the test,” neglecting the activities that enliven children’s minds and make them see a connection between their school life and their daily life outside of school. We should be deeply alarmed that our own schools are rapidly, heedlessly, moving in the direction of the Indian norm, rather than the reverse.

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Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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The Wizard of Oz as An Economic Parable: A Short Introduction

The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

My Rating★★★★★

The Wizard of Oz as An Economic Parable: A Short Introduction

This might be common knowledge or it might not be. Some economics textbook claim this is a wonderfully esoteric nugget: The story of Oz was an economic parable. Take that, all you who said economics can’t be fun.

Redistributions of wealth caused by unexpected changes in the price level are often a source of political turmoil. From 1880 to 1896 the price level in the United States fell 23 percent. This deflation was good for Haves (creditors – primarily the bankers of the Northeast), but it was bad for Have-Nots (debtors – primarily the farmers of the South and West). The deflation was blamed almost exclusively on the now notorious Gold Standard and a proposed move towards Silver was instead the craved for alternative.

The Silver issue dominated the presidential election of 1896. William McKinley, the Republican nominee, campaigned on a platform of preserving the gold standard.

William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee, ranged boldly against Gold and for Silver. In a famous speech, Bryan proclaimed, “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.’’

Not surprisingly, McKinley was the candidate of the conservative eastern establishment, whereas Bryan was the candidate of the southern and western populists.

Then came The Wizard of Oz.

The midwestern journalist, L. Frank Baum tells the story of Dorothy, a girl lost in a strange land far from her home in Kansas. Dorothy (representing traditional American values) makes three friends: a scarecrow (the farmer), a tin woodman (the industrial worker), and a lion whose roar exceeds his might (William Jennings Bryan). Together, the four of them make their way along a perilous yellow brick road (the gold standard), hoping to find the Wizard who will help Dorothy return home.

Eventually they arrive in Oz (Washington), where everyone sees the world through green glasses (money). The Wizard (William McKinley) tries to be all things to all people but turns out to be a fraud.

Dorothy’s problem is solved only when she learns about the magical power of her (otherwise ordinary) silver slippers. (Unfortunately the movie forgot the parable and omitted the silver slippers – thus depriving the majority of the audience of the real delight in the victory!)

The Republicans (The Wizard) won the election of 1896, and the United States stayed on a gold standard, but the Free Silver advocates got the inflation that they wanted after gold was discovered in Alaska, Australia, and South Africa. Even later, Gold was abandoned altogether and the fraudster wizards was never heard from again. Dorothy and Baum had the last laugh over the unwanted magical oppression of the Yellow Brick Road and the green-tinted world. Well, at least from the road.

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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra

India Since IndependenceIndia Since Independence by Bipin Chandra

My Rating★★★★☆

The book is supposed to be one of the most authoritative histories of the period, presented by a set of celebrated authors who were instrumental in authoring most of the text books of the academic curriculum (India). It is disappointing then to see that ideology colors even such a work. If you can stay away from the strong biases that run through most of the interpretative chapters, this is actually quite a good book read.

It provides a good contrast (counterpoint?) to Guha‘s history. It is quite stunning how history changes so radically from one book to the next. The two books tell of the same period but with such marked divergence. As a reader one can accept this transition with surprising ease since the story is not in the telling but in the leaving out, in the focusing of the searchlight on select incidents and in leaving the rest in the darkness. This strengthens my growing obsession with historiography and its many wonders. Has any fully illumined history of any period yet been written? I am yet to find one.

The next book in my romance with historiography might have some answers – History at the Limit of World-History. I am thoroughly excited to have stumbled on this one and am hoping to continue this review over there.

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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Philosophy, Thoughts

 

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Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy by David M. Malone

Does the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign PolicyDoes the Elephant Dance? Contemporary Indian Foreign Policy by David M. Malone

My Rating★★★★☆

Malone delivers a surprisingly intimate and forgiving account of India’s sometimes exasperating mix of foreign policy and external relations. This book is a refreshing break from the posturing and grandstanding typical of many Indian writers and the bipartisan and sometimes startlingly ignorant rhetoric coming from most foreign commentators on international relations.

The author manages to see the issues from a uniquely Indian viewpoint (gleaned from his seemingly chummy relationship with most of our prominent scholars – anecdotes litter the book) and to a large extent internalizes the many contradicting tendencies (mostly domestic, unsurprisingly) that influence the outcome of India’s foreign policies and comes up with a coherent attempt at showing that it is not as discordant and incomprehensible as it might appear at first to the outside (or even inside) observer.

Malone gives hope that there is no need to get lost in the cascade of apparent contradictions that might spew from our overly eloquent delegates and that with the right kind of effort India too can be deciphered by her foreign allies and also by her own students.

This gives pause for thought about the right method towards approaching other similarly situated countries which seem to have as patently a lack of ‘grand strategy’ and a similar tendency for ‘getting-through’. This book is a strong case for more scholarship and less diplomacy in international relationships. It seems to be good advice.

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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic EconomicsEconomics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt

My Rating★★★☆☆

 

This is a true ‘Economics or Dummies’ book. It can be useful in case you want something handy to bang over an economic nit-wit’s head on short notice. Only such a dummy would be unable to puncture your simplistic arguments or need them in the first place. Beyond that, it is hard to envisage much use for this volume, whether for serious discussion or for serious reflection. So if the initial bang was not good enough and if you pack no other arsenal, you might as well get out of there, and fast. This failing is primarily for want of breadth of scope and an explicit avoidance of addressing possible arguments.

After all, any book that promises to redue an antire discipline to ‘one lesson’ should not expect to have much more efectiveess than a poorly aimed sledge hammer.

Of course, there is a case for reading a book like this. Firstly, it might have been useful and even an essential book back then. Textbooks lack bite. Sometimes a book needs to come along that takes a point of view and is not shy of an argument, and of drilling in a single pov to the point of exhaustion. Which is probably why this book has lasted 50 odd years and is still only moderately outdated.

But to a modern student, such an unqualified approach can only seem like sophistry. He is too jaded to believe in panaceas.

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Posted by on July 13, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana by P.F. Clarke

The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax AmericanaThe Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana by P.F. Clarke

My Rating★★★☆☆

One can almost feel the torture the author put himself through during his research, through the interminable hours plodding through the old war diaries and the endless newspaper headlines. While commendable, the approach has produced an at times too monotonous, too trivial a history – obsessed with the minutiae of an epochal phase.

At the same time, even as we see this, we can also see how Clarke tried hard to avoid doing the same to the reader, trying to alleviate the effects of an overdose of political trivia by giving (sometimes read-in) significance to even the daily routines and sleep habits of the delegates at the famous conferences that peppered the war. Maybe the author could not help it, maybe once you become familiar enough with the side characters through volumes of their personal diary, even these otherwise insignificant things might carry meaning.

The obsession with Churchill to the exclusion of much else is probably what reduces the significance of the book a few notches but, paradoxically, also increases the readability by as many and more notches. Perhaps this was intended or was an unfortunate editorial mandate? In either case, I for one wished Clarke did not indulge in this as much as he did.

To come back to the structure of the book, Clarke uses an impressive reference list that comprises little-known diaries, long-lost newspaper and magazine pieces and the many writings of the day to put together credible character portraits and sketches of daily activities that form the background to the war that shaped the modern world.

It is intriguing reading for the most part but there is a caveat: it should not be read with a strict intention of understanding the history of the war and its aftermath, but needs to be approached with a keenness to go beyond the facts of the war and to the human element and the politics that shaped its policy decisions. This too is important to understand, for while the direction of the war might not have been altered much by a change of cast, the shape of the play was most definitely determined by their unique cast of flawed yet grand players.

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Posted by on June 14, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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On Free Will & Crime: How should society react to violent crime?

Free WillFree Will by Sam Harris

My Rating★★★☆☆

Glancing at the cover might have been more than enough to guess the full contents of this one…

Harris is right to an extent, but as many have already done, his argument is too easy to poke holes in. This is primarily because the argument depends on the definition/boundary that he imposes on it. It makes for a good argument in a monologue but will fall apart in a dialogue.

This is not to say that there is no merit in what he concludes on the basis of his hypothesis. He uses it to identify the true nature of crime and how society should react to it:

If sneezing was a crime and someone violated it, can we become riled enough about it to conduct mass protests? What if all (or most) violent crimes are like that at a fundamental level - involuntary? Can we move our justice system away from a system based on punishment to one based on correction/isolation. Can we start feeling fear and pity to offenders instead of anger and revenge? These threads make the book a must read, especially in the light of the mass hysteria that has gripped Delhi (and the whole nation) in the wake of the poor unnamed girl’s unfortunate death. Food for thought.

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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet

Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our PlanetEco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet by Edward Humes

My Rating★★★★★

Eco Barons is a well-written, and profoundly moving collection of inter-linked real-life stories that is surprisingly dramatic and engaging in its concise chronicling of the lives of these heroes who are making it their life’s work to save the planet in their own outrageous, touching and sometimes idiosyncratic, but always genuine ways.

There are thousands of  environmentalists and activists doing important work in America and around the world. But a few of them go farther—these dreamers, schemers, moguls, and coupon clippers; these eco barons. There are others out there, certainly, more all the time; this book is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is an inspiring selection. The eco barons depicted here stand out because they are  game-changers, accomplishing  something  extraordinary, raising the bar of  the possible, usually after being told that what they are attempting is impossible. They have undertaken an epic project: to set an example for the rest of us.

Their actions are their message: that there is a clear choice, a difficult choice, a right choice, and to make it is to express the faith that it is not too late to save the world—and that a new way of living can be better, healthier, smarter, and more prosperous.

The first and probably the most inspiring is the story of how the legendary Doug Tompkins, millionaire and the founder of Espirit, abandoned his sprawling fashion empire, found a rugged cabin in the middle of Eden (read Chile), and started saving and restoring paradise, one plot, one fence, and one tree at a time, conquering government antagonism, lobbyists and big industry that wanted to make concrete jungles out of these majestic old-growth forests.

The second story elaborates on two naturalists and lawyers who lived like monks and found a way to use the law to save forests, species, and clean air when no one else could.

Then is the techy tale of a professor and his students building magical cars that burn no gas and trying to redefine the doomsday trajectory plotted by Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Coal and the other leviathans and to set us on a new course. His cars are cleaner, cheaper, faster, more enduring, gives more mileage – how many more boxes do you want your dream car to tick?

Also, there is the story of a cosmetics queen who, like Doug, sold her empire and is spending her fortune to save the last great forests of Maine and having to fight every inch of the way to do it.

Not to be forgotten is the Media Mogul who gave us CNN and Cartoon Network and numerous other entertainments, who owns more land than anybody else in the country and is devoting his real estate might to trying so hard to return the land to its pristine state before humans arrived to despoil it, working step-by-step to re-wilding the lands and to reintroduce native species and to preserve a heritage fast vanishing.

Last, and seemingly the least, but still an eco-baron, is the “turtle lady” who walks along a beach inspecting turtles and single-handedly saved a species – As good a story as the traditional rags-to-riches story that makes for a newspaper headline? Shouldn’t it be?

These eco-barons see, clearly, that what we’re doing as a society is not working. Their response is not to shout about it, or lobby about it, or generate self-aggrandizing headlines about it. Their response is to do something about it, and their results have been spectacular.

Some Resources for the interested/concerned:

To Know more on the Eco-barons:

For the Internet supplement to this book, including photos of the eco barons and their projects, maps, background information, links to their individual Web sites, and more resources, visit http://ecobarons.wordpress.com.

For general environmental information, news, and advice:

Grist: Environmental News and Commentary: www.grist.org and the related blog, http://gristmill.grist.org.

Greenwash Brigade: www.publicradio.org/columns/sustainab….

The Sietch Blog: www.blog.thesietch.org.

Green Options: http://greenoptions.com.

Climate Debate Daily: Get all sides of the global warming debate at http://climatedebatedaily.com.

For advice on ‘living like an Eco-baron”:

Terrapass:  Calculate  your  carbon  footprint  and  find  green  products  at  www.terrapass.com.

NativeEnergy:  Learn  about  and  purchase  carbon  offsets  at  www.nativeenergy.com.

Service trips: Earthwatch Institute and the Sierra Club maintain lists of volunteer vacations that put you to work on conservation and public lands projects.

Earthwatch: www.earthwatch.org/expedition.

Sierra Club: http://tioga.sierraclub.org/TripSearc….

Treehugger: This environmental Web site’s How to Go Green guide offers tips on green home buying, green dishwashers, green gift buying, greening your sex life, and more at www.treehugger.com/gogreen.php.

On “driving like an Eco-baron” 

EPA Green Vehicle Guide: Learn about the greenest cars in America at www.epa.gov/greenvehicles.

Plug In America: www.pluginamerica.com

Green Car Congress: News, reports, and information on sustainable transportation at www.greencarcongress.com.

The California Cars Initiative: www.calcars.org.

Drive Green: Calculate and offset the greenhouse gas emissions for your travel at www.drivegreen.com.

On “eating like an Eco-baron”

Green Daily Green Eating Guide: www.greendaily.com/2008/02/07/eating-….

Eat Well Guide: Find, cook, and eat sustainable food at www.eatwellguide.org.

Sustainable Table: Another excellent resource for local and sustainable food is www.sustainabletable.org.

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Book Reviews, Books, Thoughts

 

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