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Issue 239
November/December 2006
A Far Cry from Christmas

Reviews

BOOKS IN BRIEF
by &

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Cover: Black-browed albatross flying over south Atlantic Photograph: Daniel Cox/Photolibrary

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BOOKS IN BRIEF

HARD RAIN

Mark Edwards and Lloyd Timberlake

Still Pictures Moving Words, UK, 2006, £14.00

After many years photo-researching for Resurgence magazine, the work of photographer Mark Edwards from Still Pictures never fails to move me. This book is no exception. Based on the visionary lyrics of Bob Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, Edwards has illustrated each line with his own and others’ photographs. Coupled with Lloyd Timberlake’s incisive overview of the situation humanity finds itself in now, Hard Rain is like a reproach from the Gods. Through Dylan we were told what to expect – but we didn’t take any notice. Now Edwards has illustrated this arrogance to devastating effect. Set against the words “Where a home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison” Edwards uses a photograph of La Paz in Bolivia. It says it all. Yet this book is a call to action, not a book of despair. It says “We now know what we do.” Let’s do something about it. • LH

MANIFESTO FOR THE EARTH

Mikhail Gorbachev

Clairview Books, UK, 2006, £8.99

Winston Churchill once defined the difference between a statesman and a politician: politicians think only of the next election, while statesmen think of the next generation. Gorbachev is truly one of the world’s elder statesmen. He has lived through immense changes, from perestroika and the collapse of the Berlin Wall to 9-11 and the Iraq war – and the insights he has gleaned from these experiences has led him to the firm belief that what we need is a “Global Glasnost” to address what he sees as the three main threats to humanity: security, poverty and environmental degradation. This book sets out how he proposes to create this Global Glasnost: through the revisioning of existing organisations such as the UN, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, whilst also establishing a World Council of Elders – to create a ‘world government’ which would draw heavily on the Earth Charter to set it on a course towards truly just and fair sustainable development. Whilst rather light on detail, the book is full of the interesting and workable ideas of an “incorrigible optimist”. • LH

PEACE IS THE WAY

Deepak Chopra

Rider, UK, 2006, £7.99

Today is a good day for war to come to an end, but for that to happen, the Way of Peace has to become a new habit for humanity that offers a substitute for every single thing that war now provides. To achieve the Way of Peace requires nothing short of “conscious evolution” – a tall order, possibly, but one that Deepak Chopra believes is happening among many sectors of society as we look for relationships beyond the control and domination paradigm of the past. The underpinning thesis of the book is that if you as an individual shift your allegiance to peace, then war ends for you today. The author sets out how our allegiance to war is buried deep in our subconscious and how war benefits the many. He teaches us how to recognise this allegiance and move beyond it through the ‘Seven Practices for Peace’. He argues that if war can be sustained, the dominance of the old order is assured, whereas if enough people raise their consciousness, the world can change fundamentally. He shows us how each human being is potentially more powerful than any weapon, because armaments cannot stop new beliefs. Ultimately, he states, there is no way to peace – peace is the way. • LH

WHAT I HEARD ABOUT IRAQ

Eliot Weinberger

Verso Books, UK, 2006, £7.99

A story told through hearsay. A series of punchy paragraphs documenting the unfolding of the Iraq war, through the innocuous words, “I heard the President/Donald Rumsfeld/Colin Powell say…” followed by a statement that will knock you off your feet and make you want to cry and march all at once. “On 11 September 2001, six hours after the attacks, I heard that Donald Rumsfeld said that it might be an opportunity to ‘hit’ Iraq.” Followed immediately by, “I heard that Condoleezza Rice asked: ‘How do you capitalise on these opportunities?’ “ Eliot Weinberger is a supreme editor, and lawyer-like has pieced together damning evidence in a unique format. Read it from start to finish in one hour (it is like a small pocket-book) and there will be no fence left in sight to sit on. The book leaves you feeling that it is inconceivable, yet strangely believable, how foreign policy can be built up rapidly and public opinion swayed by a series of leading statements. It is even more alarming how the rhetoric contradicts itself as the war grinds on. There’s no ambiguity here. The terrible reality unfolds. “I heard that the US military had purchased 1,500,000,000 bullets for use in the coming year. That is fifty-eight bullets for every Iraqi adult and child.” • SPK

WHY BIRDS SING

David Rothenberg

Penguin, UK, 2006, £8.99

David Rothenberg is well known for his attempts at ‘interspecies communication’, and in particular his passion for ‘jamming’ with birds. In this book, he delves deeper into the question, ‘Why do birds sing?’ and takes us on a fascinating if rather anthropocentric journey in search of the answer. He believes that bird songs are a genuine challenge to the conceit that humanity is needed to find beauty in the natural world, and that it is an intensely narrow sense of music that only recognises that made by human beings. In his research for this book, he learns of a pair of lyrebirds in Australia that were kept as pets and taught to mimic tunes such as ‘Mosquito Dance’ and ‘Keel Row’. Seventy years later, these songs can still be heard in their descendants’ lyrebird repertoire. But what does all this tell us? In the end, Rothenberg is able to give a lot of scientific evidence about why birds sing, but the answer remains a mystery. As the ecologist Paul Shepard noted, anything we say about birds is really just a human abstraction from the truth of what it is to be a bird. Something we will never know. • LH

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