Reviews of books, films, TV shows, and websites.

With ten billion coming, sustainable is not enough


Stephen Emmott is a chief techno-wizard at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, England.  His brilliant young scientists are doing research in complex natural systems.  Their objective is to invent miracles.  They want to program ordinary cells to perform photosynthesis, so we can produce food from sunlight, without plows and seeds.  Agriculture can’t feed ten billion.  The goal is to delay the … [Read more...]

Dollars are worthless without crude oil

Money as energy

In my previous post I drew some parallels between energy and money – and more specifically, energy and banking – and pointed out that when money is at stake, the presence of energy is likely lurking somewhere in the shadows. It was mostly hypotheses and observations I was throwing around about energy and banking, but when it comes to energy and money, one can hardly overstate the connection. Take … [Read more...]

A homegrown remedy to tame American empire

U.S. empire

There's lots of talk of localization or re-localization in the Transition movement and among environmentalists and economic justice advocates generally. And for good reason. Today's global economy where big corporations, with security provided by the United States military, ship plastic crap from Chinese sweatshops thousands of miles to consumers around the world who don't need most of it anyway, … [Read more...]

The population prophet we all love to hate

Paul Ehrlich

In 1968, biologist Paul Ehrlich achieved infamy by publishing The Population Bomb: Population Control or Race to Oblivion?, one of the most controversial eco-books ever printed.  Ehrlich has been condemned to spend eternity with Thomas Malthus, in a dungeon reserved for doom perverts.  To this day, professors still use the two lads as great reasons to never take seriously anyone who asserts that … [Read more...]

Star spangled collapse

Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr.

Apparently, people who write titles for politico-military thrillers about nuclear brinksmanship find the language of The Star Spangled Banner just too good to resist. It must be the power of dark irony, to turn words of patriotic celebration into a warning for patriots. For example: Twilight's Last Gleaming is a 1977 drama starring Burt Lancaster as a renegade air force general who takes over a … [Read more...]

Soil erosion may get us before climate change does

Syrian ruins

Outside the entrance of the glorious Hall of Western History are the marble lions, colorful banners, and huge stone columns. Step inside, and the popular exhibits include ancient Egypt, classical Greece, the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, Gutenberg, Magellan, Columbus, Galileo, and so on. If we cut a hole in the fence, and sneak around to the rear of the building, we find the dumpsters, derelicts, … [Read more...]

A two-century fight for the small, the local and the beautiful

Wendell Berry

Twentieth-century America witnessed the blossoming of Agrarianism as an intellectual and cultural movement. Its roots lay within the mythos of the early American Republic, which cast the self-sufficient yeoman farm family as the foundation of ordered liberty. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1785: Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most … [Read more...]

Overpopulation and the Ostrich Factor


Garrett Hardin was a lad who not only thought a lot, but could also think well. I recently discovered a Hardin book I had not heard of, The Ostrich Factor: Our Population Myopia (1998). Hardin was an interesting blend of an ecological conservative, and a growth-hating political conservative who detested economists. I hoped that this book would provide fresh insights on the huge and difficult … [Read more...]

Jesus, pioneer of voluntary poverty

Picture of the Holy Family

Note: This article is an excerpt reprinted with permission of the publisher from Simple Living in History: Pioneers of the Deep Future, a collection of essays profiling key historical figures whose lives served as examples of living simply. Bible references are to the New International Version (NIV) -- Ed. A clear theme throughout Jesus’ ministry was the conflict between seeking God and … [Read more...]

As Americans flee suburbs, big cities aren’t their only destination

Suburbia by emilykneeter/Flickr.

Something historic happened in America after the housing crash. For the first time in about a century, cities began growing faster than suburbs. As Leigh Gallagher puts it in The End of the Suburbs, According to census data, population growth in outer suburbs, which had been the engine of residential growth for much of the 2000s, ground to a near halt from 2010 to 2011, increasing by just 0.4 … [Read more...]