It is Saturday night, and having just arrived home from a three-day road trip that took me from vancouver to merrit to kamloops and then to the sunshine coast, I am too worn out to socialize, and also too exhausted to think of much interesting – so I thought I would post my recent booklist here at a friend’s request.
This winter I spent a lot of time reading around certain themes – the history of human civilizations, ecological healing, trauma recovery and community development. Out of that long list of reading materials, I have culled a few of my favourites for short review.
Books I have recently read and would recommend (in no particular order)
Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond
This was published in 1997 and has since won a number of awards including the Pulitzer Prize. It is a powerful argument about the impact of the ecological and thus material forces that have shaped our histories of development as peoples of the world.
Walking on Water: Reading, Writing & RevolutionDerrick Jensen
Jensen is one of my favourite authors of the last two years, and his A Language Older than Words remains one of the most powerful books I have ever read (and re-read). This recent work is another critique of civilized society through an exploration of the repressive nature of the formal education system. This is another well-written work by Jensen that contains intelligent analysis inside humorous examples and the occasional rant at the system. For would-be teachers, or anyone interested in further exploring themes of education, this book includes an excellent bibliography.
Gone to Croatan: Origins of North American Dropout Cultureus Essays – Ron Sakolsky & James Koehnline, eds
This is another “hidden” history of North America, exploring the social formations and cultural expressions of America’s tri-racial communities in the early days (up until the 1900s) of colonization. These various tribes were made up of disenfranchised Europeans, runaway African slaves, and displaced First Nations people. The multiple essays in this anthology provide a fascinating and inspiring look at those who rebelled against the homogeneity of white colonization by their very existence.
My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western CivilizationChellis Glendinning
Glendinning’s theory is that all humans in the civilized world are suffering from an “original trauma” caused by our disconnect from and continuing assualt on the natural environment. This puts all of our society in a continual state of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is further compounded by the fresh traumas that we encounter in the course of our lives. I don’t know if I entirely buy all of her arguments, but I certainly agree with her central premise which is that we are living in an extremely detrimental way to our psychological and physical well-beings and the only remedy for this disconnect is something quite drastic.
Plant Technology of First Peoples in British Columbia J. Turner
This is an encyclopedia of how First Nations people in BC used plants, and what purposes different plants served in day to day life. I grew up here, partly in the forest, and I found it fascinating to find out what different common plants could be used for.
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma A. Levine
Levine offers a counter to standard trauma therapists who encourage patients to endlessly talk through trauma. The premise behind the therapy recommended in this book is that our bodies store trauma in physical locations and in order to heal, we must access those locations, release the trauma and reconnect our physical and mental selves. I personally find a combination of bodywork, physical exercise and counselling to have been the only thing effective for my healing – which makes me inclined to agree with a lot of what Levine says in this book.
WoodSquat Vidaver ed.
This is a journal of essays about the now-infamous Woodward’s Squat that Vancouver’s homeless and local activists erected a tent-city in front of for three months in the fall of 2002. Recently released, this is an important collection of photos, essays, legal documents and celebration about resistance in one of Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Creating a Life Together Leafe Christian
This is one of those must-have how to books for people interested in intentional community-building. Christian walks through all the potential issues including vision, land, legal options, community problem-solving and much more.
Books I am currently reading:
According to new reports coming from Environment Canada (among other international climate change working groups) – by 2080, winter temperatures in central Canada will be 5C to 15C higher than at present. Internationally, the average surface temperature will rise 1-3C over the next few decades and extreme weather could create 150 million environmental refugees by 2050, severe water shortages in many parts of the world, a disruption of wildlife patterns and could trigger an ice age in parts of europe and north america (caused by ice floes melting into the atlantic ocean and creating dramatic cooling effects).
The dry winters we have experienced in what used to be a “rain” forest, the water shortages of the past summer, and the increasing numbers of forest fires hitting people throughout BC are to become an ever-present feature of our landscape it seems. Prince Rupert isn’t looking like such a bad option all of the sudden (it still rains up there almost every day).
So yesterday, Salon magazine online ran a story about packaged low-carb foods and how awful they are taste-wise. Lately, there have been a number of articles about the “new low-carb” trend and what people are eating to satisfy it – and really – this whole Atkins/low-carb thing is getting more and more twisted every day.
It’s one thing to cut out white sugar and flour – highly refined foods are stripped of nutrients and provide mainly empty calories – but to replace those processed foods with new ones even more loaded with chemicals and by-products but “low-carb” seems bizarre. Even worse is the fact low-carb diets are not conducive to exercise since carbs are what help our muscles to function properly.
Reading the ingredients in the packaged products discussed in the article – it really makes one question the health-value of them, and whether anyone could subsist on such food for any length of time…. Not to mention the new fast-food lettuce wraps which feature two patties of greasy meat wrapped in lettuce leaves – oh yeah, definitely an excellent alternative to those unhealthy fruits and whole grains.
This is without a doubt one of the saddest diet crazes to hit, offering people poor tasting, high-fat entrees and snacks – with little evidence that this plan works better than any other in the long-run. Not only that, but there is plenty of evidence that high-protein and high-fat diets over time can cause all sorts of health nasties. Of course, most people don’t stay on the diet long enough to encounter these problems – but then again most people don’t stay on it long enough to lose any significant amount of weight either.
The problem here is of course our societal messaging that says – “CONSUME” and “BE THIN” and “YOU’RE A NORTH AMERICAN, LIFE SHOULD COME EASY” – making for a combination of conflicts that diets such as Atkins make a lot of money on – coaxing people into believing that they can eat as much of their favourite foods as they want, without having to exercise – and this will bring them to their desired shape.
“Thin” does not equal “Healthy” – as these are two very different goals to work towards – and it’s a shame to see corporations encouraging people to destroy their health in a quest to be thin – just to fill their coffers.
So – I opened this blog two months ago and haven’t kept up with it. This is me trying again.
But it’s interesting coming back to it and to notice the quote in the previous entry from March. Very apropos given the number of soldiers in the news these days claiming that they were just following orders. A little disingenuous given the history of the 20th century and the voluminous testimony to the same effect at the Nuremberg trials. If we run a google news search on “i was just following orders” the results are pages and pages long these days – and just as in Nuremberg – the higher ups are saying “we didn’t know what was going on”.
Of course this is the fault of leadership, but not that it was weak in disciplining troops in Iraq, but that it took them there at all in the first place, convincing the American people that Arabs were less than human and then releasing well-armed hooligans onto the population, giving them carte blanche to wipe out the terrorist menace. Little surprise at this sickening outcome really.
And in other news… The Vancouver Sun today has the frontpage headline Crackdown hasn’t cut drug use in Downtown Eastside. This story references the extra 150 police that were put into Vancouver’s DTES several months ago to combat the drug problem. Of course at the time this was met with a lot of community criticism, and stories of abuses of police authority have flourished since then – but this story cinches it by reporting on a study that shows that rather than decrease drug use in the eastside neighbourhood – all the police did was spread it around, increasing the risk of HIV transmission and pushing people away from safe injection sites and needle exchanges. Good work boys! Not that this strategy hasn’t been tried time and time again in the US “Drug War” of the last two decades, to very little success – we had to try it here, one more time, just to see if we could somehow do it different.
As one of the report authors argues – “no matter how much you push in how many points, this problem doesn’t go away unless you deal with it in a more medical, comprehensive fashion.” Definitely words to pay attention to.