Ecosocialist Bookshelf, September 2023

September 19, 2023
Book covers

Water, farming, nuclear tests, copper mining, new biology, and sugar. Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus presents six books to help understand and change the world.

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The Three Ages of Water: Prehistoric Past, Imperiled Present, and a Hope for the Future
By Peter Gleick
Public Affairs/Hachette, 2023
Water has shaped civilisations and empires and driven centuries of advances in science and technology, but the achievements that have propelled humanity forward also brought consequences, including unsustainable water use, ecological destruction and global climate change, that now threaten to send us into a new dark age. Drawing from the lessons of our past, Gleick charts a visionary path toward a sustainable future for water and the planet.

The Agricultural Dilemma: How Not to Feed the World
By Glenn Davis Stone
Routledge/Earthscan, 2022
A thoughtful, critical analysis that upends entrenched misconceptions such as that we are running out of land for food production and that our only hope is the development of new agricultural technologies. Stone argues that there is a viable alternative to industrial agriculture that will allow us to meet the world’s needs.

Downwind of the Atomic State: Atmospheric Testing and the Rise of the Risk Society
By James C. Rice
New York University Press, 2023
For eleven years, more than a hundred nuclear weapons tests were conducted in Nevada, spreading radioactive debris across nearby communities and much of North America. Atomic Energy Commission officials knew that the detonations injected radioactive fallout into the atmosphere, but didn’t seem to care that the radioactivity could irrevocably damage the health of millions of people.

Mining the Heartland: Nature, Place, and Populism on the Iron Range
By Erik Kojola
New York University Press, 2023
A riveting picture of the cultural struggles and political conflicts surrounding proposed copper-nickel mines in Minnesota’s Iron Range. Focusing on both pro- and anti-mining groups, Kojola expands upon what this conflict reveals about the way whiteness and masculinity operate among urban and rural residents, and the different ways in which class, race, and gender shape how people relate to the land.

The New Biology: A Battle Between Mechanism and Organicism
By Michael J Reiss & Michael Ruse
Harvard University Press, 2023
The search for a unified framework for biology is as old as Plato’s musings on natural order, which suggested that the universe itself is alive. But in the 20th century, under the influence of genetics and microbiology, such organicist positions were largely set aside in favour of mechanical reductionism, by which life is explained by the movement of its parts. But can organisms truly be understood in mechanical terms, or do we need to view life from the perspective of whole organisms to make sense of biological complexity?

The World Of Sugar: How the Sweet Stuff Transformed Our Politics, Health, and Environment over 2000 Years
By Ulbe Bosma
Harvard University Press, 2023
Sugar has transformed life on every continent, creating and destroying whole cultures through industrialisation, labour migration, and changes in diet. Sugar made fortunes, corrupted governments and shaped the policies of technocrats. And it provoked freedom cries that rang with world-changing consequences. To understand sugar’s past is to glimpse the origins of our own world of corn syrup and ethanol and the threat that a not-so-simple commodity poses to our bodies, our environment and our communities.

[Reprinted from Climate and Capitalism. Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement.]

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