GREAT READS

 WORLD ON THE EDGE

Written by Lester R. Brown, the president of the EARTH POLICY INSTITUTE, a research organization based in Washington D.C.  Brown has been honored with numerous prizes including a a MacArthur Fellowship, the United Nations Environment Prize, Japan’s Blue Planet, and twenty-five honorary degrees.

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Truly one of the most comprehensive, data-based, books written providing empirical evidence of the profound effect we are having on the planet.   WORLD ON THE EDGE reveals to the reader the issues of near overwhelming complexity and unprecedented urgency.  Our challenge is to think globally and develop policies at the level of government, and act locally as individuals to counteract environmental and economic collapse.  The question is:  Can we change before we go over the edge?

Lester Brown looks at our economic future through an environmental lens to develop a plan that will sustain civilization.  He concentrates on four major components that will head us toward a brighter future:  a massive cut in global carbon emissions, the stabilization of the world’s population, the abatement of poverty, and the restoration of planet’s diverse landscape.

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FARMACOLOGY by Daphne Miller M.D.

In Farmacology, practicing family physician and renowned nutrition explorer Daphne Miller brings us beyond the simple concept of “food as medicine” and introduces us to the critical idea that it’s the farm where that food is grown that offers us the real medicine.

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By venturing out of her clinic and spending time on seven family farms, Miller uncovers all the aspects of farming—from seed choice to soil management—that have a direct and powerful impact on our health. Bridging the traditional divide between agriculture and medicine, Miller shares lessons learned from inspiring farmers and biomedical researchers and artfully weaves their insights and discoveries, along with stories from her patients, into the narrative. The result is a compelling new vision for sustainable healing and a treasure trove of farm-to-body lessons that have immense value in our daily lives.

In Farmacology you will meet:

  • a vegetable farmer in Washington State who shows us how the principles he uses to rejuvenate his soil apply just as well to our own bodies. Here we also discover the direct links between healthy soil and healthy humans.
  • a beef farmer in Missouri who shows how a holistic cattle-grazing method can grow resilient calves and resilient children.
  • an egg farmer in Arkansas who introduces us to the counterintuitive idea that stress can keep us productive and healthy.
  • We discover why the stressors associated with a pasture-based farming system are beneficial to animals and humans while the duress of factory farming can make us ill.
  • A vintner in Sonoma, California, who reveals the principles of Integrated Pest Management and helps us understand how this gentler approach to controlling unwanted bugs and weeds might be used to treat invasive cancers in humans.
  • A farmer in the Bronx who shows us how a network of gardens offers health benefits that extend far beyond the nutrient value of the fruits and vegetables grown in the raised beds. For example, did you know that urban farming can lower the incidence of alcoholism and crime?
  • Finally, an aromatic herb farmer in Washington State who teaches us about the secret chemical messages we exchange with plants—messages that can affect our mood and even keep us looking youthful.

In each chapter, Farmacology reveals the surprising ways that the ecology of our body and the ecology of our farms are intimately linked. This is a paradigm-changing adventure that has huge implications for our personal health and the health of the planet.

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THE ECOLOGY OF COMMERCE by Paul Hawken

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The Ecology of Commerce is the provocative national bestseller that addresses the necessity of merging good business practices with common sense environmental concerns. Nearly two decades after its initial publication, this controversial work by Paul Hawken has been revised and updated, arguing why business success and sustainable environmental practices need not—and, for the sake of our planet, must not—be mutually exclusive any longer. An essential work, Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce belongs on the bookshelf of every concerned citizen—alongside Capitalism at the Crossroads by Stuart Hart and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance and An Inconvenient Truth.

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THE THIRD PLATE by Dan Barber

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At the heart of today’s optimistic farm-to-table food culture is a dark secret: the local food movement has failed to change how we eat. It has also offered a false promise for the future of food. Our concern over factory farms and chemically grown crops might have sparked a social movement, but chef Dan Barber reveals that even the most enlightened eating of today is ultimately detrimental to the environment and to individual health. And it doesn’t involve truly delicious food. Based on ten years of surveying farming communities around the world, Barber’s The Third Plate offers a radical new way of thinking about food that will heal the land and taste good, too.

The Third Plate is grounded in the history of American cuisine over the last two centuries. Traditionally, we have dined on the “first plate,” a classic meal centered on a large cut of meat with few vegetables. Thankfully, that’s become largely passé. The farm-to-table movement has championed the “second plate,” where the meat is from free-range animals and the vegetables are locally sourced. It’s better-tasting, and better for the planet, but the second plate’s architecture is identical to that of the first. It, too, is damaging—disrupting the ecological balances of the planet, causing soil depletion and nutrient loss—and in the end it isn’t a sustainable way to farm or eat.

The solution, explains Barber, lies in the “third plate”: an integrated system of vegetable, grain, and livestock production that is fully supported—in fact, dictated—by what we choose to cook for dinner. The third plate is where good farming and good food intersect.

While the third plate is a novelty in America, Barber demonstrates that this way of eating is rooted in worldwide tradition. He explores the time-honored farming practices of the southern Spanish dehesa, a region producing high-grade olives, acorns, cork, wool, and the renowned jamón ibérico. Off the Straits of Gibraltar, Barber investigates the future of seafood through a revolutionary aquaculture operation and an ancient tuna-fishing ritual. In upstate New York, Barber learns from a flourishing mixed-crop farm whose innovative organic practices have revived the land and resurrected an industry. And in Washington State he works with cutting-edge seedsmen developing new varieties of grain in collaboration with local bakers, millers, and malt makers. Drawing on the wisdom and experience of chefs and farmers from around the world, Barber builds a dazzling panorama of ethical and flavorful eating destined to refashion Americans’ deepest beliefs about food.

A vivid and profound work that takes readers into the kitchens and fields revolutionizing the way we eat, The Third Plate redefines nutrition, agriculture, and taste for the twenty-first century. The Third Plate charts a bright path forward for eaters and chefs alike, daring everyone to imagine a future for our national cuisine that is as sustainable as it is delicious.

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ISMAEL by Daniel Quinn

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The narrator of this extraordinary tale is a man in search for truth. He answers an ad in a local newspaper from a teacher looking for serious pupils, only to find himself alone in an abandoned office with a full-grown gorilla who is nibbling delicately on a slender branch. “You are the teacher?” he asks incredulously. “I am the teacher,” the gorilla replies.

Ishmael is a creature of immense wisdom and he has a story to tell, one that no other human being has ever heard. It is a story that extends backward and forward over the lifespan of the earth from the birth of time to a future there is still time to save.  Like all great teachers, Ishmael refuses to make the lesson easy; he demands the final illumination to come from within ourselves. Is it man’s destiny to rule the world? Or is it a higher destiny possible for him—one more wonderful than he has ever imagined?

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THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein

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The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.

 

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