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Book Reviews from the Victoria July Chapter Meeting

Part of the July chapter meeting was devoted to short reviews of climate change or renewable energy books by members.

Harald Wolf

“Twilight in the Desert” by Matthew Simmons, the Texas consultant who knows the oil industry.   For techies, shows how oil in Saudi Arabia affects politics.
Ghawar field is failing.  Politics & technologies in Saudi Arabia.

“The Transition Handbook” by Rob Hopkins
The transition movement that is needed for societal change stemmed from peak oil statistics.  Politicians and technologists don't have answers.  We need to envision a future society without hydrocarbons and developing strategies to move forward. Energy descent action plan in the community.  NB:  On Aug.5th come to the Victoria Public Library to hear more about the local group.

Gunter Honold

Intersolar conference & exhibition in San Francisco 2009 (has been running for 20 years).  Up to 15K participants.  Excellent conference on solar topics.  Shows growth of clean solar technology. Keeping up with the solar industry.

Rhona McAdam

“Beyond Oil: the threat to food and fuel in the coming decades” by John Geber et al. (1986). Good for small farmers on the use of oil & fertilizers. Soil depletion, fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, etc. will all lead to a loss of standard of living.  Discusses more sustainable styles of farming.

Tom Hackney

“Collapse” by Jared Diamond
Anthropological studies of societies that have been environmentally stressed & their collapse or struggle to adapt & survive. e.g. Easter Island, Maya, Greenland, Anasazi in SW US.  Similar to, but much more detail than, “A Short History of Progress” by Ronald Wright.

J.D. Gibberd

“The Long Emergency” by James Kunstler
Closer to the truth than most are telling us right now. Summarising energy use, fossil fuel use, can't all be replaced with small amounts of renewables. About reordering society and reassessing our energy sources.  Suburbia is the greatest misuse of resources in history.  Governments will run out of money at the time that we need huge investments in infrastructure to rebuild society.

Don Scott

“The Weathermakers” by Tim Flannery
About the making of fossil fuels – great explanation of this process in layman's language. It took about 500,000,000 years to sequester CO2 from air into coal and oil, and we have placed 15-20% of that back into the air in a century. Therefore, it will cause upset.

Lectures on climate change effects on the world by Gwynne Dyer (available online at CBC.ca/ideas).  Full interviews are online at Dyer’s website.

Bruce Mackenzie

“Climate Wars” - Gwynne Dyer
All you need to know about climate change, and lots about how it will affect future food supply, mass migrations, politics and therefore wars.

“Farming in a Changing Climate: Agricultural adaptation in Canada”, by Ellen Wall, Barry Smit, et al
.  UBC press.
Academic book on how the farm sector can adapt to change. Three facets:

  1. how the external environment will change
  2. how individual growers and industry can adapt
  3. what society / government should do to help

Lynn Daniel

“Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben
 Structure of economy needs to change from more (growth) to better through a local economy supporting community. We are now hyper-individuals trying to make something of ourselves, and have lost community. Warmer houses, lots of food, all needing more energy and separating people. Local economies will improve our social life and happiness. Has been backed up by studies of people who interact more. Saved 90% of energy use. Can we embrace it in time ?

Alison LeDuc

“Alternatives” magazine, Vol.15, no.3, 2009
75 environmental book reviews in that (current) issue. 
‘Managing without Growth’ – slower economica growth by design.
'Doubt is their product' - book about how industry is reducing our reliance on science. Doubt causes delay of regulatory action; manufactures uncertainty,
Book on oceans – oceans now have dead zones from fertilizers, plastic vortices, acidification.

Devin Craig

“Natural Capitalism” by Paul Hawken & Amory Lovins
Dockside Green referred to this book in their planning.  Very informative.

Michael Nation

“Managing Without Growth: Slower by design, not disaster” by Peter Victor  (2008)
Economist in Environmental Studies Dept. at York University, so Canadian as well as global context to book.  Economic growth (GDP) has been main focus of Western governments since WW2. We need to slow down growth of rich countries so poor countries can grow. Technology efficiency increases have never resulted in aggregate energy-use reductions.  Looks into life satisfaction: income doesn't correlate with life satisfaction.  No growth applied carelessly would create difficulties, but Victor presents several policy options.  Proposes enconomic growth 'speed limit' of 1-2% per year for rich countries.  Excellent reference for understanding economic growth.

Bruce Sellars

Chris Martenson - Crash Course
Three hour Web course in how energy systems, economics and environment interact.  Presents his arguments very well.  You may not like what he says, but you will know why the world economy is where it is, and why going back to the way it was is not going to happen.

“1000 Barrels A Second” by Peter Tertzakian
 The coming oil break point and the challenges facing an energy dependent world.  The first part of the book has a very good introduction to the history of energy.  Easier to read than Twilight in the Desert.


Most or all of the books reviewed are available at the UVic or Greater Victoria Public libraries. 

Note: UVic library privileges are $50.00/year for 'community' members. http://library.uvic.ca/site/dept/access/cards_external.html 

UVic alumni can borrow after getting a $10.00 alumni card 

Please support local libraries and locally owned bookstores.