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Here are two, very different Canadian books I’ve been reading recently on motivation to do something about the  shocking, heartrending state of our environment, both of which I heartily recommend.

First, Franke James’ lively book of drawings, photos and lettering, Bothered by my Green Conscience, or “How an SUV driving, imported strawberry eating urban dweller can go green”. This is a fast, breezy, but thought-provoking true story about listening to her own conscience about environmental destruction, and what she did about it. It’s available from that excellent resource, New Society Publishers.

Second, Andrew Nikiforuk’s dark, insightful and disturbing book, The Energy of Slaves, Oil and The New Servitude, published by Greystone Books. Nikiforuk argues powerfully and persuasively that:

  1. It was oil and coal that allowed us to abolish slavery 150 years ago.
  2. Today, our dependence on petroleum energy has the same economic, ethical and moral effects that dependence on slave labour had on the Roman Empire and the American South, and
  3. It will lead us to an equally catastrophic ending if we do not emancipate ourselves, and live within our means.

Fossil fuels have made us as rich, as unequal, as arrogant, as blind and as addicted as Caribbean slaveowners. The arguments we use to justify petro-wars and the worldwide exploitation and transportation of fossil fuels are astonishingly and embarrassingly similar to the arguments that slaveowners and slave traders used to justify their own cruelty.

Nikiforuk argues for a seemingly implausible solution:

“Around the world, families and groups of individuals are walking away in ever-growing numbers from petroleum and the inanimate slave culture of frantic consumption. They are exchanging quantity for quality and relearning the practical arts. Those seeking liberty eat slowly, travel locally, plant gardens, work ethically, build communities, share tools, and eschew bigness in economic and political life. Above all, they are relearning what it means to live within their means, with grace. Like the Greeks long before them, these new abolitionists have come to understand that the indiscriminate spending of energy is mere Promethean hubris. Unqualified power diminishes life, the only true wealth we share. By burying the chains, we can find a new livelihood and an old freedom.”

Nikiforuk won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award for this book.

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