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What tames inequality? Violence and mayhem, says new book

From Chronicle.com: In his new book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, Stanford University professor Walter Scheidel puts forth the following thesis: that historically, it took four kinds of violent ruptures  –mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure, and lethal pandemics– to reduce widespread inequality.

Where’s the energy for “the fourth industrial revolution”? Don’t ask.

Bart Hawkins Kreps writes: Will we have plenty of affordable energy to power communications among trillions of internet-connected sensors in the “Internet of Things”? Will our new fleet of self-driving cars have plenty of fuel to keep us moving en masse? The uncertainty of our long-term energy supply is not even mentioned in this book.

Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut

George Monbiot writes: We cannot hope to address our predicament without a new worldview. We cannot use the models that caused our crises to solve them. We need to reframe the problem. This is what the most inspiring book published so far this year – Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth of  Oxford University -has done.

Capitalism and the destruction of life on earth: Six theses on saving the humans

As global capitalist economic growth accelerates planetary ecological collapse, Richard Smith argues that – impossible as it may seem at present – only the most radical solution -the overthrow of global capitalism, the construction of a mostly publicly-owned and mostly planned eco-socialist economy is the only alternative to the collapse of civilization and ecological suicide.

‘A reckoning for our species’: the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene

From The Guardian: The chief reason that we’re waking up to our entanglement with the world we’ve been destroying, Timothy Morton says, is our encounter with the reality of hyperobjects –the term he coined to describe things such as ecosystems and black holes, which are “massively distributed in time and space” compared to individual humans.

Environmentalism used to be about defending the wild – not any more

From The Guardian: According to Paul Kingsnorth, environmentalism’s increasingly urban mindset means that instead of defending wild places we now spend our time arguing how to best domesticate these wild places –deserts, oceans, mountains– to generate the “green” energy needed to fuel things that, until recently, we couldn’t even imagine, let alone claim to need.

Bookshelf: Scarcity – Humanity’s Last Chapter?

Richard Reese writes: In ‘Scarcity: Humanity’s Final Chapter?’ Christopher O. Clugston analyses 89 key non-renewable resources that are essential to the existence of our industrial global society, and finds that 63 of them have peaked globally. His conclusion is that the only possible outcome for a society that is dependent on these resources, is collapse.

Luddites have been getting a bad rap for 200 years. Turns out, they were right

From Quartz.com: The Luddites were the bands of English workers who destroyed machinery, especially in cotton mills, which they believed was threatening their jobs. As machine learning and robotics consume manufacturing and white-collar jobs alike, New York Times journalist Clive Thompson revisits the Luddite’s history to see what the 200-year-old workers’ rebellion can teach us.

Project Drawdown: Mapping the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming

Amy Brady writes: Project Drawdown is a coalition of more than two hundred experts who have gathered 100 of the most viable ways to “draw down” carbon from the atmosphere. The result of their research is an immensely readable volume of solutions to climate change written for laypeople but informed by the world’s top experts.

How vulture capitalism is swallowing the world

 “What you see in a lot of countries is a predatory capitalism, from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Australia, which show the corporations that are involved in the neo-liberal agenda, an agenda that has been implemented without really any public consent. This is happening, I would argue, almost by stealth,” says author and journalist Anthony Lowenstein.

How a statist vision of development has brought Andaman’s tribals close to extinction

Excerpt from Islands in Flux, by Pankaj Sekhsaria: These communities of thousands of individuals with a living lineage going back thousands of years have been brought to this sorry state in a mere 150 years. It began with the British and their policies, which have been kept up with clinical efficiency by modern, independent India.

Red alert: A timeline for global collapse

This review by Alice Friedmann of Nafeez Ahmed’s new book has 3 parts: 1) Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political 2) How Bio-Physical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Nigeria 3) Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle-East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America

Rutger Bregman: Wealth isn’t created at the top; it’s only devoured there

Now, we may disagree about the extent to which success deserves to be rewarded–but virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top. In reality, it is precisely the other way around. This is one of the biggest taboos of our times– the truth that we are living in an inverse welfare state.

Warning: living in a city could seriously damage your health

Florence Williams writes: Unfortunately for city dwellers, the closer we live to roads, the higher our risk of autism, stroke and cognitive decline in ageing, although the exact reasons haven’t been teased out. Scientists suspect it has something to do with fine particles causing tissue inflammation and altering gene expression in the brain’s immune cells.

Marxism, ecology and the Anthropocene: A debate

Editor’s Note: Last week, Ecologise carried the well-known Marxist scholar John Bellamy Foster’s foreword to a new book, Facing the Anthropocene. In response, noted eco-socialist writer Saral Sarkar posted a comment questioning the usefulness of Marxist analysis in understanding the global ecological crisis. This short piece, first published on Ecologise, is Foster’s reply to Sarkar.

Bookshelf: Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System

John Bellamy Foster writes in the foreword: It’s capitalism and the alienated global environment it has produced that constitutes our “burning house” today. Mainstream environmentalists have generally chosen to do little more than contemplate it, while flames lick the roof and the entire structure threatens to collapse around them. The point, rather, is to change it.

Brace for the coming oil, food and financial crash

Nafeez Ahmed writes: A new research study by HSBC on global oil supply shows that the bulk of the world’s oil production has peaked and is now in decline. Welcome to a new age of permanent economic recession driven by our ongoing dependence on dirty, expensive, difficult oil — unless we choose a fundamentally different path.

Defying capitalism and socialism, Kumarappa and Gandhi had imagined a decentralised Indian economy

Gandhi and Kumarappa shared an objective of building a non-violent social and economic order that promoted equity and justice for all. Their understanding led them to conclude that “the only path to true democracy in political life, and to peace among nations” was a decentralised economic and political system where, necessarily, the “rewards were moderate”.

Bookshelf: Lean Logic – A Dictionary For The Future

A masterpiece and a dictionary unlike any other, every entry in David Fleming’s Lean Logic presents the author’s deft, original analysis of how our present market-based economy is destroying the very foundations—ecological, economic, and cultural—on which it depends, and his core focus: a compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that might weather the consequences.

Is data the ‘fourth paradigm’ of science?

In scientific discovery, the first three paradigms were experimental, theoretical and (more recently) computational science. This new book of essays inspired by the Microsoft researcher Jim Gray argues that a fourth paradigm of scientific discovery is at hand: the analysis of massive data sets. Read John Markoff’s review of the book in The New York Times.

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