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
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
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:
It was oil and coal that allowed us to abolish slavery 150
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
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
Nikiforuk won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award for this
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