David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘George Monbiot’

Do not ask for whom the waves splash …

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2016 at 11:58 pm
When the peculiarities of community and place are swept away by the tides of capital, all that’s left is a globalised shopping culture, in which we engage with glazed passivity. Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chainstores.
Nice line, but it is more the conglomeration of chain stores in shopping malls that fixates me. When I picture the future, it is Westfields. Now we say that the things that join us must be removed, for they are the cause of conflict between groups. We move away from joining, whether the group be churches or trades unions or political parties or charities. We are perhaps left with a tenuous linkage as, what, barrackers for a football team? A team that loses its players next season to the highest bidder. A team we support from our lounge room, free from the discomfort of other spectators. And at the end of history, we are left in our rightful places, wandering the brightly lit corridors, warmed by the acceptance of our cards at payswipe, trying not to hear the lapping of the rising water in the lower floors.

Reading …

In Uncategorized on June 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

I once had many blogs, and one that I really wanted to do concentrated on my best and worst reading experiences. I think I managed 3 entries. The final post dealt with the first volume of a steam punk alternative universe trilogy, which I did not like, especially the way it dealt with the grandfather paradox, as though no one had thought of it before, and I expressed myself very clearly. I then found out that the writer read it, and I was mortified. I discovered (no, learned anew) that I am a moral coward, and I felt bad that I may have hurt his feelings. I agree that shows I have no place being alive, or that I need to develop a thicker skin before reviewing any more books.

However, why should that stop me mentioning some fun things I have read? I confess, the tag line used on Ken MacLeod’s ‘The Execution Channel’ dragged me in some years ago: “The war on terror is over. Terror won”. I am always up for a bit of near future dystopian nastiness, and I have some fondness for MacLeod’s red rag (or red flag) waving. The best part for me was the “Oh bullshit!” moment I had at page 358 of the Orbit edition – woo hoo, I didn’t see it coming. I won’t spoil anything, just let me know when you get to that page. Now, that was some time back. I started his ‘Intrusion’, but it was packed away with most of my other books when I went into exile. All this is just to lead into that I picked up ‘The Restoration Game’ cheaply at a local book store, and again enjoyed the red whatever waving and the machinations involved in post Soviet regimes. Best of all was the anomaly that appears on page 276. Again, let me know when you get to that page, I wouldn’t want to spoil anything (did I mention that I am the world’s worst book reviewer? I mean, if I was any good, I wouldn’t be talking about books from 2010).

The 2014 edition of Michael Kelly’s ‘Shadows and Tall Trees’ was delivered by The Book Depository official (aka The Postman) this week, a lovely looking and feeling paperback anthology. Not being a proper reviewer, I do not have to wait until I finish it to say nothing very much at all. For a change I thought I would read the stories in the order in which they are presented, I must be growing more conservative in my old age. I was tricked by the title of Eric Shaller’s ‘To Assume the Writer’s Crown: Notes on the Craft’ for a moment or two, into thinking I was reading an essay. It is a sly thing with a punch which brought an uneasy smile to my face at its cleverness and nastiness. Just started (and enjoying) the second piece, ‘Onanon’ by Michael Wehunt, notwithstanding that it is a story about a writer, which always worries me a little.

In a similar vein to this anthology, I note that Faber is releasing new paperback editions of Robert Aickman’s stories, at a more reasonable price than has been available until now, and I enjoyed the 50 year old collection ‘Dark Entries’ recently.

Waiting patiently for me are ‘The Year of the Ladybird’ by Graham Joyce, ‘The Adjacent’ by Christopher Priest, and ‘The Ninth Configuration’ by William Peter Blatty, enough to keep me going for a while.

There, you really needed to know all of that, didn’t you?

(If you want to read something good, then read ‘Feral’ by George Monbiot. I really enjoyed it. It moved me. It fascinated me. How is that for a review, folks?)

And just to prove I never waste my time nor my money …

Toil is stupid

A spud’s work is never done.


No Lions please, we’re British

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2013 at 9:10 am

You have to (yes, it is compulsory) love a book that includes the following: a section on the reintroduction of vanished species to Britain; in that section, a table naming species with an estimated date of extinction in Britain; a rating of their suitability for reintroduction; a heading, “Reintroduction efforts so far”; an entry simply stating “Lion”; and the comment “The clamour for the lion’s reintroduction to Britain has, so far, been muted”. Just lovely.
I have thoroughly enjoyed, and been terribly upset by, George Monbiot’s “Feral”. I cannot do it justice. A great quality of the book is its hopefulness, coupled with an awareness of the possible. It can be strident, but it is in no way unrealistic. He is fair in admitting his prejudices, and in the time and thought he gives to views that disagree with his own. His description of Alan Watson Featherstone, and his growing admiration for him, is delightful:

I have developed a number of prejudices, which until now appeared to be rational: against people who believe in the significance of coincidences; against people who maintain that plants grow better if you love them; against people who live at the Findhorn Foundation…; against men with ponytails. Alan belongs to all of these categories, yet he resembles none of the stereotypes I have, perhaps unfairly, constructed around such traits.

His is one of the most engaging minds I have come across.

The lion is of course native to Britain*, only having become extinct about 11,000 years ago. Australia’s recent history of extinction is distressing, and the distinct nature of Australia’s fauna means that it is not possible to reintroduce most animals. In some cases, a remnant population has been discovered on an island, or where an extinction is local, it has been possible to repopulate from another part of the country. However, in terms of restoring an ecosystem to health, a replacement has to be found. I think the first time I came across this was in a suggestion in “The Future Eaters” by Tim Flannery that Komodo dragons could be introduced to replace now extinct local reptilian megafauna. More recently, there have even been suggestions that elephants could be introduced into the Northern Territory, in part to help deal with introduced African grass species. Of course, that is part of the problem, the number of introduced species introduced within the last century or so into a set of unique ecosystems.
The crazy extent of this is set out in “Feral Future” by Tim Low, “the untold story of Australia’s exotic invaders”. Leaving aside questions of livestock that commenced arriving with the First Fleet, Australians well know and rue the introduction of the rabbit and the fox. More recently, we are seeing the countryside ruined by the cane toad (deliberately introduced in 1932, and that introduction seen as an act of genius). What is fascinating is the 19th century Acclimatisation Societies, organisations of learned men (I am not aware of any female participation) determined to spread the world’s animals and plants between all nations. In 1862, the Governor of Victoria sought to have monkeys released into the native forests. “They wanted South American alpacas in our mountain chains, Himalayan pheasants in Gippsland, ostriches and antelope in the outback…” Fortunately they failed in many of their endeavours, but we live today with their successes. I met Tim Low a number of years ago when he spoke at a conference I arranged. If I had power, he would have money and be in charge of something big and important, but I do not. I recommend both of his books, but make sure you read them in the right order. He felt that “Feral Future” ended on a bit of a low note, and wanted to be encouraging, so followed it up with “The New Nature”. Unfortunately, I was entranced by the second book and so sought out the first, and ended up with the downer he sought to avoid.

*well, lion bones have been found in the Netherlands, which is close

“Feral” by George Monbiot
“Feral Future” by Tim Low
“The New Nature” by Tim Low
“The Future Eaters” by Tim Flannery

Read them all!

The oceans die while the coward drinks his coffee and turns the page …

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2013 at 3:11 am

Am I the only person in the world to give up a coffee addiction after watching South Park? Watching Tweek treat his anxiety with coffee I thought, I don’t need the jitters or the upset stomach any more. Yet there I was this morning, having my second cappuccino in two days (I think my sixth cup for the year), and I could feel my nervousness rising. It was the combination of the coffee and reading this article by Greg Ray in the Sydney Morning Herald over breakfast. Ivan Macfadyen sailed across the Pacific and compared to an earlier voyage, found a silent wasteland. The fish are gone, and with them, the birds. I closed my eyes and pictured the massive factory boats, the huge industrial centres floating across the seas, destroying everything in their wake like a Fred Saberhagen Berserker or a city block sized Terminator. Out of sight, this gargantuan wasteful destruction going unchecked. I could not finish the article over breakfast, though I have now.
The work of these ships is described clearly in horrifying detail in George Monbiot’s “Feral“, where he sets out how nothing in the ocean escapes, as the machines even turn over boulders weighing tonnes on the sea floor. Day and night they work, sending us closer to the edge.
I struggle with this. I don’t want to turn a blind eye, yet I need to get through the day, and I cannot do that if I despair. How easy an excuse that becomes to turn away. Yet Monbiot, who has seen more of the world’s environmental horrors than many people, does not fall into this trap. If this was a proper article, I would give you his quote on why we should not despair, that despite the problems of this age, we have previously unavailable opportunities to act individually and collectively to change the world for the better, though we must have courage. However, I misplaced my note. But what I will give you is the final paragraph in an article he has on his website giving career advice which deserves to be repeated all over:

You know you have only one life. You know it is a precious, extraordinary, unrepeatable thing: the product of billions of years of serendipity and evolution. So why waste it by handing it over to the living dead?

Read “Feral” by George Monbiot