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Ecologic – Brian Clegg *****
We’ve thought long and hard in the past about how to review books written by our editor, Brian Clegg. There’s always the danger of seeming biased. So for this book we’ve instead gone for a summary of what it’s about and a few quotes from an independent review in BBC Focus Magazine.
This is the thesis of the book:
We aren’t well equipped to deal with green issues. Our natural tendency with such an emotive issue is to be swayed by feelings, rather than logic. And that’s fine to get us all excited – but it doesn’t make for good solutions to green problems. Ecologic uncovers the reality behind the greenwash and the eco-bogeymen.
Here’s part of the review:
This book crackles. Every paragraph pits your heart against your head. Those with green sensibilities and a nervous disposition may have a cardiac arrest. But the rest of us will have our synapses set alight…
He rails at ‘MMR madness’ and has the notorious Channel 4 programme The Great Global Warming Swindle bang to rights as an intellectual swindle itself. He is intelligent on fair trade and the “muck and mysticism” of organic farming and understanding about our unfortunate confusion over biodegradables…
A cracking read for anyone who cares about both their environmental footprint and their sanity in a world being flooded with greenwash and gobbledegook. (5 stars out of 5)
Also on Kindle:
Review by Fred Pearce
It was an admirable task for Brian to set about analysing the true “green-ness” of those claiming to be green on several broad spectrum environmental issues. However, I found the book more debilitating and exhilarating when it came to changing my own behaviour to be green. The approach was methodical indeed, the arguments well founded and certainly I learnt more in depth about several issues including a real look at the “organic” movement. And yet, while the author’s best intentions are to reveal why and how we should be green, and properly green at that, there is little hint of this motivation apart from in the dedications and on the final pages of the book. Taking a scalpel to the “irrational” side of science is fine and yet it somehow cut out my raison d’etre of reading the book. By the end the book I was still wondering if cutting my carbon emissions would make the blindest bit of difference to anyone if nitrous oxide is the true bogeyman we should be focusing on, as Brian had factually pointed out.
On the positive and rather academic side the book made me ask lots of questions.
The best question the book made me ask myself was “what organic and natural things am I deceiving myself with that are actually really poisons?” It has stimulated much label reading in the kitchen and bathroom and a reverence for coffee, one the most toxic things I had not really thought much about until reading this book.
Oh well. If you want to pass your university Msc. in Science Studies by arguing and critiquing the issues then buy this book. If you want a green fairytale or a local green operational manual to inspire yourself out of eco-inertia you need to look elsewhere.
I am still waiting for a popular science book that is clear and easy enough to read in the bath to relax!
It's rare that a straightforward biology book (with a fair amount of palaeontology thrown in) really grabs my attention, but this one did. Liam Drew really piles in the surprising facts (often surprising to him too) and draws us a wonderful picture of the various aspects of mammals that make them different from other animals.
More on this in a moment, but I ought to mention the introduction, as you have to get past it to get to the rest, and it might put you off. I'm not sure why many books have an introduction - they often just get in the way of the writing, and this one seemed to go on for ever. So bear with it before you get to the good stuff, starting with the strange puzzle of why some mammals have external testes.
It seems bizarre to have such an important thing for passing on the genes so precariously posed - and it's not that they have to be, as it's not the case with all mammals. Drew mixes his own attempts to think through this intriguing issue with the histor…
The last time I enjoyed a popular maths book as much as this one was reading Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions as a teenager. The trouble with a lot of ‘fun’ maths books is that they cover material that mathematicians consider fascinating, such as pairs of primes that are only two apart, which fail to raise much excitement in normal human beings.
Here, all the articles have something a little more to them. So, even though Brian Hayes may be dealing with something fairly abstruse-sounding like the ratio of the volume of an n-dimensional hypersphere to the smallest hypercube that contains it, the article always has an interesting edge - in this case that although the ‘volume’ of the hypersphere grows up to the fifth dimension it gets smaller and smaller thereafter, becoming an almost undetectable part of the hypercube.
If that doesn’t grab you, many articles in this collection aren’t as abstruse, covering everything from random walks to a strange betting game. What'…
There was a time when you would be hard pushed to find a science fiction novel with a female main character. As I noted when re-reading Asimov's Foundation, in 189 pages, women appear on just five pages - and they're very much supporting cast. But the majority of new SF novels I've read this year have had female main characters, including The Real Town Murders, Austral and Andy Weir's upcoming Artemis.
That's certainly the case in Karl Drinkwater's engaging Lost Solace. It's really a two hander between military renegade Opal and her ship's AI, Clarissa. There are a few male characters, but they are either non-speaking troops she battles or a major with whom she has a couple of short video conversations. That summary gives an unfair military flavour to the whole thing - in practice, the majority of the action, which is practically non-stop throughout the book, involves Opal trying to survive as she explores a mysterious, apparently abandoned liner in a de…