Posts Tagged ‘Book Reviews’

Book Review: Julian Day Rose ~ In Defense of Life

Book Review

In Defense of Life: Essays on a Radical Reworking of Green Wisdom by Julian Day Rose

Julian Rose’s latest book, In Defense of Life, offers twenty-four essays on topics like “The Cult of Passivity” in our world, the story of his successful campaign to protect the right to sell and consume real (raw, organic) milk in the UK, “Health, Balance and the Life Force,” factory farms, consumers’ power, rights and responsibilities, as well as firsthand details of Polish organic farmers’ struggle against EU encroachment, GMO’s, and economic sabotage. Throughout this broad range of discussion runs a common current that encourages readers to rediscover our own Divine spark so that we can reclaim our world from the “Super-State” and runaway global corporate control. Julian shares and analyses specific strategies for change, noting how and why certain forms of advocacy work while others fail to deliver desired results.

In Defense of Life is a humbly ambitious project. Without knowing Julian’s background, one might assume he has bitten off way more than one author can rightfully chew in one book; however, a lifetime of education and vision, organic farming, professional theater, community involvement and passionate advocacy qualifies Julian Rose as a strong spokesperson and role model for positive change on all levels. Far from spouting off theoretical solutions, Julian walks his talk, and his sensitive, compassionate and deeply aware soul shines through every page.

This book will most appeal to intellectual, creative and/or spiritual people bothered by the direction of our world, but unsure what to do about it. Those who live in Europe will appreciate his detailed descriptions of EU policies and how they really affect organic farmers and countries lured into debt by promises of an economic boon. As an American, I find this information useful for helping less informed people understand the global agenda at work. Recognizing what’s happening elsewhere sheds light on corporate and government shenanigans on this side of the pond. When we see the same patterns emerge in other areas, it becomes more difficult to maintain head-in-the-sand denial of Shadow Governments and conspiracy facts. Despite his time in Poland, Julian’s prose remains very British — his passion simmers beneath the surface, which might well suit those first learning about some of the more maddening policies and situations in our world.

I do not recommend trying to read this book in one or two sittings. Though short, the essays pack an individual and cumulative wallop. Reading them too quickly diminishes their impact. I suggest first letting an essay wash over you, then rereading it in order to absorb all the information and nuances. Julian Rose is a brilliant man, and he lets that brilliance shine through without apology — as well he should! In this action, he models his own urging for each of us to find our passion and live our own best lives as inspired beings. In its quiet, sensitive way, In Defense of Life drops paradigm shattering love bombs on its readers’ “comfortable” denial. Even if you already know most of the cited facts, Julian Rose’s extreme love for humanity and this world will work on you and in you — urging you to unleash more of your own love in action.

Book Review: Starhawk’s “The Fifth Sacred Thing”

A local friend suggested I read “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” so that some of us could form a book discussion group about the ideas and vision of this novel. Although it took me awhile to get into the characters, I quickly saw why my friend has read this book three times and counting. It’s filled with permaculture principles, magick, natural healing, and the tension between totalitarian dystopia and a power-from-within ecotopia based upon respect, not control.

I found Starhawk’s text incredibly prophetic, even when I thought it was written in 2005. My admiration tripled when I noticed a publication date of 1993! In 2013, as we face nuclear and toxic poisoning of the Pacific Ocean, a no longer hidden Police State, genetic manipulation, a transhumanist agenda, biological warfare, and increasingly intense weather events –both natural and human-aggravated — the setting of this novel in 2048 feels rather optimistic.

Once I managed to get a handle on the characters, I found the book difficult to put down. As the narrative continued, I realized that the initial ambiguities and confusion about gender, age and physical markers, actually contribute to and underscore the tale. As readers, we quickly find ourselves overwhelmed in and by a post-collapse world, unsure exactly which collapse triggered which events, but gradually recognizing the effects of long-term trauma and difficult life. Things the 20th and early 21st centuries took for granted have not been available for at least a generation, and the ripple effects of such deprivations reach much further than minor or anticipated inconvenience.

At the same time, we find that some things in this future society function much more harmoniously than in our current one. In the absence of cars, trucks and planes, this culture has compensated for its isolation by cultivating the individual gifts of each member of the community — art, music, healing, science, cooking, dreaming and psychic defense. Everyone gardens and participates in seasonal rituals, and the society bases itself around the premise that the Four Sacred Things (fire, water, air, earth) are so sacred that they cannot be privately owned. “May you never hunger; may you never thirst” is a phrase used in real-life pagan gatherings, but in “The Fifth Sacred Thing,” this concept forms the basis of an entire political system! No one goes hungry, and no one goes without water.

As the plot rolls on, we see just how innovative and special this city’s solutions are. Contrast via epic journeys to the Southlands shows us that — despite the obvious challenges up North in 2048 — things could be (and are) much worse elsewhere. The characters face horrific trials that force them to question not only their own morals and philosophies, but also the very essence of what it means to be human. Readers with rigid ideas about sexuality, self-defense, magick, religion, medicine, technology, and the occult will likely find themselves extremely challenged as they journey with the characters. Author Starhawk practices the Reclaiming Tradition, which combines one’s spirituality with non-violent political activism. Throughout her novel, we witness the effectiveness of non-violent resistance, as well as its limitations. The characters’ reactions and struggles force us to evaluate our own fixed ideals, hypocrisy, privilege and irresponsibility. We see on every level how each small action affects the whole of Creation, often in dramatic and unforeseen ways.

I particularly enjoyed all the manifested visualizations, herbal and energetic healing, as well as the key roles played by bees and crystals. Since I have personally made a decision to use magickal self-defense rather than violence should the SHTF, I enjoyed reading about various techniques — many of which I recognized as real, not fiction. In the acknowledgments, Starhawk confirms how thoroughly she researched this book, including Native teachings, along with actual songs, chants, techniques and rituals.

If you’ve ever wondered, “What would I do if society collapsed on multiple levels at once? Does it need to be ‘every man for himself,’ or can (must) we find ways to work together in community? Would we really be stronger together than apart? What does magick have to do with a fully functioning human, and how do I access multi-generational healing?” then “The Fifth Sacred Thing” deserves a place on your bookshelf. You will want to read it again and again, tracking your own growth as you face its challenges. If, on the other hand, you prefer to rest in the hazy halls of denial and wish to cling to the patriarchal status quo, then drop this book like a hot potato! You cannot engage “The Fifth Sacred Thing” and remain unchanged.

Book Review: The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen

A few weeks ago, we enjoyed the privilege of listening to Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, at the Nanovic Institute’s “The Future of Food” Symposium. On our way back from lunch, David and I got the chance to speak privately with Will, so we decided to buy his book and have him sign it. I expected to learn about urban farming and community outreach, but little did I know how riveting I’d find “The Good Food Revolution“!

I’ve lost track of how many diverse people I’ve suggested to read this book — just in the past week! Not only does Will share the expected tips about composting and working with urban youth, but “The Good Food Revolution” offers an in-depth history of: sharecropping, the Great Migration, African American culture, family farms, agriculture, family life, country and urban living, and professional basketball. Will tells his family’s story and left me wanting to know his mother, father and grandmother, as well as the white woman who rented them his childhood home. Although he addresses racism head-on, this book –and Growing Power — act as bridges between cultures, and Will himself embodies that inclusiveness. Rather than preaching color blindness, “The Good Food Revolution” masterfully highlights each person’s humanity. Race becomes a factor, but we see, through Will, each person as an individual who has a unique story and special gifts to share.

With the help of author Charles Wilson, Will interweaves folk wisdom and nostalgia with relationships and personal stories that had me literally laughing out loud and sobbing at various points in the narrative. On several occasions, I needed to put down the book so I could dry my tears and let the information settle in my heart. He gives us intimate glimpses into so many people’s lives –often shared in their own words — and lets their stories bring history and facts to life. At no point does this book feel didactic, although I never stopped learning from first page to last. The delicate way he reveals the growth of certain “characters” like Karen Parker and her two children, DeShell and DeShawn, often reads more like a page-turning novel than a treatise on “Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities.”

Towards the end of the book, Will shares insights into running non-profit and for-profit businesses, including examples of people who trained at Growing Power. His inclusiveness extends beyond race and his “Rainbow Coalition” of farmers, right into the corporate world and government. He finds ways to work with places like the corporation that provides all Milwaukee school lunches, Walmart, Kohl’s Department Stores, many local businesses who donate waste for compost, as well as federal and local government initiatives. Like many people, I have a knee-jerk reaction to corporations and government. Although I know we need to engage those in power if we wish to change them, part of me still recoils at direct collaboration. Will uses the same skills that allow him to recognize the humanity in each individual in order to recognize and honor corporate or government desire to make positive contributions. I was shocked to learn “that Walmart was launching a new initiative intended to increase the amount of local food it bought by 2015 to 9 percent. This is not insignificant, especially for a company with Walmart’s buying power. The average American eats less than 1 percent of his or her food from local sources.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. “The Good Food Revolution” offers a positive vision for an abundant future of off-grid living and local food, of inner city regeneration and the return of self-respect and sustainability to the nearly decimated profession and lifestyle of small farmers. I love listening to Will Allen speak and expected an inspirational book, but if Will had been a professional baseball player instead of a basketball star, I’d say he knocked this one out of the park. I know I’ll be savoring and digesting the lessons of “The Good Food Revolution” for a long time.