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Book Reviews: Environmental, Military and Political


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Hell and High Water by Joseph RommBook Cover of Hell and High Water by Joseph Romm

Read by Natalie 2008

Natalie recommends this as a scary look at what our world is coming too.

This is actually written by a scientist and better yet, one who has experience in the science, politics and business of climate change. Romm ran the largest program in the world on climate change solutions. While the book is very American focused, it is probably not surprising given the author feels most of the change needs to come from America. He believes they need to lead the way in both making changes and influencing emerging economies like India and China. However he states that we have at best 10 years to sharply change our actions before it is too late and with policies continuously being blocked by conservatives and misrepresentation in the media, it may all be too little too late. This is a scary look at where we are heading and I for one can't believe people don't care more. But when a politician wants to be re-elected every 4 years, then they will say anything to get that done. I hope that one day someone starts taking this issue seriously.

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The Art of City Making by Charles LandryBook Cover of The Art of City Making by Charles Landry

Read by Tracy in 2008

Tracy recommends for an interesting look at urban planning.

This book progresses the idea that good cities depend on growing and encouraging a vibrant arts scene to be successful. Landry discusses many cities and how they might be better, hinting at remedies which include the use of culture and arts in city developments and the avoidance of globalisation i.e. allowing cities to be different and accepting of historical ethnicity. Landry is very critical of cities that have changed into silos eschewing generalised professions. I was puzzled when Landry extolled the virtues of Singapore which I think is the opposite of a creative city, in fact, I think it is very sterile, however, I agree with his description of Barcelona, Bilbao and Curitiba and how they have implemented innovative projects to increase creativity and encourage diversity. However, I felt that it was in some ways a diatribe that only encouraged continuing depressive urban planning.

Landry has been to Perth, funded by the arts community, in an effort to advise on how to throw off the "Dullesville" tag, which is obviously still a shackle.

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The Flight of the Creative Class by Richard FloridaBook Cover of The Flight of the Creative Class by Richard Florida

Read by Tracy 2008

Tracy recommends for an interesting discussion on encouraging and developing the creative classes.

Florida's book is based on the United States, but as globalisation spreads, can also relate to Australia. The premise of the book is that as Governments discourage or become less supportive towards the creative classes (they develop new businesses, technologies, art etc), the result is that fewer students, academics and entrepreneurs will be developed and in turn this reduces long-term competitiveness. Florida has developed several indices to rate cities on their creativity and some cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle are comparable to overseas countries, however, they need to keep growing and realising their potential to continue to attract innovators to drive development.

Florida believes the only way to attract and retain the creative classes is to invest in technology and create a good atmosphere to live in. This is a cross-over book to Landry's the Art of City Making which also highlights the benefits in building creative, innovative and diverse cities. This was a book that was suggested as a reading at University and I am glad as it provided some very interesting ideas.

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The Last Generation by Fred PearceBook Cover of The Last Generation by Fred Pearce

Read by Tracy in 2008

Tracy recommends for a realistic overview of climate change.

This book has the same message as James Lovelock's The Revenue of Gaia - human disruption of environmental processes is reaching a series of tipping points, beyond which there is no escape from a global catastrophe - scary thoughts, but due to the lack of action by the majority of the population and any real legislation by governments, makes you wonder where the environment features in most people's thoughts!

Pearce is a journalist and writes in a way that must hit a note with most readers. He can go over the top, but I didn't feel that the book particularly overdramatised the situation, in fact in some cases he may be a bit too cautious - I like the fire and brimstone effect sometimes. This is a good book to gain an overview of what is wrong with the world and despair at the lack of political action and despair even more at the pure ambivalence of individuals who bury their heads in the sand.

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