Six More Books

Ecosocialist Bookshelf
March 2021, Part Two

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Marx on stealing wood, Human development in the Anthropocene, Solar energy, Nature dialogs, and two on food

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Climate & Capitalism can’t review every book we receive, but this monthly column briefly describes some that seem relevant to our mission. Any of these books may be reviewed at length in future.

by Ian Angus

Usually, Ecosocialist Bookshelf appears once a month, but a lot of interesting books have arrived lately, so I’ve written a second installment for March. As always, inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement, or that I agree with everything (or anything, for that matter) that these books say.

Daniel Bensaid
Karl Marx’s Debates on Wood Theft and the Right of the Poor

University of Minnesota Press, 2021
Before Karl Marx became a communist, he wrote a series of articles on the laws that prevented poor peasants in the Rhineland from gathering wood to heat their homes. In this essay, first published in French in 2007, noted Marxist scholar Daniel Bensaid examined those long-neglected pieces, and showed how they led Marx “to the heart of the mysteries and wonders of capital.” Translator Robert Nichols introduces the book with an account Bensaid’s life and ideas, and includes a new translation of Marx’s “Debates on the Law Concerning the Theft of Wood.”

Human Development Report 2020
Human Development and the Anthropocene
United Nations Development Programme, December 2020
The annual UN Human Development Report has always been an invaluable source of data and information, but the latest one takes a big step forward, placing its analysis in the context of the Anthropocene and planetary change. The authors show that the challenges of planetary and societal imbalance are inextricably linked, and that “nothing short of a great transformation — in how we live, work and cooperate — is needed to change the path we are on.” Its analysis is by no means ecosocialist, but it is a powerful counter to the “technology will save us” narrative that dominates mainstream environmentalism.

Amy Leather
Sandstone Press 2021
How can we build an equitable, sustainable food system? Is it enough to change our own diet or do we need more fundamental change? This brief and clearly-written pamphlet makes the case for a farm to plate revolution, to feed the world healthily and sustainably.

Anders Dunker
Ten Dialogues on the Future of Nature

OR Books, 2021
Interviews with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Jared Diamond, Sandra Díaz, Clive Hamilton, Ursula K. Heise, Bruno Latour, Bill Mckibben, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vandana Shiva, and Bernard Stiegler. Dunker says, “The thinkers I have chosen for these conversations have in common the capacity to transmit wonder and excitement toward the power of nature, even in light of pressing problems.” An uneven collection, but thought-provoking.

Carl Boggs
Food, Politics, and the Ecological Crisis

Political Animal Press, 2020
Decades ago, Boggs decided that Marxism needed to be updated with Greenish and Malthusian concepts. He continues to support a hybrid perspective in this book, but fortunately only in the final chapter. Most of the book is an insightful analysis of the food industry, agribusiness, and the “McDonaldized” fast-food complex that ecological Marxists can learn from, despite any disagreements we may have.

David Schwartzman
The Future That is Still Possible
Solar Press, 2021
David Schwartzman has long argued that full deployment of solar energy is needed not only to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but to make possible a socialist society with abundance for all. He and Peter Schwartzman made that argument in technical detail in The Earth is Not for Sale (World Scientific, 2019). This shorter work is written to be more accessible to activists. Free download.