Reading matters

Ecosocialist Bookshelf, August 2021

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A bumper crop! Ten new books for red-greens and green-reds

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Ecosocialist Bookshelf is a monthly column, hosted by Ian Angus. Books described here may be reviewed at length in future. Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement, or that C&C agrees with everything (or even anything!) these books say.

Boaventura Monjane, editor
Land Struggles and Repression in Southern Africa

Daraja Press, 2021
Men and women who critically study the dynamics of agrarian and extractive capital in southern Africa bring theoretical, conceptual and practical contributions to the struggles of agrarian and rural movements. Contributors examine struggles in DRC, Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, eSwatini (Swaziland), Mozambique, and Madagascar.

John Parrington
How Culture Transformed the Human Brain

Oxford University Press, 2021
Drawing on the latest research on the human brain to show how it differs strikingly from those of other animals, Parrington argues that this ‘shift’, enlarging the brain, giving it greater flexibility and enabling higher functions such as imagination, was driven by tool use, but especially by the development of one remarkable tool, language. A substantive material explanation of self-conscious awareness in humans.

Chelsea Wald
The Urgent Global Quest to Transform the Toilet

Simon & Schuster, 2021
Half of the world’s people have no access to safe sanitation — and most of those who do use toilets that are inefficient, squander clean water, and flush away essential nutrients and energy. Wald profiles the growing army of sewage-savvy scientists, engineers and activists worldwide who are fighting to make toilets accessible, healthier, and environmentally sound.

Claas Kirchelle
The History of Antibiotics in Anglo-American Food Production

Rutgers University Press, 2020
The routine use of antibiotics to sustain and increase food production leaves dangerous residues in food, harms animals, and promotes antimicrobial resistance (AMR), making many drugs useless for treating human diseases. Kirchhelle’s comprehensive analysis of non-human antibiotic use provides important insights for current debates on the global burden of AMR.

Iain McIntyre
Obstructive Direct Action and the History of the Environmental Movement

Routledge, 2021
For decades, blockades have been one of the most attention-grabbing and contentious forms of environmental action. This book explores when, where, and why environmental blockading arose and spread, and how it has affected government policy, politics, and popular understanding of ecology, colonialism, and activism.

Friederike Otto
Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change

Greystone Books, 2020
Attribution science is a revolutionary method for pinpointing the role of climate change in extreme weather events. Anchoring her book with a day-by-day story of Hurricane Harvey, Otto shows how attribution science works in real time, and how we know that Harvey’s terrifying floods were three times more likely to occur due to human-induced climate change.

Chris Funk
How Climate Change Contributes to Catastrophes

Cambridge University Press, 2021
Every year, droughts, floods, and fires impact hundreds of millions of people and cause massive economic losses. Climate change is making these catastrophes more dangerous. Chris Funk examines recent disasters, including heat waves, extreme precipitation, hurricanes, fires, El Niños and La Niñas, and their human consequences.

Samanth Subramanian
The Radical Science and Restless Politics of J.B.S. Haldane

W.W. Norton, 2020
The brilliant biologist JBS Haldane, a founder of modern genetics and evolutionary theory, was also a Communist, a writer for the Daily Worker, and a powerful political orator. A beautifully written and comprehensive account of his remarkable, committed and productive life.

James Marriott & Terry Macalister
How Oil Shaped a Nation

Pluto Press, 2021
20th century Britain was an oil-drenched, black gold empire built on financial power, political meddling and environmental destruction. Now the refineries have closed, and the North Sea oilfields are in steep decline. Is the age of British oil over?

Chuck Collins
How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions

Polity Books, 2021
An army of tax lawyers, accountants and wealth managers runs the Wealth Defense Industry. These agents of inequality are paid millions to hide trillions for the richest 0.01%. Collins shows how they ensure that the world’s richest pay next to no tax in this age of plutocratic plunder.