Reading for a change

Ecosocialist Bookshelf, April 2023

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Our monthly selection of new books for people who want to protect the world and transform society

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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.

Erica Borg & Amedeo Policante
Manufacturing Life in the Age of Genomic Capital

Pluto Press, 2022
Capitalism is reconfiguring the very texture of life with new biotechnologies. It no longer contents itself with simply appropriating the living bodies of plants and animals. It purposefully redesigns their internal metabolisms, and is transforming the countless living vectors that constitute the global biosphere, driving a biological revolution.

Bartow J. Elmore
Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future

W.W. Norton, 2021
An in-depth history of a St. Louis chemical firm that used seed money from selling PCBs, Agent Orange and other toxic products to build a global agribusiness empire, promising endless bounty through genetic engineering. Monsanto’s products have reshaped modern agriculture, putting genetically modified food — and possible carcinogens — on tables around the world.

Joshua Frank
The Untold Story of the Most Toxic Place in America

Haymarket Books, 2022
Once home to the US’s largest plutonium production site, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state is laced with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. The threat of an explosive accident at Hanford is all too real and it could be more catastrophic than Chernobyl. Joshua Frank shines a spotlight on its threat to communities, workers and the global environment.

Paul Pettit
The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

Thames & Hudson, 2022
Who are we? How do scientists define Homo sapiens, and how does our species differ from the extinct hominins that came before us? In this accessible account, palaeoarchaeologist Paul Pettitt shows how the latest scientific advances, especially in genetics, are revolutionizing our understanding of human evolution. Drawing on twenty-five years of experience in the field, he paints a clear and surprising picture of our evolution.

Christina Dunbas-Hester
How Toxic Infrastructure Threatens Life in the Ports of Los Angeles and Beyond

University of Chicago Press, 2023
Built atop a land- and waterscape of vital importance to wildlife, the heavily industrialized Los Angeles Harbor contains estuarial wetlands, the LA River mouth, and a marine ecology where colder and warmer Pacific Ocean waters meet. Christina Dunbas-Hester reveals how logistics infrastructure threatens ecologies as it circulates goods and capital.

David Harvey
Verso Books, 2023
Building on his acclaimed companions to the first and second volumes of Capital, Harvey carefully examines the drafts Marx’s wrote in the 1850s, and illustrates their relevance to understanding the troubled state of contemporary capitalism.