Sunday, August 05, 2007

Current Readings

July was a busy month! Many great, blogworthy items came and went, but I had barely the time to catch my breath, let alone write. But no more time should pass before I give brief mention to some current and recent reading of note.

Pick up a copy of the August 2007 issue of Harper's Magazine while you have a chance. Harper's is always an interesting read, and this month is no exception. The following items, in particular, caught my attention.

Harper's Index

You may be aware that Harper's has a long-standing tradition of collating various facts and statistics in each issue in something they call "Harper's Index," which they have registered as a trademark. Take note of these statistical tidbits:

"Estimated amount of oil, in barrels, used to make the bottled-water containers sold in the U.S. last year: 16,000,000."

"Ratio of the amount of water used to make the containers to the amount of bottled water consumed: 2:1."

"Average number of liters of bottled water delivered to U.S. troops in Iraq each day: 1,400,000."
These figures give one a sense of the true environmental cost of the commodification of water.

The Idols of Environmentalism

Another interesting item is a piece by Curtis White, titled "The Idols of Environmentalism." On the whole, there's not much in this article, a reprint for Orion Magazine, that hasn't been said before, but Mr. White does have a way of forcefully expressing his point. The gist of his argument is for the importance of religion or spirit in environmentalism. He writes:

I would also suggest that what has the best chance of defeating the "beast" is spirit. In accepting science as our primary weapon against environmental destruction, we have also had to accept science's contempt for religion and the spiritual. This is the unfortunate legacy of science's two-century-old confrontation with what it has always called "religious dogma and superstition. ... [Environmentalism] should look to create a common language of care (a reverence for and a commitment to the astonishing fact of Being) through which it could begin to create alternative principles by which we might live.
The "beast" he is referring to is capitalism.

A very interesting article. I don't agree so much with White's disdain for science, but I do agree with his points on the necessity of something akin to religion if we are really going to get at the root causes of our ecological problems. Needless to say, in our highly fractured and divided world, this is a tall order to fill.

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