- Paperback: 285 pages
- Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (June 1 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1841586226
- ISBN-13: 978-1841586229
- Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 3.2 x 19.7 cm
- Shipping Weight: 322 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #615,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition Paperback – Jun 1 2008
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Praise for Soil and Soul by Alistair McIntosh:'a terrific book' -- Brian Logan * The Guardian * 'A book of passion and wit ... weaving a dizzying range of ideas into a bright fabric ... It is a book every Scot should read' -- John Burnside * The Scotsman * 'It is a beautifully written analysis' * Scotland on Sunday * 'This is a world-changing book ... one day it'll be recognised as a classic' * Sunday Express * 'the book of the decade' -- Robin Harper MSP
About the Author
Alastair McIntosh is a Scottish writer and campaigner for social justice and environmental sustainability. He holds fellowships at the Centre for Human Ecology, the E. F. Schumacher Society and the Academy of Irish Cultural Heritages at the University of Ulster. In 2005 the University of Strathclyde gave him an honorary post as Scotland's first professor of human ecology. He lectures around the world at institutions including the Russian Academy of Sciences, the World Council of Churches, WWF International and, for the past decade, teaching nonviolence on the Advanced Command & Staff Course at Britain's leading military staff college.
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Knowing at least some of Alastair's activist work, in his native Scotland as well as internationally, he brings to mind a combination of Wendell Berry, Ivan Illich and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition, while writing Hell and High Water, he seems like a mad archaeologist with an oversized shovel digging for clues to help him better understand our present predicament; in the process he churned up an impressive amount of ground. The roadmap he draws for the future is a refreshing addition to other writers' proposed solutions.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Survival into the next century?
This would be a good book for study in schools because it offers scientific and technical information about ecology, sociology and psychology at a level that is very accessible. The author, a Scottish environmentalist, relates this to the inner life and thence the outward actions of all of us. Essentially, it's a book about climate change and the human mind-set that has brought it about but continues to deny any responsibility. It also gives us constructive suggestions for a way forward.
The first part of the book on Climate Change focuses on the science and politics responsible for our current situation, with supporting data. It is balanced in approach but speaks honestly about the potential dangers of ignoring the facts that are now available to us about the effects the human species has had on the Earth, especially since the Industrial Revolution. It is informative and thought-provoking.
Part 2 of the book on The Human Condition looks at how we are living currently, our perceptions of life and the absence of thought for much of the population about their inner lives. If our only purpose is to pursue a hedonistic existence, any sensitivity or concern for the planet that supports and nurtures us seems irrelevant - at least for now! As this is the way of life of the majority of us, it is not surprising that we now find ourselves in a situation where that life support system on which our very existence depends is being systematically destroyed. This part of the book is illustrated with poetry and psychology.
Although at first impact this book seems rather pessimistic and despairing, in fact, its message is inspiring, for it shows us that allowing ourselves to appreciate and love the wonder and diversity of the natural world around us will lead inexorably to our taking greater care of it. Seeking to experience the creativity and spirituality of the arts in a world whose delicate intricacies have been illuminated by scientific rationalism is another way of appreciating our surroundings and engendering love for all that is.
The author offers us a sensitive approach to climate change that should also lead to our seeking peace rather than war. Perhaps we could even change our school history syllabus so that it emphasises the benefits and joys of peace and the wonders of human achievements rather than the strategies and destruction of war.
This should be essential reading for everyone - for those who ignore the possibility of an inner life as well as those who already nurture their inner selves. The book ends with a list of References and a detailed Index.
Howard Jones is the author of The Tao of Holism
Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning by George Monbiot
The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Revised and Updated: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too Late by Thom Hartmann
The Great Work: Our Way into the Future by Thomas Berry
"Hell and High Water" is a book of two parts. The first section is a concise summary of the effects of Climate Change that uses the IPCC's 2007 report as its basis and relates the issues primarily to Scotland. He also contemplates the tentative evidence that suggests that climate change will eventually reach a tipping point when the magnitude of its effects will (apologies) snowball, and provides a reasonable critique of those who are sceptical of the science of climate change as a phenomena related to human activity, including the infamous Channel 4 "documentary" by Michael Durkin.
So far so good, but then things seem to go seriously astray in the second part where McIntosh, to quote the blurb, goes on "a breath-taking journey through myth, philosophy and literature, ... [revealing] the psychohistory of modernity . . . To address what has become of the human condition we must learn to see beyond despair and death." Sounds nice, but in effect it is a melange of ideas, spiced with quotes from Plato, scriptures, the epic of Gilgamesh, the lyrics of the Beatles, Leonard Cohen and Deep Purple, his accounts of cosy chats he's had with industry at Green-Business get togethers, or lectures he has given at "Britain's foremost military staff college" (presumably a euphemism for Sandhurst?). It made little sense. The writing is flecked with platitudes, and the ideas get so woolly that it would seem that this section wasn't written but knitted, with a good many dropped stitches and loose ends to boot.
Overall this isn't a book, unlike Soil and Soul, which I'd be happy recommending anyone to read. While the first section is a workmanlike summary of the threat of Climate Change its hardly brilliant; the second part is a mess of ideas, few of which make sense, and the majority seem lazy, ill defined and frankly irritate. A disappointing book.