Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ecology for Beginners

Remember when introductory manuals on a subject were referred to as "for beginners?"  The ...For Beginners books were published by Pantheon Books in the late 70's/early 80's (I think it ended with Zen for Beginners, but - oh, here's a Wikipedia link to the series).  Now they're all "Dummy" this and "Idiot" that.  Where's the love?
/end old lady crank

I have Marx for Beginners and within the past couple of years have found a copy of Ecology for Beginners, by Stephen Croall & William Rankin.  After skimming it today, the question that comes up is whether there is anyone left on the earth who does not have some level of ecological awareness by this point?  Of course, some will have more eco-consciousness than others, but is there anyone who can say, "I know absolutely nothing about ecology or ecosystems and how they work."  I think even the most brazen anti-environmentalist has some understanding, even if they get the facts wrong or misused, like in the argument that CO2 in the atmosphere is not harmful.

It's sweeping in its historical coverage and has a good grounding in the basics of ecology, but the thing I took away from Ecology for Beginners is the section at the end of the book, "Three Radicals to Read."  They are Rudolph Bahro, The Alternative: toward a critique of real, existing socialism; Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, The Right to Useful Employment and its Professional Enemies, and Shadow Work; and Andr√© Gorz, Ecology as Politics.  They have at least one of them in the stacks, so I'll browse for it the next time I'm at Library West (saying "browsing" is a lot less committal than "borrow and read it.")
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