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community nature resilience Angus Soutar

A good read

Some reviews for you from the Northern School lockdown cells. Now read on ...

The Second Sleep

A novel by Robert Harris

Reviewed by Angus Soutar

First published in 2019, months before the current pandemic started, this novel is based around a letter dated in 2022. Centuries later it is discovered, preserved in a heretical library. It lays out the concerns of a fictional professor from Imperial College, London, about his fears for the future. He identifies six possible scenarios that might lead to the total collapse of technological civilisation.

  1. Climate change.
  2. A nuclear exchange.
  3. A super-volcano eruption leading to climate change.
  4. An asteroid strike leading to climate change.
  5. A general failure of computer technology caused by cyber warfare, a virus or solar activity.
  6. A pandemic resistant to antibiotics.
Second Sleep cover

Fast forward 800 years, and no-one, apart from a small ecclesiastical elite, knows which of the predicted disasters actually happened. But it is immediately clear that one of them has.

“Who can now believe that at one time London alone is said to have boasted a dozen buildings rising to a height of more than six hundred feet, and one that rose to a thousand? No trace of them remains.”

This a fascinating, brilliantly observed “Back to the Dark Ages”. Cathedrals and churches in this tale are still standing and are under continuous maintenance, with some dating back almost 2000 years. I enjoyed these glimpses of what we humans can achieve should we put our minds to it, with a dedication to our task.

As is usual with a Robert Harris, the book is based on a strong insight into the nature of humanity and our current society. (I struggle to give it a genre. “Anti-science” fiction”? “History of the Future”?.) But none of this gets in the way of a good page-turning story, which is, at heart, an old-fashioned romance.

The Ecology of Freedom

On-line essay from Murray Bookchin

Recommended by Angus Soutar

“The terrible tragedy of the present social era is not only that it is polluting the environment but also that it is simplifying natural ecocommunities, social relationships, and even the human psyche. The pulverization of the natural world is being followed by the pulverization of the social world and the psychological. In this sense, the conversion of soil into sand in agriculture can be said, in a metaphoric sense, to apply to society and to the human spirit. The greatest danger we face apart from nuclear immolation is the homogenization of the world by a market society and its objectification of all human relationships and experiences.”

Bookchin's rousing essay may be read here

Murray Bookchin

Nettle Cookbook - Recipes for foragers and foodies

By Vivian Tuffney

Reviewed by Saleema Imam

A beautiful ‘coffee table’ book, but nonetheless useful and interesting for that One recipe to a page with lovely watercolour illustrations of the ingredients on the opposite page. It covers appetizers, main courses, desserts and drinks; as its cover blurb says from soups and spiced meatballs to shortbread and sponge. An introduction covers the nutritive content of nettles, it’s affects on biodiversity, the international range of the nettle species, research into the history of the nettle and its historic usage and instructions on harvesting. I got my copy at a knock down price from Bibliophile, a postal company selling ends of publisher’s lines.

Published by the Natural History Museum, London – ISBN9780565093556 2015
Paper from responsible sources certified by FSC

nettle basket

Bad Science and Good Adventure

from Suzanne Clifton

I'd like to recommend The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Kieth. This is the true story of a woman who became ill following a vegan diet and was forced to reconsider her view of where her food comes from, and what exactly her place in the food chain might be.

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. A wide ranging, entertaining and informative book for non-scientists to learn how to decode the science behind what we're told by the media, and find out the truth for ourselves.

My current reading is Smoke and Summons by Charlie N. Holmberg. Sandis is a girl who, upon the command of her master, can channel a powerful spirit. She escapes her captivity and meets Rone, a thief for hire, who becomes embroiled in Sandis's quest for freedom, even while he struggles to deal with his own troubles. With a rich and detailed setting, and clear explanations of the supernatural elements of the story, it's easy to become invested immediately. It's a light, but engaging, story that is perfect for long, dark evenings tucked up in the safety of home.

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