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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
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No question, this is a very significant book, one that needs to be read by anyone who is concerned about what our children and grandchildren's future will look like. Herve Kempf, the environmental editor at Le Monde for many years, draws attention in this book to the issues the economists have fundamentally ignored, ie, that a sustainable future is predicated upon social transformation, which must precede any return to ecological balance on this earth. Solving the social and environmental crises can only happen by disrupting the power of the global oligarchs, the hyper-rich along with their political lackeys.

The greatest obstacle to any sustainable future is the uncontrolled pursuit of redundant wealth by the oligarchs. By diffusing this ideology of waste via the imitation of their lifestyles by the middle classes, our social systems cannot change trajectories. According to Kempf, the 3 preconceived notions that are blocking transformation are:

a) the belief in growth as the best way for resolving social problems;
b) that technological progress will resolve environmental problems;
c) that chronic unemployment is an inevitability.

He maintains that these all-powerful oligarchs want to delete the democratic process - the War on Terrorism has duly shown how this is being achieved. In other words, Capitalism no longer needs Democracy.

Mr. Kempf believes the global oligarchy could become divided by the power of the system itself (if the socially conscious part of this oligarchy and the middle class take the side for public freedom and the common good); and also if the mass media reorients towards freedom and "the left" becomes "reborn". This vague but hopeful optimism, that the grave social inequities and ecological degradations of our time will reverse through transformations of awareness, is based upon the never-seen-before phase of human history we are now traversing.

Because of this awareness, solutions can and are emerging, and "the desire to remake the world is being reborn". For our sakes, and for those coming up behind, let us hope that Mr. Kempf's optimistic and forceful words will prevail.

Highly recommended reading.

The Cloud Reckoner

Extracts: A Field Guide for Iconoclasts
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
Rick Wagoner, current CEO of General Motors, opined in the Wall Street Journal (November 11, 2008) that he didn't think he should be fired. GM stock is the lowest it has been since 1946. The company can't sell its ridiculous cars and trucks because nobody wants these vehicles because everyone on the planet can see that the handwriting is on the wall for these gross, pathetic tubs of personal transportation and the carbon-dioxide-spewing internal combustion engines that power them. Consequently, General Motors will go bankrupt if we, the taxpayers, don't give them billions and billions of dollars of our hard-earned money to bail it out from Mr. Wagoner's and the Board of Directors of GM's supremely destructive and stupid business decisions.

Ten years ago, General Motors had the opportunity to be first in line with an electric car. If they had done so, they'd be sitting pretty. But they killed the car and its technology. Doesn't this seem positively unremittingly ill-advised to you in every way, from failing to be able to read the financial signs--for which business people are paid to do--to continuing to contribute to the degradation of the environment? If you were working for a company as a middle manager and you blew a major project that cost the company so much money that it was going to go bankrupt, wouldn't you be fired? When things are going well, it seems, the people at the top take the credit, but when events turn, everyone and everything else is responsible for that turn except themselves. Too bad we couldn't vote for the president of GM. Mr. Wagoner could then meet Mr. McCain's fate

This may seem like an odd introduction to this excellent, informative, little book by Hervé Kempf, the environmentalist editor for Le Monde. Mr. Kempf never mentions Rick Wagoner, but he would know why the GM honcho gets two paragraphs as an intro here. As Mr. Kempf says without mincing words, the rich--like Mr. Wagoner--are responsible for the pickle in which our planet and its people now find themselves. A small number of human beings--billionaires in America, China , France, India, Canada, Germany, and Saudi Arabia--i.e., the super rich, own the connections and the power; their decisions have put us where we are. Who else is in charge? The poor in Mumbai? The peasants of China? Middle managers? Joe the Plumber?

Make no mistake, this book is not an updated Communist Manifesto. Mr. Hervé goes after the left for its blinkered view as much as he does the right. The left simply cannot drop its old allegiances to strictly social change, thus arguing only for a bigger piece of the pie. The increasing size of pie is ending because the ideology of capitalism, with its linear notion of endless exploitation of our Earth, of greater and greater GNP, is done, finished, over, kaput. Growth is not possible any longer and--this is a key point for Mr. Hervé--it is no longer desirable because growth is destroying our planet. No planet. No us. Quick. You decide.

We are all going to have to take a hit in every way in the coming decades, and for the duration. We must simplify. And whether they like it or not, that hit has to start at the top because the top is where the hit can matter most in terms of freeing resources for the rest of us. But us, too, the lower orders, we must change. No more aping our so-called "betters", no more buying Ford Expeditions so that we can ape the rich with their Hummers. In this regard: Ever heard of Thorstein Veblen? He was an economist who coined the term "conspicuous consumption". Mr. Hervé re-introduces us to him, and a valuable re-introduction it is.

I could go on, but if you read Mr. Hervé, a very nice French intellectual by the way, you will be filled with hope and scared at once. We have maybe ten years to turn the ship around. Maybe eight years. If we don't, we are doomed. No. Seriously. Doomed. It's that clear. The melting of the Arctic is not a plot point in a Disney animation. This slim book helps us to see things as they are. So let us begin with a reading of How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth, and proceed to the firing of Mr. Wagoner, and the refusal to invest one blue cent in GM--unless we as the taxpayers buy it outright and the plant starts to turn out electric cars and makes us a tidy profit so our taxes can be lower. As we should have been doing for the last decade if anyone at the helm had had any foresight. Socialism? Making money is fine, friends, so long as the planet is protected, and we all share. Liberty! Ecology! Fraternity!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First of all, this is not a book about envy and "sour grapes." That is not it at all. The global ruling class is the essential factor in the environmental crisis because: 1) it establishes a horrible model of conspicuous consumption that lower classes in their own country and around the world feel compelled to imitate, and 2) because they directly control the levers of economic and political power that allow them to maintain this inequality. You could also argue that their horrible moral and ethical standards rot the entire society, but that would be another book...

I feel fortunate that I found this book. The strident title almost made me dismiss it as a probably poorly reasoned (and poorly written) sidewalk leftist polemic. Instead, I found perhaps the most comprehensive and best reasoned summation of the current world crisis that I have yet seen. The only works that I have read that come close to this level are by Noam Chomsky, but this one goes even further. The way that the author shows all the interconnections of the major ecological crises , then does the same with the economic sphere, and then goes on to show the relationship between the two is a marvel of synthesis. It is so well reasoned and researched that I repeatly found myself saying to myself, "I wish that I had written this!"

One reason that I compare this work with Chomsky's is that it makes me just as mad (at neoliberalism and the oligarchy) as does his. At moments I indeed felt physically ill. Unless you are totally cynically numb and soul-dead it would have to. And while the author gives reasons for possible optomism I just can't buy into it. The oligarchy is too entrenched, the ecological situation is too close to tipping over into collapse. The only optimism that I could generate was a sense of satisfaction that the rich and their lackies will not be able to insulated themselves forever from the hell and holocaust they have created. Forgive me for sounding pessimistic, but a lifetime in the working class has taught me that even if the oligarchs at the top are liquidated there is an infinate number of the ambitious and sociopathic at the bottom to take their places... This is the case of an entire civilization that has become cancer and who may very well kill off the host planet that they feed upon- in this coming century. Do not delude yourself into thinking that this is just one more period of crisis like all those in the past. Never before have we exceeded the planet's carrying capacity- this is not business as usual.

"If there is no justice, what are kingdoms, if not vast hold-ups?" -- Saint Augustine

What indeed, what indeed...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2009
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This small, lean book with its wiry arguments is only 105 pages, followed by notes, and it says a great deal in little time and space. In my opinion, the first three Amazonian reviews are exactly on target: they describe what the book's about and how its put together perfectly well. It's divided approximately into roughly three parts; Ecology, Economics/Sociology, and a little Theory. And what's the theory? Not quite roll out the tumbrels, but very nearly. The Rich will be encouraged (forced) to give up what they love. Like drug-addled, true worshippers of Mammon and screaming Courtney Love dopplegangers, they will be driven into a global Rehab regimen of sanity and chic, true French eccological conservatism.

And how will they react? But that is another story. (About restraints, I think.)

Oh, and what's it mean, "Book of the century?" You probably don't remember, but the Chinese, when they all wore blue denim and Mao was still alive, carried his little red book of aphorisms around and brandished it often. I'm talking the Cultural Revolution and before, meaning from the time China stood upright on it's feet after nearly a century of European-American attack and invasion. They were drunk with Freedom, the multiples of millions of them -- the world's longest-surving civilization with one continuous language and people -- and they hoisted Chiarman Mao on their shoulders and proclaimed him as the greatest liberator of the greeatest number, the greatest Liberator of them all. Wart and all.

Well, that is what we will have to do with Kempf's little black book, if we expect to save the world. It will not be saved in a Congressional committee. What's the alternative? To wait until the Rich blast off to the Moon or to Mars with our money and technology while their slave armies decimate the stranded population below and they return in glory, after a decade or a century, when there's only sufficient humanoid population to groom the parks? That's what'll happen if we wait until those lard-heads in the Senate figure it out.

Now, the future sounds far-fetched, perhaps, unless you pay attention to the present: there are repeats. But Chomsky was born a few years befoe I was, at the beginning of the last Great Depression, and I was born in the very middle of it. Roosevelt came in that year, and Hitler. I lived through The New Deal, Mobilization, The Spanish Civil War, The War in Europe and in Asia, the Marshall Plan, followed by Korea. Recovery came next, and an unimaginable glut of money and goods spewed over us during the 50s. It was like a true, drug-like "Surge!" Everybody bought a car and moved to the segregated new suburbs, leaving the cities empty. Suddenly there was television and frozen food. Leonard Bernstein. Plastics. No sidewalks. No neighborhoods. It was The Jetsons on speed until abruptly, the bottom dropped out and we had what would have been called the return of the Depression, but that was thought too inflammatory and disrespectful of Eisenhauer, the GOP and global dominance, and was called instead, the Recession. I was in college sailing along in California and suddenly they pulled the plug and I was stranded dry, on the bottom without a dime.

Things happen. You learn. A decade or so later I was working in a brokerage on LaSalle Street, Chicago, on Black Thursdy when the ticker-tapes went dead and the screens blanked. (Reagan must have been taking one of his naps after a voo-doo economic orgy.) Eventually I realized that the population at large -- which toils optimistically, growing and herding -- is driven with its children, animals and goods to that abbatoir, Profit, where it is sheared of its covering and often of its flesh for the benefit of they who own and ony lease the earth. It happens regularly every twenty to twenty-five years, call it what they may. Meantime, we are lulled into believing it doesn't. Effective Media. Very bad (effective) education.

Kempf writes:

"The hyper-rich and the nomenklatura constitute the oligarchy. These individuals indulge in a rough internal competition, an exhausting race for power and ostentation. To stay in the race, and neither falter nor wane, they always have to have more. They organize a growing withdrawal from society's collective wealth. Solidly controlling the levers of power, they close off the middle class, the progeny of which no longer succeed in integrating themselves wihin their own caste except with difficulty. This middle-class constitues an ever-softer underbelly of society, while it was once social capitalism's center of gravity during the short Golden Age centered in the 1960s. Still too attracted to the oligarchy's flames to bask or exhaust itself at its own level in the race for conspicuous consumption, it is beginning to understand that its dream of social ascension is dissolving. It is even seeing the up-to-now closed lower border betwseen it and the world of workers and lower-lebvel employees becoing more permeable."

Translation? Nixon and Kissinger traded America's Working Class to Mao to get him to break with the Soviet Russians. It worked. Now Soviet Hegemony stands in the corner, alone, wearing the ugliest dress in the world, and Chinese peasants are not merely eating adequately, they're buying (and building) Buicks. Meanwhile we stand in lengthening unemployment lines, for the small print on the Nixon/Mao deal says that now we, as part of free labor, are all to be coolies. It's global. So bye-bye Mister Upward Mobility! Get busy sweeping up after those elephants, OK?

By the way, here are some of the witty and telling chapter headings.

Catastrophe. And Then What?

If the climate were to spiral out of control... The Planet no longer recovers.

The coming oil shock.

Democracy in Danger. The return of poverty. The globalization of poverty.

And so on.

You need to read this book. You really do. Read it in the Unemployment Line.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 28, 2008
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Amazingly accurate assessment of an old subject brought back to the forefront by this author. We don't have to search far and long to see that the examples of the ongoing environmental catastrophes given are happening now, right under our noses and presented in plain sight for all to see. It is similar to the industrial revolution after the civil war, then on to the overgrowth and wealth accumulation at the beginning of the 20th century. There is a problem...the planet was at least able to weather the ecological devestations somewhat...now at the current rate the earth along with its people can't keep up nor can it clean itself sufficiently to contain the onslaught.

Old problems coming back to haunt activists on the sidelines are....the greedy gluttons known as the hyper rich reaping billions off the earths pillage, followed by the second tier rich wannabees .... increased poverty and inequality in the first, second, third and fourth world countries....possible shakeups of the global economic system...

In an effort to protect itself , the hyper rich have instituted such safeguards as, blocking journalistic reporting of a perfected nuclear bomb, the B61-11, criminalizing protests of the anti GMO reapers, development of RFID'S, increased usage of prison, and then CONTROL OF THE MEDIA,

And this ones for all the Africans Americans who accuse unjustifiably those activist as being whiners.....There are, data bank catalogs of genetic signatures mainly of blacks, 11.9 % of prisoners of African descent 25-29 years are captured behind bars, state of the emergency testing programs such as those practiced during Katrina and the ghetto riots in France. And anyone at anytime can be on the payroll...(V. Jordan) and (A. Young).

Great comeback, great update and hope that it spurs interests then global action...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2008
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As Greg Palast points out in his introduction to the English translation (by Leslie Thatcher) of French journalist Herve Kempf's How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008):

"In the USA, we continue to pretend that destroying our planet is somehow the result of working-class vices, like driving to work or not recycling our juice bottles. Saving the planet, we are told, is the work of our enlightened rulers. After all, British Petroleum has painted all its gas stations green."

So, don't be duped into filling your house and wardrobe with building materials, clothes and furnishings made from recycled plastic bottles -- breathing those bisphenols is as bad as drinking from them. The point is to stop DuPont etc. from continuing to make the stuff. Why aren't the manufacturers responsible for recycling? Why is it left to consumers -- who have little choice, really, since nearly everything is at least partly made from or packaged in toxic plastic these days? Because those who make it have the money, and money = political power and social clout.

It's rather sad, reading this and knowing that those who would most benefit from its message are the least likely to peruse its pages. That is to say, I fear that Kempf's is is a sermon that won't reach much further than the usual choir of left-of-Democrat voices.

And that is a shame.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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Herve Kempf tells us in no uncertain terms just what is going on with the environment and our world. How and why, what we can do, and how we can help stop this madness. As people question the fate of our world this book gives you the truth about economic growth, the destruction of our planet and environment, and how many of our population doesn't think anything about global warming. They are intent on being selfish and living their lives as they want with no regard for the future, our children's future and the future of mankind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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With a title like this, most people are going to love or hate this book before they even crack open the cover. Polarizing and blunt, the name of the book is the bold declaration of Herve Kempf, and he spares no time in explaining in great detail why he believes this to be true.

The book is slim, a mere 105 pages, with another 17 pages on end notes. But he wastes no time with meandering prose or rampant speculation. Instead, he packs every page with scientific data, researched information, and educated predictions as to where these trends and figures will lead us if they are allowed to continue without intervention.

Some may call such a tome alarmist, but this will not be received negatively, for Kempf is indeed attempting to raise the alarm. His fear is that the rich and powerful of this increasingly global nation are not only depleting and destroying the finite natural resources and life sustaining ecosystem, but the fragile economic balance that keeps the majority of its citizens from being plunged into hopeless poverty and financial ruin.

The message is simple; the small percentage of rich and powerful billionaires who own the majority of the world's wealth are doing everything they can to amass even more, and at the detriment of every living thing on the planet except themselves. It doesn't matter the consequences, they live by three simple rules: Get It, Keep It, then Get More. It is an increasingly unpopular message, especially in an age where unfathomable wealth is easily promised with the click of a mouse, but Kempf does his best to spread the word. He demonstrates not only what damages they wreak upon the Earth and its populace intentionally and with disregard for human life and well being, but also the unintended results that greed and arrogance allow them to overlook.

Yes, most people will indeed judge this book merely by its cover. But that very may well be the point in the first place. If the title of this book angers you, then perhaps you are the one that should be reading it. You might just find yourself surprisingly enlightened.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 6, 2008
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"How the Rich are Destroying the Earth" by Herve Kempf articulates the wisdom accumulated through a lifetime of environmental reporting into a concise and powerful analysis about the economic roots of our environmental crisis.

In a mere 100 pages, Mr. Kempf briskly but effectively makes the case that capitalism must be overturned if we wish to achieve a sustainable and equitable society. A brief but compelling Foreword is conributed by the irrepresible Greg Palast which is followed by a brief Preface by Mr. Kempf that explains his motivations. Mr. Kempf also includes an Epilogue that cleverly imagines a thoughtful discourse that might ensue among an assortment of contemporary thinkers about some of the key issues raised in the book.

Mr. Kempf begins by reminding us that ecology and society are interrelated. Capitalism has long maintained the social order by promoting economic growth that promises the attainment of material wealth for anyone of good fortune or ingenuity; but Mr. Kempf argues that we must now recognize the earth's resources can no longer sustain this strategy. The author contends that only by redistributing resources from the wealthy to the poor can we end the destructive cycle of conspicuous consumption and class envy in the hope of restoring democracy and achieving environmental stasis.

Mr. Kempf draws from his experiences traveling the world to present an uniquely informed, mature and reflective perspective. Mr. Kempf memorably describes the plight of poor people who have been driven to squalor and desperation in Central American garbage dumps as a consequence of powerlessness and environmental exploitation. Inspired by the work of Thorstein Veblen, Mr. Kempf contrasts the fate of the poor with the super rich who attempt to outdo each other in an endless pursuit of vanity and frivolity. Mr. Kempf goes on to suggest that as resources become more constrained, tightening oligarchical control will imperil democracies around the world, as has already been observed in the U.S., various EU nations, Russia and elsewhere.

Mr. Kempf's work challenges us to renew class struggle to reclaim our history in the name of freedom, democracy and ecology. I highly recommend this riveting, timely and important book to everyone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is written by the environmental editor of Le Monde, Herve Kempf. He also founded Reporterre, a website devoted to discussion of the environment and social justice.

Information about the lives of the rich and about the environment is available elsewhere but this is the first book I've seen that ties the two together. Much of our environmental ills are a result of the lifestyles of the rich and their disdain for the environment.

He also examines emerging countries, where the standard of living is rapidly increasing and how further development there will impact the earth. For example today there are 800 million cars in the world. If China's level of cars reaches the USA's, 3 cars for 4 people, it will mean 1.1 billion cars, using 99 million barrels of oil per day. Currently the world produces only 82 million barrels of oil per day.

He also talks about global warming and how it will lead to the extinction of many species. There will be other problems also, such as the emergence of Malaria in the USA.

He also discusses details about the lives of the super-rich and how insular their lives are. Who would guess that they compete with one another to have larger yachts than one another. One is 413 feet long and has a basketball court, a heliport, a movie theatre, and a submarine in the hold. Imagine that.

The book ends with a consideration of where we should go from here. It has no pat answers but offers thoughts for consideration. This book is well worth reading for those interested in the environment, social justice, and the future of out society and our planet.
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