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Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day
Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day
by Gene Baur
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.39
84 used & new from $7.49

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for Your: Soul (Part I) and Body (Part II), April 12, 2015
The book has two parts: (1) The thinking behind the 5 tenets of Farm Sanctuary living, along with a history of the organization (about 75 pages total), and (2) Vegan cooking basics and recipes (about 90 pages).
Part I is what I wish I could have read as a child so I wouldn’t have lived the intervening years thinking of animals as factors of production. It is a wide-ranging introduction to the vegan, or Farm Sanctuary (“FS”), way of life, and the FS history dovetails nicely with this narrative. A story on page 18 shows just how far FS was resetting the boundaries of even a vet’s expectations (I’m tempted, but won’t give away the punchline). More than one tale struck home.
The authors also make the point that “we are not against farmers but against cruelty”– a message that all animal activists could heed. Baur has won many hearts and minds by showing better ways of living and of making a living than by screaming angry invectives. The authors explain how a cartoonist (Dan Piraro), a co-founder of Twitter (Biz Stone) and others became truly aware of the implications of their lifestyle choices when they connected with animals at the farm.
As a long-time animal advocate, I was already familiar with the arguments in Part I, but I was regularly surprised with details that I didn’t know (e.g.,,, a German Shepherd kept a woman from intentionally shooting herself with her rifle, that a co-founder of Twitter is vegan,…). For those new to veganism, this is as wide-ranging an intro as you’ll get anywhere, with tips on fashion, animal rights, nutrition, benefits of human-animal interaction, conversions to veganism, sociology, and animal companionship, to name a few. And there are some stirring stories of animals who found happiness at FS after lifetimes of misery.
But Part II is, for me, the real joy of this book. Rather than asking one chef to stretch his repertoire to 100 recipes to fill the pages, the authors asked their large network of friends for their best. And they delivered. The book contains one hundred never-before-published vegan favorites from the likes of Chef AJ; Alicia Silverstone; Nava Atlas; Ellen Degeneres, Portia De Rossi and Roberto Martin; Caryn Hartglass and Gary De Mattei; Tal Ronnen; Joshua Katcher; Adam Sobel; Biz and Livia Stone; Moby; Julieanna Hever, and more. Go to your average vegan restaurant and ask them for a recipe and they’ll likely say “No”, but here are the favorite recipes from a wide range of top vegan chefs, authors and celebrities. Want to show someone how wonderful vegan food can taste? Whip up Tal Ronnen’s Agave-Lime Grilled Tofu with Asian Slaw and Mashed Sweet Potatoes. For a potluck, try Jill Ryther's Twice-Baked Potatoes.
I do have two nits to pick:
Some varieties of Soy Kaas, a cheese replacement listed on p. 97, contain milk, and bean burritos are often made with refried beans, which are generally not vegan.
Vegan recipes generally target either taste or health. Most of these target taste. While they are no doubt healthier than the animal-based alternatives, try sautéing in water, not oil, and go light on added oil and salt.
I won't let these nits ruin my appetite when I’m making Baur’s tofu scramble, nor should you. This book is for people who live—and eat—deliberately.

The Chain (The Kinship Series) (Volume 1)
The Chain (The Kinship Series) (Volume 1)
by Robin Lamont
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.95
42 used & new from $0.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the first five pages and you’ll be hooked., October 10, 2014
Fans of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906) will appreciate a common theme in The Chain (2013): the detailed depiction of greed, dragging workers deeper and deeper into a world of human abuse, set against a backdrop where greed-driven abuse is the status quo in the treatment of farm animals. As with Sinclair’s work, Lamont’s book depicts how easily ethical behavior can be trumped by a job title, a pay raise, or peer pressure from the community. The rapacious behavior that we find so compelling in her storytelling pulls readers across the species barrier, largely through the eyes of the main character, Jude Brannock, to underscore our moral ambiguity in the treatment of farm animals.

The author’s background as a private investigator and assistant DA in NY, along with her dual passions for writing and for animals, make this a hard book to put down. Like The Jungle, The Chain is realistic fiction, but the attention to detail—from the opening murder scene to the end, where a highly-polished company spokesman stays on message to protect the company—make it read more like a nonfiction novel, where only names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The industrialization of animal agriculture has reversed gains won from Sinclair’s book. More than a century after the publication of his landmark work, we continue to find society turning a blind eye to the human and nonhuman suffering behind the shrink-wrapped meat on display at the supermarket. The Chain puts the range of human nature on bold display, and offers a glimmer of hope as (some) characters come to see the industry for what it is, but with just a few of the graphic details that might have stopped some from finishing The Jungle.

The Chain is appropriate for late teens and up. While I rarely read fiction and I’m well past my teen years, I couldn't put it down.

Samsung RS267TDRS 26.0 Cu. Ft. Stainless Steel Side-By-Side Refrigerator - Energy Star
Samsung RS267TDRS 26.0 Cu. Ft. Stainless Steel Side-By-Side Refrigerator - Energy Star

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Full of design problems, including one so bad that it inspired a class action suit, September 8, 2014
Disappointment, out of the box.

The first thing I tried to do was attach a photo to the front with a magnet, but the front wasn’t ferromagnetic. Some printing on control panel is grey on silver—not easy to read in daylight, much less at night when getting a drink of water. No big deal, but these were harbingers. Here are the pros and cons I’ve experienced over my six-year history with it:

• The blue LED display panel informs users of the freezer and refrigerator temperature, filter status, and the presence of problems.
• The freezer and refrigerator have separate cooling systems, so if the refrigerator side fails, you can use frozen items from the freezer to keep the refrigerator reasonably cool like an old-fashioned ice box. Read on to understand why this is important.
• Filtered water comes out slowly.
• “Push bar” used to start water flow has such resistance that a guest broke a glass trying to get water.
• Long drop of ice cubes through dispenser mechanism broke another guest’s glass when the cube hit the glass rim.
• Invariably, 10% or more of the crushed ice ends up on the floor, not the glass.
• Ice maker is slow.
• Ice maker flap stays open unless I put my hand up to close it.
• After 4 years, the ice maker began making a clicking sound after dispensing that only stops after I open and close the freezer door.
• Someone stepped on the inside front of the freezer and cracked the plastic bottom.
• Doors often appear closed when they aren’t fully closed.
• Shelf broke and I had to replace (about $50).
• My (very experienced) refrigerator repair tech, when finished the with job, couldn’t reinsert the shelves over period of about 5 minutes and came close to breaking one.
• Motherboard failed.
• Coils froze (see below, from classactionlawsuitsinthenews[dot]com). These last two cost me half the cost of a new refrigerator when counting spoilage and repairs.

The Samsung refrigerator class action lawsuit complaint reportedly alleges that certain Samsung French door, side-by-side and bottom freezer refrigerators (model numbers RF266AASH, RS263BBWP, RB1955SH, RS2533SW, RS267LASH, RS267TDRS, RS2630WW) […] are designed and manufactured with heated coils that are intended to prevent excess frost from developing in the back of the machine, but instead of preventing frost, the coils allegedly allow frost and ice to build up in the refrigerators until the ice clogs and/or disables the machine’s fans, making it impossible for the fans to work to keep the machine cool.

I’m amazed that this refrigerator is still on the market. Please, save yourself the trouble and buy another product.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2016 3:29 PM PDT

Jumpsmart Bungee
Jumpsmart Bungee
Offered by Trampolines USA, Inc.
Price: $13.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a shock cord with no hooks, September 12, 2013
This review is from: Jumpsmart Bungee (Misc.)
In practical usage, I've always found that bungee cords (so-labelled) had connectors or hooks on them, and those without were labelled shock cords, not bungees. When we purchased this--especially as a replacement for a broken cord--we expected it to look like the original, not like a shock cord without the ends. If you purchase this, know that you will have to put connectors on the ends--a fact that is not made obvious in the tiny photo and which is not mentioned in the text. And we've yet to find connectors at local stores (store employees generally say, "The connectors are usually on the cords". Ah, yes.

Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health
Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health
by Gene Stone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
278 used & new from $1.09

889 of 919 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mix of science and recipes to help people help themselves, July 8, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The book "Forks Over Knives" does a wonderful job of performing two disparate tasks:
It provides concise explanations of why a whole-foods, plant-based diet is healthiest for people, the planet, and the animals, and
It offers a wide range of amazing recipes to help people get started.

The editor pairs these tasks to perform one goal: to help people live healthier lives through their food choices.

The book does this in three parts: (i) why a plant-based diet is best for your health, the planet, and the animals (37 pages); (ii) basic facts on plant-based foods (19 pages), and (iii) recipes (133 pages). While the bulk of the book is for recipes, there is a lot of powerful information in the first two parts that has appeal for anyone from the newcomer to the most informed, with topics as diverse as the environmental impact of food choices to nutrition labels. Even after having read literally dozens of books on plant-based foods and having finished Campbell's eCornell course in plant-based nutrition, I became more informed after reading the first two parts. The third part is filled with tempting recipes from some of the top plant-based chefs who refuse to compromise on health to sell meals.

The writing style is, for lack of a better word, "comfortable". You can almost imagine yourself having a casual discussion with 11 experts on healthy eating, with insights that would surprise your general practitioner, but with language suitable for the layperson.

My only qualms with the book are with the image quality of the graphs and people, which are technically disappointing, although still discernable, and with the arrangement of the bios, which seems out of order with their contributions.

As a result of the dual tasks, some of the Amazon reviewers were negative. I've summarized them here, along with some counterpoints:

Claim: The educational part of the book was too concise and contained bios

If you are interested only in Dr. Esselstyn's work, try Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure. For more on Campbell's work, turn to The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health. For the impact of our food choices on the environment or animals, there are hundreds of books that describe the effects in chilling detail. This book is not the most comprehensive, authoritative guide on any one of those subjects, but it is a very readable and compelling guide on what is arguably the most important topic for most readers: healthy eating. And it holds something for every nutritionist I've ever met, as well as for the overweight Wal-Mart shopper whose cart is filled with chips and soda, or laboratory-manufactured foods from aisle 17. I have yet to find a book that does a better job of balancing the tasks of enlightening readers and facilitating changes in diet.

The book does offer bios on the people who are trying to help us live more healthy lives. At first, I thought that this was a bit too much of a stretch for an already ambitious book...if I read a book on yoga, I'm not necessarily interested in the backgrounds of the leading proponents of yoga. But here I think the bios are justified because they offer a much needed perspective. The bio on T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., explains how he grew up on a dairy farm and was preparing to continue working with animal-based foods, how he discovered that animal protein was a problem rather than a solution to health woes, and then how certain factions in the food industry tried to smear him to stop him from sharing his findings. Dr. Neal Barnard found that the ribs on his cafeteria tray looked and smelled eerily similar to the ribs he had just examined from a human cadaver, which led him to think differently about food. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn tells of how he saved cardiovascular patients who had been told to "go home and prepare for death". I know of dozens of people with cardiovascular problems and one person who was also told to give up hope, so this latter bio may serve as a wakeup call where all else has failed. Collectively, these bios show how the leaders in the field came to the same conclusions from different perspectives, in spite of the traditional food and health industry pressures and tactics.

Claim: The book offered nothing that couldn't be found on the Internet.

I've been a student of plant-based nutrition for 10 years and I've read everything I can on the topic, yet I found pieces here I'd never seen before: Bios that contain insights obviously drawn out from first-hand interviews with the subjects; success stories from people who chose to adopt this healthier approach to eating; a very concise and thoughtful summary which compares whole, plant-based foods to animal products (styled like black box warning labels for food), and some great recipes from leading chefs.

Claim: The book contained no bibliography and few footnotes.

This comment, especially when juxtaposed with the above comment, shows the difficulty in pairing disparate tasks: it's impossible to please everyone. If everything could be found on the Internet, why would someone need a bibliography and dozens of footnotes? Actually, there is a bibliography--called a "bookshelf" on page 199, as well as a list of online references on page 198. There are few footnotes, which will disappoint the purist, but this is a guide, not the definitive source on every topic covered.

Now, a comment on some of the "reviews": A review should summarize the content, offer a critical assessment (e.g., Was it noteworthy? Understandable? Persuasive?), and an argument as to why prospective readers might or might not enjoy the book. Some of the comments for this book are simply mean-spirited attacks on a book that aims to inform, persuade and help those who want to live longer, healthier lives in making better food choices--all for the low price of $6.40, or less than one-tenth the cost of a doctor's visit, where the topic of whole, plant-based foods will likely never come up. Such attacks are to be expected when someone challenges long-held, but unjustifiable beliefs with extensive clinical and epidemiological evidence. Still, more thoughtful reviews would benefit Amazon customers.
Comment Comments (24) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2014 12:13 PM PST

AN Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming
AN Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming
by Nigel Lawson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
66 used & new from $0.01

21 of 42 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you want distortions by a skeptic, buy this; if you want science, look elsewhere, February 7, 2011
Please note: page numbers refer to the hardbound version.

I purchased this book to avoid confirmation bias by actively trying to poke holes in my own thinking about climate destabilization. I'd hoped for a book that made a new and valuable contribution to the discussion, and perhaps offered thoughtful guidance. Science is a contact `sport' and the best way get closer to the truth is to regularly challenge your thinking. For example, if you believe that plants only need air, water, nutrients and sunlight to grow, I might suggest that you to try growing them in a freezer (with a UV light on for artificial sunlight), thus revealing an unspoken assumption (e.g., plants won't grow below a certain temperature threshold) in your hypothesis. As it turns out, the author would have benefited from this exercise himself. Mr. Lawson's book is filled with evidence of his confirmation bias, and thoughtful readers will spend most of their time checking his distortions, errors of fact and logical fallacies before they find any remaining value to try to challenge their own thinking.

To his credit, Mr. Lawson offers both valid and sound arguments on several points:
He argues for carbon taxation rather than the trading of carbon credits;
He points out some practical difficulties in brokering a global policy designed to limit anthropogenic climate destabilization;
He correctly highlights the sham of producing ethanol to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels (ethanol consumes more energy to produce than it offers in return), and
He points out the hidden costs of nuclear energy, including plant decommissioning and the storage and disposal of nuclear waste (although he omits any discussion of the threat of radioactive materials being released into the environment, either by accident or by malicious act).

I was pleasantly surprised when I found each of the above bits. But I found that I was already conditioned to check his credibility even in these high points. His skill in turning a phrase often camouflages over-reaching in his conclusions. Even the book title suggests that those who don't share Mr. Lawson's views are unreasonable. Notably, Mr. Lawson also misses out on the single largest and most obvious policy choice for such a Tragedy of the Commons: removing distortionary price supports and subsidies that actually contribute to climate destabilization.

The author claims that he had trouble finding a publisher because a supposed scientific cabal supporting views of climate destabilization has stifled debate. Rather, I suspect it is Mr. Lawson's own distortions, sloppy use of statistics, the aggressive tenor of his writing, and his lack of any formal science education that led to the rejection letters. President Bush's administration in the first part of this century distorted and censored much of the government's own scientists who tried to speak out on climate destabilization, Fox "News" told its reporters that they are not to mention climate change without injecting uncertainty (e.g., by using the modifier "so-called" in front of "global warming"), and oil companies funded so-called think tanks to deny climate destabilization, so I found little credibility in Mr. Lawson's sniping.

Credibility is key. The strength of a conclusion is a function of the quality of the evidence provided in its support and the a priori probability of the claim being supported. The a priori probability of Mr. Lawson's claims is quite low--the overwhelming scientific view is that climate destabilization is real, human caused, and a global threat. The author's extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof. But Mr. Lawson is no stranger to making extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof--he also laments the popular disdain for the worst of industry's `bad boys', including genetically-engineered foods, nuclear energy, coal-fired power plants and DDT. It would appear that no industry has gone too far to arouse his ire. His `courageous' publisher recently published An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin that was found to be a hoax (or, as the author of that work suggests, a pastiche). Peter Mayer, the president of Overlook, decided to publish it in spite of his doubts, saying "Who knows if it's true, but it's unbelievable reading", "I ask him a whole bunch of questions. He gave more or less credible answers to them", and "I decided it didn't really matter to me how much of this was actually accurate." So it would appear that "Overlook" in the publisher's name also refers to their fact-checking process.

While a line-by-line review of the entire book may be warranted, it would exhaust both your patience and mine. But the introduction sets the tone for the book, so I'll start with some key elements there.

On the first page of the introduction, Mr. Lawson "...readily admit(s) that (he) is not a scientist", but suggests that neither are most people who "...pronounce on the matter with far greater certainty than (he does)." If it were true, he could have said that "...neither are most authorities who pronounce on the matter in published works...", but his version includes the local barber, the politician, and cranky uncle Jake who thinks "My Favorite Martian" was a documentary, as well as some ethereal measure of the "certainty" with which they speak. The test of a scientific premise is not whether cranky Uncle Jake pronounces on it with certainty. The author continues to say (on the following page) that "...the great majority of those scientists who speak with such certainty and apparent authority about global warming and climate change, are not in fact climate scientists, or indeed earth scientists, or any kind, and thus have no special knowledge to contribute." I am at a loss to understand how he can support his claim regarding the occupation, expressed certainty, and authority of those scientists who speak on global climate destabilization. As a scientist myself, I find that a particularly difficult hypothesis to support, to put it mildly. But the last clause, "...and thus have no special knowledge to contribute" is breathtakingly arrogant. I am not a climate scientist, but I know a considerable amount about uncertainty in temperature measurements, about the interpretation of statistics, and about designing experiments to test hypotheses. This is a highly complex issue that requires the input of scientists across the spectrum, and experts in logic, biology, botany, physics, chemistry, meteorology, zoology, paleontology, oceanography, entomology, contagious diseases, math, and statistics, to name a few, and all have key roles to play.

He continues to say that "Even if the climate scientists can tell us what is happening and why, they cannot tell us what governments should be doing about it." If governments do not solicit the input of climatologists in their response to climate destabilization, they would arrive at the optimal `solution' only by random chance. Imagine your doctor telling you that you are obese. You may have complicating factors: you may have psychological drivers for overeating, perhaps your spouse encourages it, or maybe your thyroid is to blame. You can self-treat, but that might be foolish. Your doctor can tell you what tests to run, what specialists to consult, that you need to consume fewer calories and exercise more, and she can prescribe a regimen to help you return to your optimal weight, as well as advise you on the risks of continued overeating. To suggest that the doctor's contribution to the discussion ends where the therapy begins is absurd.

Mr. Lawson insists on the nomenclature "global warming", and refers to "climate change" as "attractively alliterative weasel words", suggesting that the climate is always changing, and that the latter terminology can "...lead the unwary to suppose that any significant or unusual weather event must be a consequence of global warming, which may very well not be the case." Conveniently, global warming has the opposite effect. Global warming refers to surface temperature increases, while climate change includes global warming and everything else that increasing greenhouse gas amounts will affect. Should we be oblivious to changes in regional climate characteristics, including temperature, humidity, precipitation, sun exposure, wind, and severe weather events (type, average number per year, and seasonal patterns)? Actually, the most appropriate description is climate destabilization, which he never even mentions. Global warming, unfortunately, causes more global warming. This is referred to as positive feedback to the climate and it is destabilizing. Framing climate destabilization as global warming can lead others to reaffirm their beliefs that anthropogenic-driven changes to our earth's atmosphere are not at fault, and tend to refocus the discussion on our options on just one consequence of increased greenhouse gases. In this vein, the author is fond of saying that natural disasters have always occurred and always will, so we "cannot attribute them to global warming". Individual storms may not be directly attributable to global climate destabilization, but the broad scientific consensus is that we the dramatic increase in the frequency and the greater severity of such disasters of recent decades, and those likely to occur in the future, are attributable to anthropogenic climate destabilization. He makes similar claims regarding the existence of drought, hunger, and disease, suggesting that we should not attribute changes in these plights to climate destabilization. Again, convenient rhetorical camouflage by the author, but not accurate.

Careful readers will note that Mr. Lawson's fundamental premises are flawed. As a result, his fundamental arguments may be valid, but they remain unsound. For example, he claims that the risks of rising accumulations of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere are not as great as the consensus would suggest, and points to two `pauses' (I address this error below). He follows that with the premise that the costs of reducing these emissions would impoverish the planet, so we must simply adapt. Of course, implicit in the latter assumption are the absurd notions that all of the earth's inhabitants will, more or less, be equally willing and able to adapt (here he ignores the IPCC's estimate that about 20 to 30 percent of studied species could risk extinction in the next 100 years), and that any of the nearly endless possible mitigation measures are economically unacceptable on their face. It is naÔve, at best, to think that the costs of climate destabilization can be accurately predicted, that the costs of mitigation can likewise be accurately predicted, and that the latter is greater than the former, and finally, that adaptation is strictly preferable to mitigation.

But this follows a pattern of successive arguments generally offered against mitigation by skeptics: 1. Challenge climate destabilization; 2. Challenge the claim that humans are changing the climate; 3. Accept that the climate is changing, but claim that the changes are insignificant, and 4. Accept that the changes are significant, but claim that we'd be better off adapting to the changes than trying to prevent them.

Mr. Lawson is particularly susceptible to the inductive fallacy, where he exhibits overconfidence in his ability to infer general properties from observed facts. Then we have his duplicity--no doubt driven by his overconfidence--in guiding us through one of the defining environmental and development issues of the 21st century by insisting on adaptation rather than following a thoughtful risk management approach.

First, let's turn to Mr. Lawson's inductive fallacies. By selectively parsing small data sets that confirm his undue generalization, and in using improper statistical methodology, he regularly makes incorrect inferences or stronger inferences than is warranted by the data. Whether he does so knowingly or not is another matter (he clearly suffers from belief polarization), but he does so to such an extent and so frequently that this work may be better described as propaganda than not.

An example may help here. He contends that rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere do not necessarily translate into increased average global temperatures, citing `pauses' between 1940 and 1975 and from 2001 to 2007. This is factually incorrect. Some slight variations in the very recent trend have been attributed to certain weather events (e.g., El Nino and La Nina), but that is nit-picking. The trend has continued, and ice core research demonstrates that greenhouse gas concentrations rose and fell in near-lockstep with average global temperatures over the past half-million years. In regularly citing his claim of a pause from 2001 to 2007, he is asking that we ignore a half-million years of data to the contrary. Additionally, he claims that some glaciers are retreating while others are advancing. When excluding seasonal effects, nearly all major glaciers are receding in both the northern and southern hemispheres. His attempt to hide rather than illuminate this fact puts him somewhere on the spectrum between disingenuous advocate of his own convictions and propagandist.

Further, scientists expect that terrestrial ecosystems will be affected by changes in variability almost as much as by changes in mean climate. In other words, damages will greatly exceed those suggested by the average temperature increases from a warming planet. Apparently, the author has not been introduced to "Jensen's Inequality". As discussed in "The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty", this states that when the output varies in a nonlinear way with the inputs (as is the case with virtually everything in climate destabilization), the outcome determined from average inputs (Mr. Lawson's approach) is NOT equal to the average outcome from inputs as they naturally vary. The proper approach is to use Monte Carlo simulation to consider simultaneously the effects of the range of the assumptions as they naturally affect the projected outcome.

Turning next to the costs of making a wrong decision, Peter Diamond's "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed: Revised Edition" offers a guide. Professor Diamond surveyed the collapse of a number of complex, advanced societies, and identified several contributing causes. Among them, natural climate destabilization extremes may push the society over the brink and lead to a collapse. With global climate destabilization superimposed on normal climatic variation that includes extreme events leading to droughts, floods, heat waves, cold periods, excessive wind flow (tornadoes, hurricanes), storm surges, and lightning storms, we will no doubt see rapid and unwelcome changes in human habitation and subsistence. If we err on the side of safety and climate destabilization doesn't turn out to be the danger widely expected, then the downside is a more energy efficient world and a cleaner environment.

When he does offer valid and sound arguments, he regularly ignores similar, more compelling arguments made to the contrary. As a result, his counter-arguments to climate destabilization are built on shaky foundations, to be sure, and his willingness to distort the perspective to his advantage makes informed readers question any fact or premise he presents. In this book we have clear examples of the obfuscation and exploitation of uncertainty discussed so clearly in David Michael's "Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health", which warns us of such attempts to manufacture doubt in scientific fields to the advantage of irresponsible industry participants. In Michael's words, "Such uncertainty...avoids discussion of the much tougher set of policy choices necessary to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere" (p. 201). Mr. Lawson does precisely that, as seen here: "But since the prevailing orthodoxy is that tough measures are urgently needed, a more thorough analysis is required." (p. 81). In other words, "Let's make a decision by default, and continue business as usual, until all the major industrial figures decide otherwise." As Greg Craven explains in "What's the Worst That Could Happen?: A Rational Response to the Climate Change Debate", even if the scientific consensus wasn't overwhelmingly sharing the view that climate destabilization is human caused and a grave threat, the question of "Is it true?" becomes moot and the question everyone should ask is "Is it worth doing anything about, just in case it is true?" Conveniently, Mr. Lawson's answer to the latter question is simply `adapt.'

Tellingly, Mr. Lawson relies on repetition and rhetorical devices to make his points. He mentions the Stern Review and the IPCC report in 25 and 54 pages, respectively, of 106 pages. Not included in my count is his mention of an "authoritative report" that happens to cite on p. 56. A comment by the Stern Review helps Lawson make a point, so here (and nowhere else) he conveniently buries the name of this "authoritative report" in the endnotes, while lambasting the report by name everywhere else. Similarly, those who offer statements--whether in context or not--that support his arguments are given rich adjectives (e.g., the `eminent' oceanographer), whereas those who differ from him are called `alarmists', `cockeyed', or worse.

Now, on to the more troubling bits not yet mentioned:

P. 6: Mr. Lawson cites James Lovelock's assertion that "Observations and evidence are out of fashion; most evidence now is taken from the virtual world of computer models." This is wordsmithing at its worst. Temperature data, ice core findings, insights from tree rings, species extinctions, ... such evidence is precisely the input of scientific models. Would he have scientists prognosticate on a complex adaptive system like the climate destabilization and how the year 2000 was different from, say, 1500 without computer models? Does Mr. Lawson prefer slide rules?
P. 19: His text is dripping with scorn: "This diversity (in sea level and ice thickness) makes it all too easy for the likes of Al Gore, as in his tendentious film "An Inconvenient Truth" to cherry-pick local phenomena which best illustrate their predetermined alarmist global narrative."
P. 22: Mr. Lawson states that he works under "...the assumption that the majority (IPCC) view ... is correct", but then in the same sentence claims that "...this issue is in fact anything but `settled'". Here are some other views:
The basic conclusions of the IPCC have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. Dr. James Baker, former head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summed up the scientific view: "There's a better scientific consensus on this than on any issue I know--except maybe the second law of thermodynamics". From a paper titled "Expert credibility in climate change", published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, we learn from a dataset of 1,372 climate researchers that (i) 97-98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of anthropogenic climate change (ACC) outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers. Further, the entire US intelligence community, including 16 government intelligence agencies, in collaboration with government science programs, issued a report that claimed that climate destabilization is a national security issue. Even Shell Oil Company agrees. Its president said in 2006, "We have to deal with greenhouse gases. From Shell's point of view, the debate is over. ... Who is Shell to say, `Let's debate the science'?" Yes, this issue is settled, whether Mr. Lawson wishes to acknowledge that or not.
P. 23: "There is something inherently absurd about the conceit that we can have any useful idea of what the world will be like in a hundred years time, and it is even more ridiculous to believe that computer modeling can open a window to the future that is otherwise closed." Apparently, Mr. Lawson--who notably has no science background himself--finds such work useless and would have us stick our collective heads in the sand like 6 billion ostriches. But such contempt vanishes when he tries to use it to his advantage, on p. 25: "In other words, by 2100, poverty really has, at least to a considerable and gratifying extent, become history." Incidentally, I know of no one else who actually believes that poverty will ever become history. The US is one of the world's richest nations, yet a drive through any major US city, the reservations of Native Americans, or more than a few rural areas in any state will quickly dismiss any thoughts that we have erased poverty. To suggest otherwise would be, well, inherently absurd.
P. 27-28: The author suggests that humankind can live successfully in diverse climates such as those of Finland and Singapore, so it is "...not immediately apparent why he should not be able to adapt to a change of 3C/5.4F, when he is given a hundred years in which to do so." Here, as elsewhere, he compares average global temperature changes to average local annual temperatures, and ignores the implications of Jensen's Inequality to draw an absurdly erroneous conclusion. A 1C change in local temperature can mean the difference between a good rain and a severe winter snowstorm. A 6C change in average global surface temperature can mean the difference between life as we know it and an ice age. He ignores the temperature distribution (e.g., highs and lows, by geography, by season, and over time), the rate of change of temperature, and the consequences of such large changes in average global temperatures, among other factors. He also ignores implications of a relatively rapid climate destabilization and its affects on wildlife, plant life, and natural resources. The only global-scale climate destabilizations in Earth's history that have happened more rapidly are driven by major cataclysms, and this climate destabilization is accompanied by fundamentally-altered terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. Shortages in natural resources may lead to massive migrations and resource wars. Further, he pays little heed to the fact that it is nonlinear and irreversible, and that the consequences will not likely be mild, marginal events confined to some developing nations that most people couldn't find on a map.
P. 29: Mr. Lawson contends that impending global water shortages have "...nothing whatever to do with global warming." Instead, he insists, the water shortages are due to increases in global population. He continues to suggest that desalination of sea water will provide a timely and convenient solution to the world's water woes. This sophomoric logic is worse than naÔve--it is as dangerous to discount such a grave threat to the world's wildlife, plant life and peoples as it is disingenuous to prescribe such a simplistic solution. A dried-up watering hole critical to wildlife migration can wipe out entire species.
P. 31: Just as Mr. Lawson's limitations of science do not restrain him from stating his opinion as fact, his lack of formal medical training does not prevent him for stating his unsupported opinion that genetically modified foods are the response to global climate destabilization-induced crop threats, and that any "...adverse consequences (to GM foods) would have come to light long ago." This is deeply troubling for at least two reasons. Firstly, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) warned people not to consume GM foods. In a position paper, it stated that "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, "There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation, as defined by recognized scientific criteria." Secondly, to suggest that we should simply `modify' plants in lockstep with our modification of the climate and we'll all be dandy is so addle-brained that we can immediately appreciate why he had the problems he did in finding a publisher.
P. 46: Mr. Lawson takes Mr. Gore and the Stern Review to task, noting that "...neither conducted any original research into the subject (of Global Warming/Climate destabilization)". By "original research", we must presume that Mr. Lawson is referring to primary research, since both Mr. Gore and the Stern Review did produce original research products. Now we must ask, "Is conducting primary research is really a factor? Is there no value in reviewing and aggregating the results from thousands of scientists in tens of thousands of studies, written on perhaps hundreds of thousands of pages? Has Mr. Lawson taken ice core samples or studied tree rings himself?"
P. 50: "Clearly, the melting of floating polar ice cannot cause any rise in sea levels--just as the melting of ice cubes in your glass of water cannot cause the water to overflow the glass." While his point is a valid one, namely that the melting of land-based ice may be the most important contributor to the rise of sea levels, that does not excuse his error of fact. Try this experiment at home: fill a glass to the rim with water, and then gently add an ice cube, without allowing it to completely submerge. Remove the water that overflows when it is displaced by the addition of the cube and wait. As the ice cube melts, the ice above the water line will add to the water in the glass and cause the glass to overflow. Further, he ignores the consequences of a collapsing West Antarctic ice sheet (including its gravitational pull on the surrounding ocean), which threatens to put Washington D.C. and most of Southern Florida under water, not to mention the above-sea-level ice that is NOT floating, but which will contribute to sea level rise once it melts.
Pp. 50-51: He states that "So far as the Greenland ice sheet is concerned, there is no evidence that melting, or rather, net ice loss, is occurring to any significant extent." His reasoning, in part, includes the inane observation that "Greenland is a pretty cold place". He claims that "Greenland temperatures are still below the levels of the 1930s and 1940s" (although he provides no supporting evidence or citation for this assertion). Even if his unsupported assertion is correct, he is comparing current average temperatures to peak average temperatures selected from perhaps decades or even centuries of records, and neglects to rebut mountains of evidence to the contrary. From this assertion, he further claims that Greenland's temperature fluctuations "...appear to have little or nothing to do with the greenhouse effect."
P. 55, Mr. Lawson claims that " ...CO2, which, as we have seen, is not a pollutant." While Mr. Lawson and his publisher are from England, he should have been well aware in 2008 of a key 2007 lawsuit before the US Supreme Court on precisely that question. In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 549 U.S. 497, brought before the US Supreme Court, the justices found that the Clean Air Act defines "air pollutant" as "any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air". The majority report commented that "greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of air pollutant."
P. 78: "Moreover, (carbon offsets) (do) infinitely less harm to the economy than a genuine reduction in emissions is likely to cause." Mr. Lawson would benefit from a review of the definition of "infinite", as well as the forecasted consequences of a failure to reduce emissions in the near term.

In summary, what truths or insights do exist in this book are overwhelmingly tainted by distortions, duplicitous word-smithing, inappropriate statistical methodologies, the author's pro-industry bias, his publisher's apparent aversion to, or incompetence in, fact-checking, and his arrogant belief that we cannot reduce our rate of greenhouse gas production, but that we can and should control plant life and water processes in lockstep as the damage occurs. As Stephen Hawking reminds us, "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge." Given the serious nature of the topic and the literary transgressions of Mr. Lawson and his publisher, it appears that there may be no greater such `enemy' than in Mr. Lawson's book.
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The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick
The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick
by Gene Stone
Edition: Hardcover
103 used & new from $0.01

63 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, educational and well-researched, October 12, 2010
The four endorsements by leading MDs offered on the covers offer a clue as to the quality of the research - these particular MDs are among the best-known doctors for their focus on prevention of chronic diseases, which is the theme of this book.

Few writers can navigate the complexities of health claims ranging from Acidosis to Zoonoses in an engaging 200 pages. Stone manages to do it with interesting narrative, supporting science, and, where needed, caveats to keep the reader's enthusiasm in check. The format generally includes the experiences of one or more individuals, some historical perspective, and then a prescriptive overview of the `secret'.

As a healthy and very health-conscious vegan, I had to first verify that the author covered plant-based diets before buying a copy. He did not disappoint (see #17). That and calorie reduction (#3) are the only `secrets' of the 25 that are generally viewed as `restrictive' behaviors (i.e., don't eat animal products and don't eat high caloric foods), and these two recommendations actually overlap. Other restrictive behaviors, such as "don't smoke", "don't use crystal meth", "don't race motorcycles while smoking and using crystal meth" aren't included, but it's no secret that restricting these behaviors will lead to a longer life.

I was not pleased to see the inclusion of chicken soup, but given the status of chicken soup in common health lore, I had to concur that it's inclusion was appropriate. Happily, I found that the author did not give it the lightweight treatment often given elsewhere. He explains that "...the chicken may not matter as much as the rest of the soup..." in relieving cold symptoms, and that the high sodium content (i.e., salt) in chicken soup may "...negate the soup's benefits", and he further offers the approximate sodium content of one cup of canned chicken noodle soup (1,100 mg) and vegetarian vegetable soup (800 mg). I was also encouraged to see weight lifting (#14) and running (#20 ) included. While he didn't include swimming, he did offer a through review of the benefits of anaerobic exercise, which applies to (competitive) swimming. Other secrets include cold showers (#8), eating dirt (#7), herbal remedies (#12), hydrogen peroxide (#13) and yoga (#25).

This book is arranged for casual reading of individual topics, not sequential reading, so it is ideal bedside reading if you tend to read a few chapters a night. It may be tempting to skip the introduction and to get straight to the bits that most interest you. That's what I did. Fortunately, I did come back to the intro after finishing the book. It was a treat, and it cautions us to take control of our own health. As examples, Stone cites discredited treatments (e.g., using arsenic to treat blindness) previously offered by `experts' and a published study that showed "...that the probability of cancer increased by 75% in people who used tanning beds before the age of thirty", which "...led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to reclassify tanning beds as `a definite carcinogen'...".

Because I don't keep a copy of Lancet at my bedside, I rely on books like this to extract and summarize such findings for me, and when it comes to preserving my health, if one of these `secrets' extends my life by even one day, it will be well worth the cover price.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 19, 2012 8:03 AM PDT

Animal Liberation: A New Ethics For Our Treatment of Animals
Animal Liberation: A New Ethics For Our Treatment of Animals
by Peter Singer
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
13 used & new from $1.74

5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book that started the modern animal rights movement, October 12, 2010
This book is the classic that is often credited with starting the modern animal rights movement. You might also want to check out Dr. Singer's recently published update of Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement (P.S.).

If the whole world thought that concentration camps were right, that wouldn't make concentration camps right. Moral knowledge is not difficult to acquire or use; it is only prejudice and vested interests that stand in the way. Those prejudice and vested interests can make us enthusiastic adherents or accomplices in the most deplorable behaviors imaginable, and often with smiles on our faces (as the world saw in our clean-shaven, church-going youth in Abu Ghraib).

Thankfully, Dr. Singer was not content to leave morality to others, as he so aptly demonstrates with this book. He offers readers the moral knowledge they need to do good, or at least stop doing harm.

I'd put off reading this book for about 10 years. I'd been a vegetarian that length of time, but I didn't want to listen to some `radical' idea about `animal rights'. I finally began reading this book on a three-hour train ride, and by the time I'd reached my destination, I turned vegan and felt ashamed that I hadn't made the move to before then. I remain a vegan 10 years later, largely based on the convictions formed while reading this book.

This seminal work offers telling observations of humans and other animals that, often, should be obvious to any five-year-old, but which aren't widely discussed in `polite' society. For example, "Nearly all the signs which lead us to infer pain in other humans can be seen in other species...". "There are many areas in which the superior mental powers of normal adult humans make a difference...[y]et these differences do not all point to greater suffering on the part of the normal human being." Animals suffer, animal suffering matters, and our illusion of innocence in the process of confining and killing must be confronted to stop the suffering. Such lucid, well-written comments leave us little room to hide our prejudices and vested interests. I've read my copy twice now, and expect to read it again soon.

Dr. Singer points out that "...the conclusions that are argued for in this book flow from the principle of minimizing suffering alone." In practice, the author is a utilitarian. Contractarianism, as suggested by Mark Rowlands in Animals Like Us (Practical ethics series), offers a more robust and morally satisfying approach, but in a world where 50 billion animals are tortured and slaughtered every year to feed humans, this is arguably just hair-splitting.

Not many books can make you want to change what you eat or wear for the rest of your life. This one does. And you will thank Dr. Singer for it.

Moral Literacy: or How to Do the Right Thing
Moral Literacy: or How to Do the Right Thing
by Colin McGinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.00
60 used & new from $0.01

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A path to thoughtful and informed moral judgments, October 12, 2010
As Sam Harris recently pointed out, "One of the biggest problems we're facing is in creating a global civilization based on shared values". To face that problem, we need to be giving similar answers to our most pressing problems, not ignore, ridicule, or vilify those who hold different views. Professor McGinn attempts to do that in his easy-to-read but hard-to-dismiss 108-page guide to moral literacy.

As McGinn states in his intro, using informed and thoughtful moral judgments to solve moral problems shouldn't be left to "priests and pundits and politicians." In the best case, these would-be moral guides give people bad reasons to be good when good reasons are actually available. In the worst case, they separate moral thinking from the details of human and animal suffering.

McGinn addresses leading moral issues, including our treatment of nonhuman animals, abortion, violence, sex, non-medical and mind-altering drugs, censorship and virtue. In the rare instances where my knee-jerk biases and vested interests kept me from agreeing with him, I was quickly persuaded of the logic and moral coherence of his argument.

Perhaps the best gem of the book is his shortlist of basic virtues: kindness, honesty, justice and independence, and how they must interact to form a virtuous world. Independence, or the capacity to make up one's own mind and not be swayed by peer pressure or threats, is crucial, but as he notes, "comparatively rare".

While more thorough treatments on the subject exist, you will be hard-pressed to find a more condensed, yet intellectually satisfying approach to moral literacy. I purchased Marvin Brown's The Ethical Process: An Approach to Disagreements and Controversial Issues (3rd Edition) and found it far less satisfying. Brown's work is more of a cookbook approach, while McGinn's work teaches you how to think about solving problems. As McGinn concludes the book, "It is important to be able to read and write. It is also important to have some mathematical proficiency. But more important than either of these is the ability to arrive at informed and thoughtful moral judgments."
An overstatement? Consider this: Founding Father James Madison said, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." In this post-Cold-War era, more than half our federal budget goes to so-called "defense" spending, but we don't allocate a cent to a "Department of Peace". There are no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better obtained by plant-based foods, yet 50 billion animals live horrific lives until slaughter because they committed the crime of being born nonhuman. The Catholic Church more strongly opposes gay marriage than it does genocide. It is time we all learn to make informed and thoughtful moral judgments.

We can all use this guide to moral literacy.
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