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How The Rich Are Destroying the Earth (Foreword by Greg Palast) Paperback – September 15, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Publishers Weekly -

In this frequently iconoclastic, and surprisingly humorous book, Kempf, environmental editor of Le Monde, puts together familiar themes--ecological crisis, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the threat anti-terrorism poses to democracy--to point out the elephant in the room: the fact that the income and conspicuous consumption of the "hyper-rich" need to be reduced so the world's poorest can receive justice and the middle classes will "consume less; the planet will be better off; and, we'll be less frustrated by what we don't have." Kempf references Thorstein Veblen's Theory of the Leisure Class, arguing that Veblen's theories--once made obsolete by the narrowing of incomes in the twentieth-century--are relevant again due to the rise of a new international aristocracy. He may infuriate right-leaning American readers allergic to discussions of class warfare, but he's equally hard on the "wobbly" left, "pickled in the idea of progress as it was conceived in the nineteenth century." Although the book's message is deeply disturbing, its uniquely French style of lighthearted, even optimistic seriousness makes it a refreshing and entertaining read.

"Kempf's warning, from the perch of Le Monde, needs to be heeded. Ecologists must read it to see the centrality of political economy; Lefties must read it to get a sense of the ongoing eco-cide."--Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World

"Hervé Kempf wastes no words and pulls no punches in showing how the planet's most privileged people are also its most dangerous. His book is to the early twenty-first century what The Theory of the Leisure Class was to the early twentieth--but with a couple of extra shots of much-needed adrenaline."--Stan Cox, author of Sick Planet: Corporate Food and Medicine

"In How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth Hervé Kempf has boldly dropped a mindbomb and broken a long standing taboo."--Kalle Lasn, Editor-in-Chief of Adbusters magazine and author of Culture Jam

"Kempf's elegant thesis puts a stake in the heart of neoliberalism, explains ecology like a poet, and unravels the self-serving economic theories of both the left and the right. Kempf is a modern day Lorax with a political conscience. He worries about the trees and the ad execs and the CIA, about ecology and economy and democracy--in short, he puts the pieces of the puzzle together. Santa's getting this one for all my friends."--John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA

"Speaks seldom-heard truths about economic growth, environmental destruction, poverty, and equity that hold the key to human survival and well-being. An important book." -- David Korten, author of The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community and When Corporations Rule the World

"At last someone is speaking the truth that so many know yet few acknowledge: the rich are destroying the earth. And people are listening, reading, understanding. Read this book, then stop the rich from destroying our only home, and while you're at it destroy the wretched system that allows the rich to do this. Thank you Herve Kempf, and thank you Chelsea Green." --Derrick Jensen, author of A Language Older Than Words and Listening to the Land

"Our biosphere is dying, and with it the livelihood of billions. But the global royalty that sets the rules for trade and commerce goes on in its bubble, oblivious to anything but its self interest. Filled with righteous anger, this book tells a truth that cannot be denied and may just save the planet and our lives."--Maude Barlow, author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Coming Battle for the Right to Water

"Can global warming be reversed and our ecological balance restored? The answer is certainly yes. But as Hervé Kempf explains with great force and élan, it will require a massive social transformation, in which the principles of ecology and social justice gain ascendance over corporate greed. How the Rich are Destroying the Earth presents brutal truths about our present-day reality, while also offering optimism in the struggle for a sustainable future."--Robert Pollin, Professor of Economics and Co-Director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and author of Contours of Descent

"It's time we stopped pretending that the climate crisis is unrelated to market fundamentalism, because we cannot fix the climate until we fix the way power and wealth are allocated. Kempf reminds us of the verities we forgot when we became mesmerized by affluence."--Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at the (Australian) Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics

"[A] bombshell book."--Louis-Gilles Francoeur, Le Devoir

"Stunning survey . . . great journalism."--Anne Crignon, Le Nouvel Observateur

"A vigorous indictment against the 'neoliberal ideology,' guilty of driving the planet towards its own destruction."--Olivier Nouaillas, La Vie

"An invigorating book, to be read at once."--L'Ecologiste

"I certainly hope the provocative title of this little book doesn't keep anybody from reading it because it's a gem. In concise and highly readable prose, Hervé Kempf makes the case that the uncontrolled pursuit of extreme wealth in the global economy is the greatest roadblock to a sustainable future. He challenges our misplaced faith in economic growth and technological panaceas, and makes clear the inevitability of catastrophe unless our global oligarchs are restrained through citizen action in democratic societies. You will learn a lot from this small volume and much of it will shock you, but in the end Kempf sounds a strong note of optimism, an optimism that can only be justified if enough of us hear and heed his powerful message. You owe it to your grandchildren to read this book."--John de Graaf, coauthor of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic and Executive Director of Take Back Your Time

"An intellectually original and undeniably pugnacious endeavor."--Patrick Piro, Politis

"Kempf powerfully draws attention to issues of wealth, poverty, and the ecological basis for life that have been too long neglected by economists and those who listen to us."--Julie A. Nelson, author of Economics for Humans

About the Author

Hervé Kempf has more than 20 years of experience as a reporter. He is the environmental editor of Le Monde, France's most influential daily newspaper, and the founder of Reporterre, a Web site devoted to discussion about the environment and social justice. He lives in France.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 140 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (September 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603580352
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603580359
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Matt Hill VINE VOICE on August 31, 2008
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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".
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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.
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Format: Paperback Vine 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.
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