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Peter Stamm- Short Stories- “We’re Flying”. His writing is tight. The stories range from open ended human relations to the almost perverse and the unsettling. The title perhaps is apt. It is inconclusive how the flight started or will end. We only know that in our relationships we are flying ‘by the seat of our pants’. There is a range of character and emotion in these stories that invites reading more of what he writes. His novel “Seven Years” was well reviewed and he is a recognized Swiss writer.

Marcel Beyer- “Kaltenburg”. I have just started this novel by the German author. It is supposedly a loose examination of Konrad Lorenz and his institute for research into animal behavior. For ornothologists it offers a small examination of bird classification, but the theme is larger both in terms of a retrospective analysis of a mentor by his protege and of the human condition. It is premature for me to offer an opinion other than it is readable.

Georgina Harding- “Painter of Silence”. I have just started this novel by this British author who has been short listed for the 2012 Orange Prize. I am increasingly drawn into it, although it briefly started out slower for me than “Kaltenburg”. The tension of war and of family is presently interplayed between a brother who is dumb and a sister who does not dislose their relationship even after finding him in a hospital and seeing him homeless on the street. The narrative is unfolding.


Two environmental books:

“The Carbon Crunch” by Dieter Helm. This is a fabulous book, although it may make some in the environmental community mad if they misunderstand him. Mr. Helm is an economist and reviews energy alternatives given present and near term demand and supply. There is no wishful thinking that renewables, conservation, or nuclear will be the immediate or near term answer on a macro basis or that carbon trading has or will work. He argues for natural gas as the bridge for near term carbon reduction vis-a-vis coal and for a carbon consumption tax to offset European and US displacement of carbon creation to manufacturers in China and elsewhere that are continuing a predominantly coal based energy strategy for at least the next decade. While he recognizes the benefit of conservation and increased efficiencies, on a macro level, price and world non-service GDP growth has and will continue to dictate demand and carbon development. This is particularly so as the “emerging world’s” middle class consumption growth expands. He also assails both governments and NGOs who have subsidized renewables that are not presently effective on a macro basis and have not integrated the total cost. The latter is true for other subsidized energies as well and he does overstate the macro at the expense of the micro benefit. All energy sources may on a micro basis offer a distinct advantage if there is true cost-benefit analysis. He holds out hope for solar and discounts the demise of fossil fuel supply over the next 100 years. Given gas supply, the increasing likelihood of Artic resources (albeit will substantial environmental consequences) and technology improvements, he will likely be correct about availability and price of fossil fuels. What I found personally interesting was his point about villification of those seeking realistic present solutions. I did work years ago with the Sierra Club when industry debunked environmental concerns even when they were beneficial to business. Now some enviromentalists have adopted the same silo mentality and are critical of those trying to achieve environmental progress in the present because it might displace what might work in the future. Mr. Helm realizes we can’t and don’t live in the future and seeks a middle ground that can get us to the future. His is not original thought in this regard, but it is a great compendium of the middle way.

“Sustaining Life. How Human Health Depends of Biodiversity”. This is somewhat encyclopedic. It is a physically large book that you will not just pick up and read. It was sponsored by the UN Development Programme, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the World Conservation Union. It reviews how medicines, biomedical research, infectious disease and food production depend on biodiversity. If focuses on organism upon which biodiversity is dependent and which in some cases are near extinction. It reminds me that the smallest and the simplist of species are the most important and that the human species is far more fragile. Despite our cranium it is these species upon which life depends and which will survive our stupidity.