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In Review

In review

One No, Many Yeses: A Journey to the Heart of the Global Resistance Movement

Paul Kingsnorth, Simon & Schuster UK, 2003, $18.00 US (approx.: not released in US. Order online through mcnallyrobinson.com or your favorite Canadian independent bookstore)

Paul Kingsnorth is exactly the kind of troublemaker the world needs. An Oxford graduate who became deputy editor of The Ecologist, Kingsnorth spent a year traveling the world to study the global resistance movement. "What exactly was it?" he asked himself. "Where had it come from? Did it have any substantial ideas beyond objecting to the status quo?"

Kingsnorth's answer is part travelogue, part manifesto, and part record of struggling people. He met Zapatistas in Mexico, an anarchist pie throwing cooperative in America, hillsmen in Papua New Guinea, and the "Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee," which illegally reconnects power and water to townships in South Africa. He found "a new revolt of the marginalized; a new storm gathering out there, beyond the radar screens of the powerful."

Kingsnorth is a real activist, unafraid to face tear gas, police harassment, and arrest. He understands that one cannot write a book about struggle in the streets and in the fields from a comfy den. This is part of what makes the book so readable. It has the narrative drive of a travelogue, which may draw many readers to a subject too often weighed down by theory.

Travel also enables Kingsnorth to look upon this subject from the broadest perspective yet. While this is a movement united by its dissent, Kingsnorth shows us it is spread across too many cultural divides to be united in the manner of that dissent.

So what does unify this movement? "The commodification of everything… is an issue at the heart of the clash between the proponents of globalization and those who resist it," he writes. "There are some areas of life...that cannot and should not ever be privatized or commodified."

This is what links Jose Bove, the French farmer who smashed the window of his local McDonalds, with the Karnataka State Farmers' Association in India who burn Monsanto's crops. Kingsnorth shows that this is not just a fight against capitalism. It is a struggle for power, for the control of our natural resources: our land, water, and seeds. Neither is it a poorly-thought-out rebellion by a motley group of anarchists. Constructive, sustainable solutions are at the heart of every protest.

One No, Many Yeses comes closer to defining the global resistance movement than any book yet, and to conveying the enormous passion, pain, and human warmth upon which this movement rests. There is unlikely to be a more important book for the green movement released this year.

-- Piers Moore Ede



A Land on Fire:
The Environmental Consequences of the Southeast Asian Boom


James David Fahn, Westview Press, 2003, $27.50 list


What the rest of the world has learned from America is the desire for personal wealth and material comforts. What the rest of the world has apparently not learned from watching America is that these pursuits, without careful planning, generally lead to permanent environmental damage.

Nowhere is this failure to learn from others' mistakes currently more evident than in Southeast Asia. Developing nations there have experienced alterations in both economic and social structure at an incredible speed; this "growth," combined with a sorry lack of foresight by both corporations and citizens, has resulted in an intensely accelerated environmental decline. In A Land On Fire, journalist James Fahn chronicles the devastating effects corporate and personal greed have had in this part of the world. Focusing primarily on Thailand, where he spent nearly 10 years as a correspondent at The Nation, an English daily newspaper in Bangkok, Fahn covers a wide range of environmental problems in such areas as transportation, oil exploration, and agriculture.

While Fahn writes with a journalist's attention to detail and sources, he extends beyond unbiased detachment. With an evident love and appreciation for not only the country but also the culture and people, Fahn brings compelling insight into the difficulties of meshing Western values with Eastern culture, and will make you question the very root of human interaction with nature.

-- Audrey Webb

   

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