Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Planetary Depression

I have a planetary depression. I have tried to live in harmony with the environment nearly all my life. When I came to British Columbia I wanted to see the `Carmanah Giants’. These extraordinary Sitka spruce dwarf the man made high rises on Vancouver Island. If you ever want to experience the awe of the planet, visit them. But this is not a story about these trees. To see them I had to drive on logging roads. My route went through an immense clear-cut valley. I had never before seen industrial logging on this scale. The valley was a cemetery of tombstone stumps. The devastation was so complete, I wondered if bombs had been dropped.
My mind was so revolted, my stomach threw up.
I was instantly converted from an environmental sympathizer, to an eco-warrior. The pen became my sword. I became a dedicated environmentalist.
I spent a summer living among the majestic trees of the Walbran Valley. I wrote reports for any print media that would print them. I watched the struggle of activists on blockades. They were determined to prevent international timber companies from desecrating our forests. One night I slept in a clear cut to prevent timber workers and police from dismantling a blockade. My horizon was unobstructed. The forest had been felled to become wood for U.S. and Asian industry. The stars were my ceiling. I’d grown accustomed to canopied skies where stars blinked through treetops. In a clearcut, this was like a prairie sky loaded with stars.
But, eventually the demonstrations, the blockades, the arrests, the stories and the lobbying were a success. British Columbia now has the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park.
So, over the years, I’ve been keenly aware of the background noise about the planet’s plight. I never did agree with economists who stated that violent plundering of the earth would be to our benefit. I remain convinced that our dedication to consumerism has caused the exploitation and devastation of the planet. I’ve been a Gaiaist for years; I’ve read all of James Lovelock’s books, including his latest and probably last – he’s now in his nineties - The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning.
Lovelock’s conclusions are depressing. Even David Suzuki doesn’t embrace them. But I’ve also read James Kunstler’s book, The Long Emergency. Kunstler wrote this book in 2005 and many of his predictions have come to pass. We have not progressed to the depths of his creative foretelling in, World Made by Hand but I have more faith in these forecasts than in the spun statements expounded by politicians with short term re-election agendas. Their words might comfort, if they were believable.
So, where can we go for comfort? I cannot suggest a solution, but I can indicate a new direction. I found this direction by hearing Wade Davis’s Massey Lectures and reading his book, The Wayfinders. Davis points out that Western culture developed on a singular technological path, while other cultures revere our planet and its origins. Davis, as an anthropologist, shows us belief systems that have survived the onslaught of corporatism and technology. He illustrates with examples of civilizations that have the same mental acuity, the same intellectual capacity but have developed without the technological advances of Western societies. These cultures have extremely sophisticated beliefs but have spiritual, not technological, solutions to our universe.
Davis’s conclusions are reinforced by my recent reading of Edward Berry’s, The Sacred Universe. Berry believes that mankind once had great respect for the earth, but now is alienated from it. In Western culture we are assured that modern technologies hold all the answers. Mankind’s present predicament underlines the absurdity of that belief, but Berry believes that by marrying the sacred to the practical mankind has hope.

I think he may be right.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Indie Books

I attended the `At the Mike' readings in Victoria this week. I was most impressed by Des Kennedy's vigorous reading and re-confirmed our old acquaintance. The reading was organised by Brindle and Glass, an independent publisher. I know this publisher gets support from the hand of government, namely the Canada Council. But there are other independent publishers who survive, even in these harsh economic times, without government assistance. We tend to admire, for instance, an independent film maker who finances a film from his/her own resources, but the independent writer who finances getting their book in print is denigrated. It is extremely difficult to even have the book reviewed. There is a stigma in the world to independent book productions. We don't refer to independently produced moves, or music as `vanity films' or `vanity CD's'. Why have we allowed this to refer only to books?

I am therefore pleased to announce that a book I help to distribute, `Something to Ponder' - independently produced, to the severe detriment of the author's bank balance, has just become a winner of the US Book News prize in the eastern religion category. `Something to Ponder' is a 21st century reflection and intepretation of the Te Ching by Colin Mallard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Diamond River Books - The Book Blog

The Age of Stupid is an engaging movie I saw this week. Thanks to a screening by the Cowichan Citizens Coalition in Duncan. It stars, according to Steven Spielberg, the best actor in the world. He's talking of Pete Postlethwaite. So what is this movie? I'd describe it as similar to Al Gore's `Inconvenient Truth' with more emotion and less statistics, but it's even more disquieting. If the The Age of Stupid shows us a planet in peril, Wade Davis was in Victoria last week and spoke of people in peril. Wade Davis is the Massey Lecturer for 2009, and although he spoke at length at the University of Victoria, the audience heard a condensed version of the entire Massey Lecture series, as UVIC isn't on the official Massey lecture circuit. The Audience also got a signed copy of Wade Davis' Massey lecture book, `The Wayfinders'. I've been a follower of Wade Davis for many years. I'd just finished reading his first book, the Serpent and the Rainbow, (back in 1986) when he came into a paddle sports store in Victoria where I worked. I have to take some responsibility for selling Wade a traditional red cedar and canvas canoe which he wanted for his home waters in the Stikine Valley of northern British Columbia.

I was at a regular meeting of PEAVI (Professional Editors of Vancouver Island) yesterday evening and listened with rapt attention as mystery author, Nicola Furlong, motivated me with a talk and discussion on E-publishing. In addition to the potential of e-books, she encouraged all the attending editors to set up their own blog. That's why I am writing this. I have my own book, The Mercedes Variation in print, and as a publisher for Diamond River Books, I also have other books in print;
The Sunset Watcher by a local author, Barry Proud - he lives in Victoria. Barry gleaned much of the material for his book from his many years working on development projects in central and South America.
A very successful book is The Polski Affair,
an engaging holocaust novel based upon original research by Abel Shulman on the Hotel Polski's role in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. It's a really great read. Technically it's historical fiction, but it reads like a suspense novel. The tension is real! For a very good in depth review of this book please visit Jew Wishes