A book review: The Big Earth Book by James Bruges

Every once in a while someone contacts me to review something so tonight folks, it’s book review time. “The Big Earth Book” by James Bruges, published by Sawday’s and printed by Cambridge University Press.

As it name suggests, it is qute big and I really should have penned this review a good three weeks ago but I’ve been busy undertaking (none shelf stacking) duties.

What’s it all about?

Well it covers a vast array of enviromental related topics, heavy on the issues of climate change and owing to recent events ties in elements of global finance, inequality and pretty much the future of our species.

Given it’s wide remit there are areas that I feel are stronger than others reflecting the author’s specialism but across the board it’s challenging in terms of some of the accepted wisdoms and practices of the way we humans go about things.

For me, the core interest despite my background in economics which kicks in later in the book is the first half around enviromental issues. The challenges of negating human detrimental impact on our environment and unlike it seems the current focus of by many writers and the media being around carbon emissions, it deals with the traditional concerns of environmentalists, that of actual pollution and importantly for me the degradation of soil quality across the world.

For me though it’s all very well reading about what are the problems but I’m interested in solutions and despite my trying to keep up with things and finding novel ways that we can negate our impact on the environment the one that stuck out the most for me was in India a scheme that uses wood to produce heat for cooking while also creating charcoal that can be used the enrich the land for growing crops without the use of agro-chemicals which I’d like to look into further.

So on the environmental side the book is strong and full of really interesting ideas but as it moves into the area of global finance there are some contradictions that seem to creep in. The proposition for a global currency against which all others are trading and key resources like oil can be set against instead of an individual countries currency at present like the dollar are classical Keynesian ideas which I’d have a lot of time for. However later it discusses the use of barter instead of currency where people trade their products and skills directly. Although this can and does in places work on a smaller scale it’s not a sensible means by which to run a global economy so I would have to be critical there.

That said there are some other interesting ideas like the Jak Bank in Sweden that works on the principle of not offering interest on saving. A bizarre concept at first for those used to our general model of banking in the West