Category: Tony de Castro

Book Review -‘A Short History of Progress’

by Tony de  Castro Ronald Wright starts his compact overview of the concept of progress by talking about myths. These are cultural maps that allow us to make sense of our past, our values, and our priorities. They are not necessarily based on facts, but they allow us to justify our way of life. Examples of myths are the belief that we are “civilized” and our enemies are “savages”, that under capitalism our societies can grow indefinitely in a finite planet, that tomorrow will always be better than today. But, as Wright will argue again and again in this...

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Book Review – Pandora’s Seed

by Tony de Castro Spencer Wells is known for his previous genetic and anthropological research on how the human race populated the planet. In his 2010 book, Pandora’s Seed: The Unknown Cost of Civilization, Wells later reviewed how the invention of agriculture and the creation of cities have drastically altered our way of life and created challenges that we don’t seem to know how to overcome. Although new research is pushing the dates even further back, it is roughly estimated that humans originally came out of Africa in significant numbers at least 60,000 years ago and spread around our...

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Dark Age Ahead – Book review by Tony de Castro

Jane Jacobs’ last book (Dark Age Ahead, 2004), reminds us that all cultures eventually reach a dead end, their very own “Dark Age.” In many western countries, she argues, we show signs of rushing into such a new Dark Age. In previous articles I have talked about some big problems we have been ignoring at our peril on this planet. Global warming, overpopulation, deforestation and the loss of topsoil, shrinking aquifers, loss of biological diversity, and our toxic version of capitalism are some of the factors that are likely to send us into another Dark Age. Jane Jacobs chooses...

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On the future of agriculture in the Comox Valley – by Tony de Castro

In a previous article I reviewed the book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. You can read that article at The book’s author, the geologist David Montgomery, argues that throughout history civilizations that had more people than their land base could feed eventually crashed. Montgomery advocates protecting a community’s agricultural land and ensuring the topsoil remains healthy and free from toxic substances if we want to avoid a similar fate. How does any of this apply to the Comox Valley? One would think, as we live in an area considered by many as having great agricultural potential, that protecting...

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Book Review – Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations – by Tony de Castro

Taking a composting class a few years ago, I remember the instructor commenting that one person in a previous class had dropped out very early after looking at a compost pile because the organic matter was, according to the student, “dirty and smelly”. In North America we often use the word “dirt” as a generic term to describe a range of types of earth or soil. This perhaps implies in the minds of some that we somehow consider soil not valuable or clean, something to be avoided. And children in large urban environments, where most surfaces are paved over,...

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Book review: The Race for What’s Left – by Tony de Castro

Politicians are always telling us that we need to vote for them because they will implement “growth” policies in the economy. We apparently need to support economic expansion at all costs and we need to consume more and more to keep things going. The implication is that an economy that is growing is a healthy economy in a healthy society. In his book The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, Michael T. Klare throws a veritable tsunami of facts at us which indicate that, while our demand for resources to power the world...

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Permaculture Book Review – by Tony de Castro

Some permaculture books can be a bit “dry” for those of us who want to just go into our garden and apply the concepts immediately. ‘Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture’ by Toby Hemenway is one of my favourite resources on this topic. This is mainly because the book is such a user-friendly introduction for people who want to learn and apply the basic principles of permaculture. Although many of the ideas behind permaculture had already been discussed under different terminologies in various countries years before, the term was introduced by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in Australia...

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Book Review (part 2) – by Tony de Castro

Review: Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate” (second of two installments) Note: Part one of this review may be read here: In the first installment of this article we covered Naomi Klein’s premise that global warming will seriously damage (and in some cases destroy) a large percentage of our planetary ecosystems unless we do something radical and do it soon. A number of examples were given to indicate that it is fair to say that Klein’s arguments on global warming are supported by a broad range of scientific data. You can find that article here ( link). Let’s now look at her second premise. I said earlier in this article that I had a lot of sympathy for Klein’s linking of capitalism and global warming, but that I also had some misgivings. While the quest for unlimited and eternal growth has partly got us into this mess, I would like to argue that Klein seems to ignore another elephant in the room. While capitalism is the foot on the accelerator pedal that is getting us closer and closer to the brick wall of the carrying capacity of this planet, overpopulation is perhaps an equally important factor. Even if we manage to stop all global warming emissions tomorrow, we still have a human population on this planet that needs to be fed and housed every day. We...

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