Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. Olga Tokarczuk. Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Thorndike Press, 2019.
The Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk has become something of a lightning rod in her home country because of her left-wing and anti-establishment views. She is also a vegetarian and recently received the Nobel Prize. So when I heard that Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead (which turns out to be an allusion to a William Blake poem) had a strong “animal” theme, I was naturally curious and had to check it out.
Well, it does have an animal theme, but if you were expecting lyrical descriptions of the Polish countryside from this author, you can forget that right now. It is a gritty, modern, realistic murder mystery. Continue reading
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming. David Wallace-Wells. Tim Duggan Books, 2019. 310 pages, $27.00 (US).
“It is worse, much worse, than you think.” With this first line, David Wallace-Wells perfectly summarizes a fresh, well-documented, and well-written apocalypse of global warming. For the author, it is a future both horrible and, at this point, inevitable. Gone are the bitter warnings often found in climate change literature that this is the last generation which can take effective action — or the last decade, or the last five years, or whatever arbitrary deadline is being set. Gone, also, are the cheerful lists of things you can do for the earth. In place of a program of action, there is only an ethics for the end of the world.
But Wallace-Wells is not a pessimist. Far from it! “We will, almost certainly, avoid eight degrees [Celsius] of warming” (p. 15). A mere four or five degrees is more likely. That’s just a bit less than the warming that preceded the Permian-Triassic extinction 252 million years ago, which knocked out almost all life on the planet and 95% of all species. Continue reading
Eat for the Planet. Saving the World, One Bite at a Time. Nil Zacharias and Gene Stone. Abrams Image, 2018. Hardcover, 160 pages, $19.99 / $24.99 Can.
Plant-based diets and the environment — isn’t it about time we started talking to a wider audience about this? This attractively produced book will surely get people discussing these vital concerns for the future of the planet. Zacharias and Stone give plenty of evidence that a plant-based diet is also a “planet”-based diet. In a remarkably narrow space, the authors quickly cover seven key issues — land, water, food, energy, pollution, deforestation, and species extinction, showing how a single solution can address them all. Continue reading
Thank you for taking an interest in the Compassionate Spirit blog. The more attentive of you have already noticed that just recently I haven’t been blogging as frequently. That’s because I’m working on an upcoming book concerned with degrowth and veganism. Blogging is fascinating, but it takes time to write a blog that isn’t just fluff. Unfortunately this situation will continue for a while. My book, while extremely interesting (at least to me!), is taking a lot longer than I thought it would. Extra credit if you can remember the last author, other than me, who said this.
In the meantime, for what it’s worth, here are the five most popular blog posts that I wrote in 2016. Continue reading
Meathooked: The History and Science of our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat. By Marta Zaraska. Basic Books, 2016.
A well-written and informative book, even when one doesn’t completely agree with it, is easy to review. This book fills the bill. Thank you, Marta Zaraska, for keeping us up to snuff on the issues. She also manages not to upset anyone, steering away from nasty little confrontations with vegetarian sensibilities. So, vegetarians, you can relax; your ethical sensibilities will not be sullied.
Zaraska, a freelance science journalist, provides the flip side of the “why are you vegetarian?” discussion — “why do you eat meat?” The author isn’t looking for, or trying to dissect, rational arguments for meat-eating — she’s just looking for an explanation or a cause for this behavior. Continue reading
Jesus in the temple (Greco)
Thank you for taking an interest in the “Compassionate Spirit” blog. For what it’s worth, here are the five most popular blog posts that I wrote in 2015. “Most popular” posts are not necessarily the posts that I worked the hardest on, nor are they the ones that attract the most comments. But it’s always interesting to me to see what sort of things you, the readers, are looking at.
Kate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. This is the third short excerpt from the interview, on media overconsumption and advertising, recently uploaded to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.
Here’s another video excerpt of the interview of Kate Lawrence as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. This clip is on the population issue. Kate is the author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books). For more about the book see Kate’s blog.
Kate Lawrence, author of The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible (Lantern Books) was interviewed as part of the “Authors @ Douglas County Libraries” series. I have recently uploaded the following short excerpt on vegetarianism from the interview to YouTube. For more about the book see Kate’s blog.
Moral Tribes. Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them. By Joshua Greene. Penguin Press, 2013.
What’s the best way to talk about moral issues? This is obviously something that activists worry about a lot, whether their cause is veganism, the environment, climate change, or anything.
According to Joshua Greene, the problem is not lack of basic morality, but in competing moralities. There are many different moral cultures or subcultures, which share among themselves certain ethical ideas which, to them, are obvious. But these ideas differ from those of other moral cultures — the “moral tribes” referred to in the title. Anyone who is interested in this problem, or in moral philosophy and moral psychology in general, should at least take a look at Moral Tribes. Continue reading
The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, by James McWilliams. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.
Industrialized animal agriculture is morally and intellectually bankrupt. Society is slowly but increasingly becoming aware of the cruel, unnatural, and environmentally harmful aspects of factory farms. But what is going to replace it?
Well-known food intellectuals such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Joel Salatin, and Jonathan Safran Foer have advocated returning to localized, more traditional ways of raising animals. Encouraged by some environmentalists and even some animal welfare supporters, nonindustrial animal agriculture has grown tremendously in the past decade. Continue reading
Norm Phelps died on December 31, 2014. An activist in the promotion of vegetarianism, veganism, and compassion for animals in spiritual traditions, he authored numerous books and articles.
He followed both the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the Unitarian Universalist tradition — neither of which, he noted, is exclusive. But he was raised as a Baptist and a Methodist and wrote about Christianity and animals as well. Continue reading
UPDATE January 31, 2015: here is the direct link to the recording of this podcast.
I will be interviewed by Victoria Moran of “Main Street Vegan” on Wednesday, June 18, at 1 pm Mountain Daylight time (that’s noon Pacific, 2 pm Central, and 3 pm Eastern). Most people listen to the podcast rather than the live show, but for those who listen in, we will be giving away a free copy of either Disciples or The Lost Religion of Jesus. Call in with questions: 888-558-6489 (U.S.); 816-347-5519 (outside the U.S). After the show the episode will be posted on the “Main Street Vegan” web site. To listen to the podcast while it’s in progress, go to http://www.unity.fm/popout-player.
Paul and Jesus. How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. James Tabor. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2012.
This is a marvelous little book which is basic to understanding the “historical Paul.” It’s so simple, elegant, and straightforward, that after reading it, one can’t help wondering why someone hadn’t written it earlier. Not only is it important to understanding the historical Paul, but it’s also important to understanding the historical Jesus — because it is through Paul that we have some of our best information about the early Jesus movement.
James Tabor is a key figure in the growing movement to recognize and understand “Jewish Christianity.” Continue reading
Stephen Kaufman wrote the following review of Disciples. It appeared in the May 15 issue of the e-newsletter of the Christian Vegetarian Association.
– – – – – –
Nearly all Christians accept without question the assertion that Christianity started with Jesus. In this remarkable book, Keith Akers argues convincingly that the movement now called Christianity preceded Jesus’ ministry. It regarded Jesus as an exemplary leader, but evidently it did not consider Jesus divine.
Akers focuses on the Jewish Christian movement – those Jews who followed Jesus during his life and honored him after his death. Though they were the ones who knew Jesus best, their understanding of his teachings was eventually deemed heretical by a Gentile church that was heavily influenced by Paul. Continue reading