BY RALPH NADER
Recommended Holiday reading for the caring, agitated mind:
1. America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz [Democracy Collaborative Press and Dollars and Sense, 2011]. If you want to see how community economies are spreading to displace the sales and influence of companies such as Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Aetna, ADM and McDonalds, this is your book. Democratic credit unions, local renewable and efficient energy, community health clinics and farmer-to-consumer markets are some of the possibilities outlined in this optimistic book.
2. Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen E. Schultz [Portfolio/Penguin Hardcover, 2011], award-winning reporter for The Wall Street Journal. This book meticulously documents how big business and their attorneys avariciously turned pension plans into piggy banks, tax shelters and profit centers, at the expense of millions of trusting, loyal workers. This is the searing story of corporate greed on steroids.
3. This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement ed. by Sarah van Gelder of YES! Magazine. [Berrett-Koehler Publisher, Inc. San Francisco, 2011]. Sixteen short essays viewing the Occupy initiatives around the country from a variety of perspectives. Very lively, forward-looking, and filled with interesting insights.
4. The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century by Columbia University Professor Dickson Despommier [St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2011]. Scientific American writes: “Imagine a world where every city has its own local food source grown in the safest way possible, where no drop of water or particle of light is wasted, and where a simple elevator ride can transport you to nature’s grocery store – imagine the world of the vertical farm.” This mind-stretcher shows how to feed people and save the environment – see if it is too good to be true!
5. Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development: Transforming the Industrial State by Nicholas A. Ashford and Ralph P. Hall [Yale University Press, New Haven, 2011]. This is a big picture, big book integrating the design of multipurpose solutions to the sustainability challenge so that economics, employment, technology, environment, industrial development, national and international law, trade, finance, and public and worker health and safety are taken into account. If the piecemeal frustrate you, try this whole meal.
6. Amglish In, Like, Ten Easy Lessons: A Celebration of the New World Lingo by Arthur E. Rowse with illustrations and caricatures by John G. Doherty [Roman and Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2011]. Amglish is described as informal American English, influenced by the syntax of tweets and the slips-ups of celebrities that has begun to dominate the glob. As William Powers says, “Amglish is not only here to stay, it’s a kind of party and Arthur E. Rowse shows us how to join in and have fun. Lively, illuminating and totally cool-smart.”
7. Crude Awakening: Money, Mavericks and Mayhem in Alaska by Amanda Coyne and Tony Hopfinger [Nation Books, New York, 2011]. The authors, renowned for their tough scoops that regularly appeared in Alaska Dispatch pour out into this wonderful book their inside and outside knowledge of Alaska’s combustible politics of big oil, their politicians and the underhanded dealings that attracted federal investigators who had their own problems. Read about power in Alaska and what its future portends for the lower 48.
8. All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons by Jay Walljasper [The New Press, New York, 2010]. You may not know all of the commonwealth in our country that belongs to you and other Americans. Sure we own the valuable public lands – one third of our country – and the public airwaves. But the finest writers in this burgeoning field of awareness point to much more. But what we own – the immensity all around us – we do not control. Control has been the preoccupation of corporations that strive to turn our government against the core concept of the commons. Engage these engrossing pages and see how we can recover the commons for the good life and for our posterity.
9. While We Were Sleeping: Success Stories in Injury and Violence Prevention by David Hemenway. [University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009]. In the swirl of corporate propaganda against health/safety regulation, this book did not receive the notice it and its celebrated author deserve. From his professional position at the Harvard School of Public Health, David Hemenway takes you into your daily world and shows how successful regulation made your immediate surroundings and environment safer and more healthful. It is an ode to brave legislators and regulators who stood up to the corporatists for a change, saved lives, and prevented injuries and illnesses.
10. Consequential Learning: A Public Approach to Better Schools by Jack Shelton [NewSouth Books, Montgomery, AL, 2005]. A wake-up call to parents and students so indentured to sterile, high-frequency multiple-choice standardized tests. Mr. Shelton stresses that student learning comes from both the classroom and the community, with the lessons of the former applied to the benefit of the latter. He shows from his experience in Alabama’s schools and colleges how students become “self-aware learners” from connecting school and community “in the formation of their personal characters.” Filled with examples and strategies for both civic and academic growth.
11. Save the Humans?: Common Preservation in Action by Jeremy Brecher [Paradigm Publishers, Boulder, CO, 2011]. This book is about “common preservation” past and present as “world leaders fail” to address problems of deep significance to billions of human beings and their environment. Brecher shows how common preservation worked in Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaigns in colonial India and the Polish Solidarity movement that weakened the Soviet Union’s control of Poldand. He takes his theme right to today’s Occupy initiatives.
12. Stanley K. Sheinbaum: A 20th Century Knight’s Quest for Peace, Civil Liberties and Economic Justice by Stanley K. Sheinbaum, with William A. Meis Jr. [Fairtree, Los Angeles, 2011]. Don’t let this just-published, witty gem fall through the cracks. It is the absorbing story of a civic renaissance man who shaped foreign policy, influenced police practices in Los Angeles, protected whistle-blowers, pioneered campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and took the tough stands to advance first stage Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Called a “fearless activist” by Norman Lear and “addicted to fairness and justice,” by Barbara Streisand, Scheinbaum’s nine decades of robust activity is filled with motivational and character lessons for a young generation looking for exemplary guidance.
Enjoy and replenish! Happy Holidays!
– Ralph Nader’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer