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Reviews - Chain Reaction #135

The food sharing revolution

The story of a weed killer, cancer and the corruption of science

The Women's Atlas

The Mess We're In ‒ Bernard Keane

Yes Yes Yes: Australia's journey to marriage equality

Vandana Shiva: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom

Hoodwinked: How Pauline Hanson fooled a nation

Governing shale gas in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe

The food sharing revolution

The Food Sharing Revolution: How Startups, Pop-Ups, and Co-Ops are Changing the Way We Eat

Michael S. Carolan

November 2018

Island Press

ISBN 9781610918862

In The Food Sharing Revolution, Michael Carolan tells the stories of traditional producers, who are being squeezed by big agribusiness, and entrepreneurs, who are bucking the corporate food system.

The key to successful sharing, he argues, is sharing. He warns that food, just like taxis or hotels, can be co-opted by moneyed interests. But when collaboration is genuine, the sharing economy can offer both producers and eaters freedom, even sovereignty. The result is a healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical way to eat.

Marvin is a contract hog farmer in Iowa. He owns his land, his barn, his tractor, and his animal crates. He has seen profits drop steadily for the past 20 years and feels trapped. Josh is a dairy farmer on a cooperative in Massachusetts. He doesn't own his cows, his land, his seed, or even all of his equipment. Josh has a healthy income and feels like he's made it. In The Food Sharing Revolution, Michael Carolan tells the stories of traditional producers like Marvin, who are being squeezed by big agribusiness, and entrepreneurs like Josh, who are bucking the corporate food system. The difference is Josh has eschewed the burdens of individual ownership and is tapping into the sharing economy.

Josh and many others are sharing tractors, seeds, kitchen space, their homes, and their cultures. They are business owners like Dorothy, who opened her bakery with the help of a no-interest crowd-sourced loan. They are chefs like Camilla, who introduces diners to her native Colombian cuisine through peer-to-peer meal sharing. Their success is not only good for aspiring producers, but for everyone who wants an alternative to monocrops and processed foods.

Carolan is Associate Dean for Research for the College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University. His previous books include One Eats Alone: Food as a Social Enterprise, Biological Economies: Experimentation and the Politics of Agrifood Frontiers (with Richard LeHeron, Hugh Campbell, and Nick Lewis) and Food Utopias: Reimagining Citizenship, Ethics and Community (with Paul Stock and Chris Rosin).

The story of a weed killer, cancer and the corruption of science

Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science

Carey Gillam

November 2017

Island Press

In Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, Carey Gillam uncovers one of the most controversial stories in the history of food and agriculture, exposing new evidence of corporate influence. 

It's the pesticide on our dinner plates, a chemical so pervasive it's in the air we breathe, our water, our soil, and even found increasingly in our own bodies. Known as Monsanto's Roundup by consumers, and as glyphosate by scientists, the world's most popular weed killer is used everywhere from backyard gardens to golf courses to millions of acres of farmland. For decades it's been touted as safe enough to drink, but a growing body of evidence indicates just the opposite, with research tying the chemical to cancers and a host of other health threats.

Gillam uncovers one of the most controversial stories in the history of food and agriculture, exposing new evidence of corporate influence. She introduces readers to farm families devastated by cancers which they believe are caused by the chemical, and to scientists whose reputations have been smeared for publishing research that contradicted business interests.

Readers learn about the arm-twisting of regulators who signed off on the chemical, echoing company assurances of safety even as they permitted higher residues of the pesticide in food and skipped compliance tests. And, in startling detail, Gillam reveals secret industry communications that pull back the curtain on corporate efforts to manipulate public perception.

Carey Gillam is a veteran investigative journalist, researcher and writer with more than 25 years of experience covering corporate news. She has specialist knowledge regarding the rise of biotech crop technology and associated rise in pervasive pesticide use in our food production system. 

Erin Brockovich says: "Whitewash reads like a mystery novel, as Gillam skilfully uncovers Monsanto's secretive strategies to convince countries around the world that its Roundup products are safe. The book unravels a tapestry of pesticide industry tricks to manipulate the scientific truths about their products while placing profits above human health and the environment. As someone who has experienced similar actions by corporations firsthand in my work far too often, I am hopeful that Carey's book will be a wake-up call for more transparency about the dangers surrounding many chemicals in the marketplace."

The Women's Atlas

The Women's Atlas

Joni Seager

November 2018

NewSouth Books

ISBN 9781742236186

This survey of global data illustrates the status of women worldwide and the diversity of their experiences.

Through infographics, the atlas portrays how women are living across continents and cultures ‒ the advances that have been made and the distances still to be travelled. Issues covered include: gender equality, literacy and information technology, feminism, the culture of beauty, work and the global economy, changing households, domestic violence, LGBTQ+ rights, government and power, and motherhood.

Joni Seager is Professor of Global Studies at Bentley University in Boston, a geographer and global policy expert. She is consultant to the UN on gender and environmental policy.

"The Women's Atlas puts inequality into clear, confronting perspective and inspires us to do more for all women," says Rosie Batty, domestic violence campaigner and 2015 Australian of the Year.

The Mess We're In ‒ Bernard Keane

The Mess We're In: How Our Politics Went to Hell and Dragged Us with It

Bernard Keane

August 2018

Allen & Unwin ‒

Crikey correspondent Bernard Keane explains capitalism, identity and Why Everything Is Awful. A tide of populism and xenophobia is sweeping the western world. Disillusioned voters are turning to political outsiders and increasingly rejecting the liberal economic solutions of out-of-touch elites. Despite having access to more information than at any time in human history, we are turning our backs on experts, evidence and facts themselves in a new Era of Electronic Ignorance. Many warn darkly of a repeat of the chaos, misery and war of the 1930s.

How did it all go so wrong? The Mess We're In explains how a perfect storm of historical developments has left us fearing that a Dark Age is fast approaching. How the triumphant economic philosophy of neoliberalism has failed us and provoked a backlash that is sweeping it aside. How the internet is rewiring our economies, our media, our culture and even our own brains. How politics has become a hollowed-out industry of self-interest rather than a public service. And how, together, they've unleashed a wave of anger and fear that has engulfed the world.

The book is divided into the following sections:

  • symptoms of chaos: a thematic history of 2016–2018
  • neoliberalism and its discontents
  • (un)government
  • the internet ‒ weapon of mass disruption
  • repairing the precarious crust

Former Greens Senator Scott Ludlam writes: "A powerful and occasionally polemical appeal to reason in politics; if you're despairing in search of an antidote to the poison of "alternative facts", here's your book. Like any good political text, there's something here to offend everyone. You'll want to cheer, high-five and occasionally shout your disagreement, but what you won't want to do is put it down."

Yes Yes Yes: Australia's journey to marriage equality

Yes Yes Yes: Australia's journey to marriage equality

Alex Greenwich and Shirleene Robinson

November 2018

NewSouth Books

Yes Yes Yes, written by two advocates intimately involved in the struggle for marriage equality, reveals the story of how a grassroots movement won hearts and minds and transformed a country.

The book provides a moving account of some of the people who worked to achieve marriage equality. It locates intimate, personal stories and community-driven experiences of campaigning alongside the broader social and political context to tell the full, extraordinary story of just how the marriage equality movement succeeded in achieving a fairer and more equal Australia.

Yes Yes Yes captures the passion that propelled the movement forward, weaving together stories of heartbreak, hope and triumph. It is based on personal memories and more than 20 interviews with key figures and everyday advocates from across Australia. It covers the movement's origins in 2004, when the Marriage Act of 1961 was amended to exclude same-sex couples, through to the unsuccessful High Court challenge, a public vote in 2017 and the Parliamentary aftermath.

"A wonderful record of a huge and heart-warming moment in Australia's history," says Magda Szubanski.

Alex Greenwich is an Independent MP for Sydney and Co-Chair of Australian Marriage Equality. Prior to entering politics, Alex was a prominent LGBT rights activist and the National Convenor of Australian Marriage Equality. Shirleene Robinson has published extensively on aspects of LGBTIQ history. She is national spokesperson of Australian Marriage Equality and President of Sydney's Pride History Group. Her previous publications include Serving in Silence?: Australian LGBT servicemen and women with Noah Riseman and Graham Willett (NewSouth, 2018), and Gay and Lesbian, Then and Now: Stories from a Social Revolution with Robert Reynolds.

Vandana Shiva: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom

Oneness vs the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom

Vandana Shiva with Kartikey Shiva

September 2018

ISBN 9781925581799

The book is a challenge to the global corporations who continue to take far more than they will ever give. Vandana Shiva looks at the financial inequalities and lays out a way in which these might be changed so that the Earth has a future.

Widespread poverty and malnutrition, an alarming refugee crisis, social unrest, and economic polarisation have become our lived reality as the top 1% of the world's seven-billion-plus population pushes the planet – and all its people – to the social and ecological brink. 

Shiva takes on the Billionaires Club of Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg and other modern Mughals, whose blindness to the rights of people, and to the destructive impact of their construct of progress, have wrought havoc across the world. Their single-minded pursuit of profit has undemocratically enforced uniformity and monocultures, division and separation, monopolies and external control – over finance, food, energy, information, healthcare, and even relationships.

The author exposes the one-percent's model of philanthrocapitalism, which is about deploying unaccountable money to bypass democratic structures, derail diversity, and impose totalitarian ideas, based on One Science, One Agriculture and One History. Vandana Shiva calls for the "resurgence of real knowledge, real intelligence, real wealth, real work, real well-being".

Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned environmental thinker and activist, a leader in the International Forum on Globalisation, and of the Slow Food Movement. Director of Navdanya and of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and a tireless crusader for farmers', peasants' and women's rights. She is the author and editor of a score of influential books, among them Making Peace with the Earth, Soil Not Oil, Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard.

Hoodwinked: How Pauline Hanson fooled a nation

Hoodwinked: How Pauline Hanson fooled a nation

Kerry-Anne Walsh

October 2018

ISBN 9781760112288

Allen & Unwin,

Pauline Hanson claims to represent the average Australian but Kerry-Anne Walsh has discovered nothing could be further from the truth. Very few public figures can claim the level of fame, or infamy, that Pauline does. So much so, her surname isn't needed. Everyone knows her, or knows of her, and nearly everyone has a passionate viewpoint about her.

So who is Pauline Hanson, the woman and politician? Does she really stand for the battler, or has it only ever been about her personal pursuit for power and infamy? Has she duped her loyal supporters, who have kept her in the public eye and propelled her back into parliament because she 'speaks for them'? Pulling no punches, and with a finely developed sense of the absurd, Walsh's conclusion is an emphatic yes.

Walsh uncovers the many faces of Pauline Hanson: her time as an accidental local councillor, her emergence as a national figure in 1996 and her resurrection in 2016, her careful profile-building through the media during the intervening years, the friends she's used and discarded, the men who control her, the money trail of her party and her personal finances. And then there's the rise of the disaffected voters who now control political destinies, and the collapse of trust in the system that has allowed chancers such as Hanson to flourish.

Walsh was in the Canberra press gallery for 25 years. Disenchanted with political spin and the nature of political reporting, she left the gallery in 2009 to establish her consultancy KA Communications. Her book The Stalking of Julia Gillard won the 2014 Australian Book Industry Award for the best non-fiction book of the year.

Governing shale gas in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe

Governing Shale Gas: Development, Citizen Participation, and Decision Making in the US, Canada, Australia, and Europe

Edited by John Whitton, Matthew Cotton, Ioan M. Charnley-Parry, and Kathy Brasier


Routledge ‒

From the publisher: Shale energy development is an issue of global importance. The number of reserves globally, and their potential economic return, have increased dramatically in the past decade. Questions abound, however, about the appropriate governance systems to manage the risks of unconventional oil and gas development and the ability for citizens to engage and participate in decisions regarding these systems. Stakeholder participation is essential for the social and political legitimacy of energy extraction and production, what the industry calls a 'social license' to operate.

This book attempts to bring together critical themes inherent in the energy governance literature and illustrate them through cases in multiple countries, including the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa, Germany and Poland.

These themes include how multiple actors and institutions – industry, governments and regulatory bodies at all scales, communities, opposition movements, and individual landowners – have roles in developing, contesting, monitoring, and enforcing practices and regulations within unconventional oil and gas development.

Overall, the book proposes a systemic, participatory, community-led approach required to achieve a form of legitimacy that allows communities to derive social priorities by a process of community visioning.

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