Book Reviewer
Lloyd Alter is managing editor of environmental news site TreeHugger. He has been an architect, developer, inventor, prefab promoter, and writes for the website Planet Green. Lloyd also teaches sustainable design at Ryerson University in Toronto.

When the carbon bubble bursts

Author Jeff Rubin says Canada’s future in a post-oil world is in water and agriculture.

Poor Jeff Rubin. As chief economist at CIBC World Markets, he predicted in 2008 that oil would be $200 a barrel and gas would be $10 a gallon by 2012. In 2012, he explained that the troubled economy did his prediction in. “What happened to my forecast for $200 oil? Quite simply, the end of growth,” he wrote at the time.

Now it’s 2015. Gasoline is even cheaper and the low price of oil is actually encouraging economic growth, at least in some places. As Physicist Niels Bohr noted, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

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For the love of cows

They're not against eating meat, but the authors of the new book Cowed argue there are sound reasons for eating less beef.

It’s that time of year when many of us like to fire up the barbecue and toss some steaks or burgers on the grill. So many of us, in fact, that the average American male eats 39 kilograms of beef each year. (Women, by the way, consume about half that much).

That’s a lot of meat.

In Cowed, Denis Hayes, a prominent environmentalist who coordinated the first Earth Day in 1970, along with his wife Gail Boyer Hayes, an environmental lawyer, tell the story of that meat.

It’s not a horror story like so many anti-meat books, designed to scare you into vegetarianism. Both Mr. and Mrs. are rather fond of cows. Their aim, instead, is to convince the reader to eat less red meat and pay more for it. They take us on a generally pleasant tour of the cow scene, laying out their goals in the introduction:

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Book review: Carbon Black

In the self-published novel Carbon Black, GHG markets and regulations are backdrops to a thrilling work of fiction.

It’s two weeks to deadline. Corporate Knights’ editor-in-chief Tyler Hamilton pings me, asking what book I’m planning to review. I ponder as I pace the modernist concrete block and plywood room that is my office. I have no idea. He pings me again. “How about reviewing a fictional, self-published book, just for a change? Carbon Black, by Declan Milling.”

OMG. Fiction. I don’t do fiction. Self-published. Kindle. About The Most Boring Subject In The World, carbon trading. Just kill me now. But then I look, and it is only 306 pages and costs all of $3.71. And I think, I’m man enough for this. I hit the Amazon one-touch order button, open my Retina-screened sepia toned iPad and start reading. It’s not that bad. Short, declarative Hemingwayish sentences. Cardboard characters, albeit FSC-certified cardboard. Perhaps it’s a candidate for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

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It’s a jungle out there

Paul Barrett delivers a thrilling tale of trickery in the Amazon.

This is exciting. Why read dry business books when you can pick up the equiva­lent of an unputdownable John Grisham-style thrill read? Even better when the story is real, as in the $10-billion legal battle over oil spills in the rainforest of Amazonian Ecuador.

Law of the Jungle is Paul Barrett’s telling tale of young lawyer Steven Donziger and his “obsessive crusade – waged at any cost” to bring an oil giant to justice for environ­mental crimes that go back decades. The giant in focus is Texaco (now part of Chev­ron), which drilled the rainforest and left 400,000 barrels of oil in toxic ponds, poi­soning rivers and the people who lived on them. (Chevron maintains it met all clean­up obligations and that Ecuador released it of liability in 1998).

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A pivotal moment for business

New book puts climate, resource scarcity and transparency under spotlight.

Andrew Winston's The Big Pivot is most definitely a business book, "intended to be relatively short, but still provide a solid roadmap to a new way of operating.” In a sense, it's pre-condensed. The book is an operating manual for adaptation to three mega-trends that the author says every business must face: climate change, resource constraints (and costs) and technology-driven demands for transparency – or "hotter, scarcer and more open."

As for the title, Winston explains it this way: “If you believe that these pressures are real, then what has until now been called green business, or sustainability, cannot be a side department or a niche conversation in commerce.” Indeed, he continues, “we must pivot – sometimes painfully, always purposefully, so that solving the world's biggest challenges profitably becomes the core pursuit of business."

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