#13 from SE Asia — 3 fine books I have recently read

#13 from SE Asia — 3 fine books I have recently read
February 8th, 2011
SiaYuan, Phuket Island, Thailand

Two of the three valuable books I feel are worth reading

photos of 2 of the books here

The books are
1.  LAST KID IN THE WOODS  — NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER, by Richard Louv

2.  CONSERVATION REFUGEES  —  by Mark Dowie

3.  KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST  —  by Adam Hochschild

Before I go on bicycle trips, I get some good reading material for me.  I read in my tent, in guest houses, and wherever I have the time.  Often, these are the books that I do not seem to get the time to read.  I thank my friend Keith Snow for two of the recommendations.

I have been an avid reader my whole life.  With the exception of about 5 months, I have NOT lived with a television in my home since I was 17 years old.  I mean that.  I have had TVs hitched up to VHS and DVD players.  I should mention that you can watch a lot things on TV with Netflix.  But I have not had a TV with a cable connect or even antennas my whole adult life.  So at this point I do not know what I am missing.  My children objected when they were small.  but those were our standards.  We wanted to raise our children ourselves, rather than some marketeers somewhere else.

I am a big fan of NETFLIX.  I have never downloaded a movie for view in my life.
The typical US family watches TV 5+ hours a day.  So, compared with them, I now have 5 additional hours to do other things.  I have no  problems filling this time.

So here are the books that I read at night in the guest houses I stay in as I travel.

1.  LAST KID IN THE WOODS  — NATURE DEFICIT DISORDER, by Richard Louv
This is about what is happening to a whole generation of children worldwide who spend an increasing amount time in front of TVs, computers, and video games, and less and less time outside.  Louv writes about the radical transformation from children being sent outside to play in 50’s and 60’s, and the new organized ‘play’ hours of today.
Louv is concerned about the psychological price children pay by not being outdoors exploring and creating their own worlds.  He presents a case that children who are not exposed to unstructured time  outdoors can suffer permanent damage in ways not even considered in contemporary child development psychology.
This book needs better editing and organization.  It is also too long.  But I think this is an especailly important book for those with small children, or grandchildren.

2.  CONSERVATION REFUGEES  —  by Mark Dowie
Did you know that perhaps over 22 million people, mostly in Africa, have been displaced from their traditional homes, most of them people of color.
I have always thought that national parks should be free of people.  Dowie presents a radically different case.
I remember when I was in the Serengeti National Park 20 years ago.  I discovered that the Masai are free to wander thru the park as they have done for millennia.  What?  How can this be?  Won’t they kill all the animals and destroy it?  I asked.  No, the Kikuyu guide said.  They never kill the animals, except for a rogue lion or two.  They help the park.  They have been here forever.  If they are doing so much damage, why are there so many animals here?
Mark Dowie states that the best people to protect the national parks in much of the ‘third world’ are precisely those people who the governments have driven out.  He acknowledges the problems that increasing populations have put on the parks.  but he states that the parks will fail without local cooperation.  All locals must have an economic interest in the park.
Most disturbing, Dowie writes about how a number of parks were established NOT to protect the natural environment and wildlife, but to drive the people off the land to then dig the mines and cut the forests.  He documents how the same corporations that contributed money for these ‘parks’ then bring in their mines.
Dowie attacks environmental sacred cows.    John Muir was in favor of killing off the remaining Indians in Yosemite, if they did not leave on their own.  What?  Why did I not know that?
Dowie completely questions the morality of the Europeans, who have killed off their wildlife and cut their forests come.  What right do they have to tell the Africans how to run Africa, when they failed in Europe?
This book has changed my perception of an issue as much as any that I have read in 20 years.  A must read.

#3.  KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST  —  by Adam Hochschild

Did you know that, between 1880 and 1910, Belgian mercenaries most likely killed 10 to 13 MILLION Congolese?  I sure didn’t.  The Belgians have done their very best to destroy all evidence of this.  If no one remembers a genocide, then did it happen?
This book is much more than disturbing.  Hochschild makes a case that almost all the European colonies in Africa, and perhaps the world, were genocidal in nature.  In fact, he defines colonialism as a form of genocide.  Strong words,  huh?  Read this book, and see if you are as surprised at what you did not know as I was.
This book is to the Congo what the GULAG ARCHIPELAGO was to the old Soviet Union.  It exposes the complete horror and sadism of what happened.  Read this book at your own risk.

One Response to #13 from SE Asia — 3 fine books I have recently read

  1. I recently read another book by Adam Hochschild: Bury the Chains. It is the history of the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain. I highly recommend it.

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