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Review: “The Blood of the Earth” by John Michael Greer

Paracelsian, Patheos
John Michael GreerJohn Michael GreerI’ve never been a great fan of “futurists” (in the sense of those who professionally predict the future), but if you can get past Greer’s self-identification in this category, The Blood of the Earth is a richly rewarding work; provoking, intelligent, timely, and ultimately – in spite of its rather gloomy subject matter – both optimistic and inspiring.

The Blood of the Earth is a valuable contribution towards encouraging people to think about facing what Professor Kerri Facer describes as “the 21st Century Canyon”. This is the period covering the next fifty or so years when the global issues about which so many have warned us for so long (over-population, climate change, exhaustion of water supplies, and the end of cheap energy – all the usual humvee-drivers of the apocalypse) will all begin to simultaneously and profoundly affect the world in which we live.

Unlike many other writers in the genre, Greer does not devote his work to reheating the scientific narrative of peak oil (though he does point those who remain unconvinced in the right direction). The particular contribution of The Blood of the Earth is that Greer posits a unique narrative framework to analyse the way that we approach these issues: that of Magic, or at least, a Magical approach to thinking. This use of this term might immediately put some readers off, but fear not; this is neither the magic of Dennis Wheatley nor that of Harry Potter (nor, indeed that of Silver Ravenwolf), but Magical thinking as an alternative meta-narrative to that of modernist consumerism; a different way of thinking. Some of the book is spent effectively justifying this usage, and Greer accomplishes this task with elegance and erudition.

Magic, for Greer, is just a different meta-narrative, an alternative way of talking about what is going on in our world. He argues that by adapting this meta-narrative (and thus by dumping more conventional paradigms), we are free to break out of the ruts of thought that constrain our normative approach to the world, and in particular our societies’ addiction to endless consumption. Simply put, by accepting that there are other ways of thinking, we will be able to see things in a different light. Ultimately this is a valuable insight into the current ecological situation; Greer argues that if our conventional ways of thinking are not working, then we need to be using other ways of thinking that will actually have an impact.

Paracelsian is the pseudonym of a UK based Pagan whose practice explores engaged & embodied relationship with the spirits of the land. He is fascinated by the stories that we (as both Pagans and more generally as Humans) tell about ourselves and to give meaning to the world around us, and consequently is involved in interfaith work.]
(1 July 2012)

She’s the Man of This Swamp
Review: ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild,’ Directed by Benh Zeitlin

A.O. Scott, New York Times
Hushpuppy, the 6-year-old heroine of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has a smile to charm fish out of the water and a scowl so fierce it can stop monsters in their tracks. The movie, a passionate and unruly explosion of Americana, directed by Benh Zeitlin, winks at skepticism, laughs at sober analysis and stares down criticism. Made on a shoestring by a resourceful New Orleans-based collective, it is animated by the same spirit of freedom it sets out to celebrate.

… She and her father (Dwight Henry) live in neighboring shacks in a place called the Bathtub, a swampy scrap of territory separated by a levee from a world of industry, consumerism and other forms of modern ugliness. The residents of the Bathtub spend their days fishing, scavenging and drinking, raising their kids to be self-sufficient and to believe in a folk religion featuring giant, ancient creatures called aurochs. …

Based on a play by Lucy Alibar (who collaborated on the script with Mr. Zeitlin), “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is a work of magic realism and, to some extent, an exercise in wishful thinking. The Bathtub is a museum of outsider ingenuity, its houses and boats cobbled together from weathered detritus, its residents wise, unpretentious and self-reliant. …

Viewers inclined to see things through the lens of ideology will find plenty to work with. From the left, you can embrace a vision of multicultural community bound by indifference to the pursuit of wealth and an ethic of solidarity and inclusion. From the right, you can admire the libertarian virtues of a band of local heroes who hold fast to their traditions and who flourish in defiance of the meddling good intentions of big government.

But let’s all agree: This movie is a blast of sheer, improbable joy, a boisterous, thrilling action movie …

(26 June 2012)
Video at the original NYT article.

Suggested by EB contributor Amanda Kovattana who has acutely sensitive antennae for cultural trends. She writes: “It is a cynical time, but I think people may well be ready for something more sustaining. Rebecca Solnit shared this movie on Facebook and it really made me want to see it and seemed like a good sign of empowerment of the small. ”

New book: “Finding Our Way Forward”

Alice Gardner, Wide Awake Living
How do we make sense of such a crazy world as we see around us and find a way to live well?

We stand at a significant evolutionary transition-point!

Can you imagine that the current world situation could be inspiring a significant transformation – a promising leap forward towards a new earth and a new awakening in human nature? Do you feel that you would like to change the world for the better, help establish world peace, etc., but you don’t know how?

In this book, learn immediate and powerful ways to make a difference during this transitional time. Ways to change the world and bring a new awareness and peace to all that you are involved in. Learn to broaden your perspectives, revealing expanded possibilities for addressing the monumental world issues. This breakthrough information allows you to immediately become a part of the solution! …

A Personal Note from the Author

This book has come out of the fact that when I was a teenager I had some big questions about how to fit into this crazy world of ours. It was the 70s and there was a lot of doom and gloom about the survival of the ecosphere and negativity about “the establishment”. So, in such an environment, what does one do? How does one participate in a way that does not make one a part of the problem? I didn’t have any good answers -I didn’t know. I ended up more or less dropping out as best I could, trying to just live as best I could by separating myself from the problems of the world. I didn’t want to know all the bad news from the media. I just wanted to grow my own food and live close to nature.

Now, as this book is finished I am 59. It has taken all this time to come up with the answers to my own teenage questions. This book tries to succinctly address an unbelievably broad group of topics in order to address those questions, topics such as human development, brain science, evolutionary theory, perception and so on.

I do not try to present myself as an expert in all of these fields, but instead function as integrater, tying it all together for the reader in the way that I have tied it all together for myself. I also give as many references as I know about, to encourage the readers to delve further into the topics that I have dealt with in overview. There is a tremendous amount of new information coming available in recent years about these topics, supporting our relatively new capabilities to understand ourselves and understand what is happening in the world we live in. I give a lot of references in the text, but in the end I give a very big recommended reading list and have put that list up on this website on the “Recommended Reading” web page, so that those books can be purchased here.

I tried really hard to keep this book to 100 pages, but it turned out to be over 230. I really wanted it to be succinct, even though the subject was broad, so that it just says straight out what it intends to say, and I hope I succeeded anyway. It is a summation of my lifetime of self-reflection, questioning and experience rather than a tight proof of anything.

I hope this book offers you a way of looking at the world situation that makes sense of it and balances a lot of the fear and worry that is around as we move into this time of awakening, transformation, transition and change. I hope also that it becomes an ally and an inspiration to you as you find your own way forward.
(June 2012)
Alice Gardner takes part in her local Transition Town movement. She has a diverse background and has written several previous books. Her website is: Wide Awake Living. -BA

– new TV series about life after the grid goes down
Series website, NBC

About the Show

Our entire way of life depends on electricity. So what would happen if it just stopped working? Well, one day, like a switch turned off, the world is suddenly thrust back into the dark ages. Planes fall from the sky, hospitals shut down, and communication is impossible. And without any modern technology, who can tell us why?

Now, 15 years later, life is back to what it once was long before the industrial revolution: families living in quiet cul-de-sacs, and when the sun goes down, the lanterns and candles are lit. Life is slower and sweeter. Or is it?

On the fringes of small farming communities, danger lurks. And a young woman’s life is dramatically changed when a local militia arrives and kills her father, who mysteriously – and unbeknownst to her – had something to do with the blackout. This brutal encounter sets her and two unlikely companions off on a daring coming-of-age journey to find answers about the past in the hopes of reclaiming the future.

From director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2”) and the fertile imaginations of J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”), comes a surprising “what if” action-adventure series, where an unlikely hero will lead the world out of the dark. Literally.

(June 2012)
Video preview at the series homepage. Lots of fighting, but this time with a higher percentage of crossbows and knives. The reason for the energy failure is not clear — I guess we’ll have to watch the series to find out. I hope there’s more intellectual content to the series than the preview suggests.

I would have liked to have seen the series about life after peak oil that was envisioned by screenwriter and producer Jon Cooksey. Cooksey combined humor, hope and an unflinching analysis of our dilemmas in his indy documentary (How to Boil a Frog).