Books: Reading of the North

October 4, 2012 

The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude

By Andrew Nikiforuk (Greystone Books, $29.95)

The blurb: The investigative journalist offers an analysis and commentary on our relationship with energy and fossil fuels.

 

Excerpt: "At the end of the twentieth century, Donella Meadows, a pioneering environmental scientist, pondered the nature of energy servitude. The organic gardener and lead author of the 1972 bestseller The limits to Growth, a critique of high-energy living, admitted that, yes, she was a damned slave owner. Although her energy servants came with names like High Octane and Black Gold, she possessed chattel -- just like Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence. Her assertion stunned and angered many Americans. How could a man as respected and intelligent as Jefferson have owned slaves and still call himself a democrat? What on earth was Meadows thinking?

Meadows' admission reflected honestly how energy molds our lives: Jefferson employed scores of slaves at his Virginia plantation and had a child with one of them; Meadows burned up to thirty barrels of oil a year to get her work done. Jefferson relied on the energy system his contemporary Thomas Paine once called 'Man-stealing.' Thanks to petroleum, Meadows employed invisible slaves bound with chains of carbon that came from ancient plants."

 

Kayak Girl

By Monica Devine, illustrated by Mindy Dwyer (Snowy Owl Books, $12.95)

The blurb: The young girl in this children's book learns to cope with the loss of her mother after her grandfather carves a figure of a girl in a kayak. She promises to watch for the figure after he releases it upriver.

 

Excerpt: "The days were long and bright in the land of the midnight sun. It was a time when Jana tromped in the woods, picking fireweed for her mother's kitchen and collecting rocks on the beach to paint the color of bird's eggs.

This summer Jana was too tired to go outside and play. She did not feel like drawing pictures in the beach sand with her story knife. She did not want to help her father catch red salmon in long billowy nets on the river. Ever since that terrible day when her mother died, Jana sat in her room looking out the cabin window, watching the leaves twirl on their branches."

 

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

 

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