Library of the Living : ‘TECHNO-FIX: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment’ by M. and J. Huesemann

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This is an amazingly thought provoking book with the main premise being that modern technology is over-rated, under-criticized, and often creates unintended and unavoidable consequences that promote the need for a complex series of counter-technologies. It is well researched, packed full of supporting facts and references that convince the reader of the inherent flaws in a ‘technotopian’ worldview.

The adoption of any particular new technology is shown to be wildly unquestioned within the industrialized world, such as the popularization of the car and its effects on society. (Did you know that when miles driven, cost of operation, and time spent in a car are taken into account, the average speed of a car is only around 10 miles per hour? All that money spent to go slower than a bicycle.) The neutrality of technology – such as the discovery of nuclear energy – is disputed, and the existence of ‘democratic’ (ex. pre-industrialized agriculture) and ‘authoritarian’ (ex. television) technologies in the vein of Lewis Mumford is revealed.

Techno-optimism and the myth of progress are analyzed, showing that the economic motive drives most inventions and discoveries. (Scientific discoveries actually peaked in the 1990s! Anything new has been an increase in efficiency of consumer technology!) They highlight the reckless pace of the yearly approval of thousands of chemicals in the United States, and their unknown effects are examined. The authors also question the use of Gross Domestic Product to analyze a country’s well-being, leading to the same perspective endorsed by Ralph Nader:

“You contribute to the GNP when you run your car into someone else’s: your contribution is still greater if you hurt people inside.”

Similar to Noam Chomsky’s critique of mass media in “Manufacturing Consent”, the authoritarian, hegemony-maintaining power of technology is examined, and the idea that the supposed democracy of $1.00 equals one vote is shown to be a means of maintaining the status quo.

In the  most eye-opening (and what many readers would find as the most subversive) chapter, the worth of modern medical technology and how the medical system works is examined with scrutiny. The authors discuss the process where by new medical procedures and drugs – whose efficacy may be worse than previous procedures and medicine – are rushed from trial to widespread usage, being capitalized on merely for their ‘newness’. Modern medicine is also shown to be a ‘counter-technology’ whose task is mainly to allow its patients to continue to mistreat their health – such as the concept of an anti-obesity pill.

All in all, the information within this is a powerful indictment against technological optimism and its effects on society. It is a near guarantee that this book will convince the reader that technology isn’t the solution to all of life’s problems, nor will it be the glowing messiah waiting for us in the emerging future.

For more information on ‘TECHNO-FIX : Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment’ by Michael Huesemann and Joyce Huesemann, visit http://www.technofix.org/.

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Library of the Living : What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay

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As the first selection in my ‘Library of the Living’ series of book reviews, I cannot stress how profoundly inspirational, intense, eye-opening and infuriating ‘What We Leave Behind’ can be. The authors examine the concept of ‘waste’ – what it is within an environmental context, what it was to previous societies, and what it means to our culture today. What was once a circular path of regeneration has become a one-way path of destruction – spreading toxins, centralizing power, exterminating countless species and cultures – constantly and consistently turning the living into the dead.

Like many of his other works, he examines this modern cultures view of reality and proves its insanity. Grounded in the fact that infinite growth CANNOT occur on a finite world (despite what economists think), he describes the evolution of our current disposable culture to its current obsession with Sustainability™. He questions the benefits of technology, the ridiculous techno-fixes being contemplated, and the ‘Magical Thinking’  that seems to ensnare those whose world views don’t match with reality. He refutes the idea that ‘clean™’ and ‘green™’ technologies will save the planet or our culture, and ultimately proves the best course of action is to take action.

Derrick Jensen is one of the most passionate writers that has ever used the English language. From beautiful descriptions of nature, to harsh real-world facts and insightful anecdotes, his work – especially within the pages of ‘What We Leave Behind’ – is something truly unique and powerful.  There is something wrong with the reader who isn’t spurred by his words or had the flames of rebellion fanned within their heart.

I urge anyone who has any shred of compassion for both human and non-human life to read this book and be exposed to the harsh realities of this cultures effects on this planet and its life. Reading this, you will walk away a profoundly different person.

For more information on Derrick Jensen, ‘What We Leave Behind’, and his other works, please visit http://www.derrickjensen.org/.