BookShelf: Aussie Author’s Angry Look at ‘Crimes Against Nature’
“Crimes Against Nature: Capitalism and Global Heating”
By Jeff Sparrow
Scribe US, $18.00 (paperback)
Reviewed by Melody Kemp
Jeff Sparrow’s “Crimes Against Nature: Capitalism and Global Heating” is a passionate and informative book. It’s also an angry one.
It’s not afraid to confront issues, offering disturbing if not depressing information at times, all of which means it’s a good read. Well, at least, for most of the journey.
Sparrow, an award-winning Australian Walkley writer, editor and broadcaster, is an unashamed lefty. His book, scheduled for an April 5 release, is a historical look at how profit and the underbelly of capitalism have ravaged the world and will most likely continue to ravage the environment.
He offered new insights for this Antipodean. I learned early on, for instance, that Elon Musk did not invent the electric vehicle. Pedro Salom knew in 1896 that his vehicles did not emit fumes while “their rivals belch[ed] from their exhaust pipe a stream of partially unconsumed hydrocarbons,” Sparrow writes.
Salom and Henry Morris produced the Electrobat in Philadelphia, a vehicle with an electric engine that provided a range of up to 25 miles. Recharging stations stored and swapped batteries within 75 seconds. Even Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would have approved.
So, what happened? Fraudulent loans.
It’s not the first or the last time profit clouded judgment.
According to Sparrow, the cost of today’s global electric car production will, of course, be the development of lithium mines and additional concentrated ownership.
Sparrow writes about the gradual domination of cars over pedestrians to illustrate how we have come to design our cities and road systems to fit the new normal, with low priority given to public transport.
A warning against the PR ‘con’
In this series of interlinked essays, Sparrow repeatedly exposes “new wisdom” as a public relations con.
Case in point: When car giants faced criticism about increasing pedestrian deaths, they invented the “jaywalker” to place blame on the carless.
And we are asked to examine our own carbon footprint, thereby shifting responsibility onto the individual, while corporations can expand their activities.
In Australia, this practice has reached an apotheosis in the federal government’s fixation on accelerating exploration of gas (that is, methane), and carbon capture and storage.
Sparrow places long-term faith in human nature
and, in particular, the way in which Australia’s First
Peoples have nurtured land for about 65,000 years.
Sparrow’s analysis is great. He is less articulate, however, when it comes to social movements as agents of change, despite being obviously on the left of politics.
While praising trade union-initiated Green Bans of the 1970s, he is less enthusiastic about other social movements and their ability to change the current destructive trajectory.
Despite that, he places long-term faith in human nature and, in particular, the way in which Australia’s First Peoples have nurtured land for about 65,000 years.
By paying attention to their models of forest management, he sets a series of achievable models that have been proven to work and are not merely romantic fiction or owned by a corporation.
I found his book to be particularly informative when social manipulation was revealed. It’s by no means a smooth read, and he does get a bit tangled towards the end.
Americans might find it a tad too critical. But, in reality, we don’t have time to quibble.
Melody Kemp is a longtime SEJ member and a freelancer currently located in Australia.
* From the weekly news magazine SEJournal Online, Vol. 7, No. 9. Content from each new issue of SEJournal Online is available to the public via the SEJournal Online main page. Subscribe to the e-newsletter here. And see past issues of the SEJournal archived here.