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(en) Book Review: 'Anarchism & Environmental Survival' by Graham Purchase..

Date Fri, 29 Jul 2005 09:11:10 +0300


The blurb assures us that this will be "one of the most
controversial nvironmental books of the 1990s".This seems to
me to overstate the case and I doubt that it was! This book is
no more nor less than a simple updating of the case for anarchist
communism implemented in an ecologically friendly way as stated by
anarchist geographers Kropotkin and Reclus all those years ago.
Purchase argues for the use of science and technology but in
an extensive and ecologically sensitive fashion by a bio-regionally
organised libertarian society.He has many ideas in common with
social economist Murray Bookchin though he, rightly I think, blasts
Bookchin's latter day dismissal of class struggle.

The book sort of falls between the polemical and academic
stools. It's too short and under referenced to be truly academic
yet lacks the bite and poetry of good polemic. That said there
are some new and fairly fascinating ideas here. One that
grabbed me almost immediately was a chapter on
micro-livestock, including miniature versions of all the
conventional animals we in the West are familiar with (cows,
sheep, goats etc)as well as rodents and poultry (e.g. hens and
ducks). Instead of intensive cropping or grazing he proposes
mixing some crops and animals. Such a scheme would be easy
to extend to city plots with hens,ducks or the likes. Animals
could be introduced which ignore the crops but root out weeds
and insects and fertilise the land on a continuous basis.

Even more surprisingly this view actually leads him to reject
vegetarianism in and off itself as a solution to intensive/factory
farming. Although he acknowledges ethical and scientific
reasons for it in the end he favours some continued use of
animals in the fashion above. He is also very good on the
widespread anarchist identification with women's rights going
way, way back to the eighteenth century and Mary
Wollstonecraft.

He tackles the idea of population reduction straight on, quoting
Food First (Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Colins):"the idea
that there is not enough food to go round simply does not hold
up." He argues that the massively unequal access to resources
and land under capitalism are the key causes of global poverty.
He puts the argument very well at the end of chapter 5:"To
blame an abstract biological notion of natural increase for over
populating the world -when it is quite obviously caused by
statism, patriarchy, and capitalism -suggest that a starving
Somali refugee is as much to blame for starvation as a fat
businessman or grossly over paid Western bank official."

So generally a statement of anarchist principals that I would
agree with but lacking in detailed well referenced examples.
So, for example, he manages to make cursory references to
potentially fascinating areas like anarchism and chaos theory
but never really develops them. But still a good read for some
one very new to the basic rational anarchist ideas first
expressed by the likes of Kropotkin and Reclus.

by Conor McLoughlin

¤13 -Available from WSM Book Service
-------------------------------------------------
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'Workers Solidarity'. http://struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
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