Mud City Press

Non-fiction Book Reviews by Frank Kaminski

Frank Kaminski has been a steady contributor to Mud City Press. His work focuses on reviews of books about or pertaining to peak oil or climate change, including novels that describe a post-peak oil world. Mud City Press is proud to present this archive of Frank's non-fiction reviews. See Frank's fiction reviews.

The Kaminski Archive

THE MARKET GARDENER: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming
"For some years now, author and farmer Jean-Martin Fortier has lived rather comfortably off the proceeds of his market garden in Québec, Canada. He, his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches and their two children generate up to $140,000 in revenue a year and feed more than 200 local families with vegetables raised on a mere acre and a half. And they do so without tractors or other industrial farm equipment. Fortier's terrific success at low-tech growing has earned him an international following and the moniker 'rock star farmer.'"
STAND
This documentary, writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "is presented from an uncommon and intriguing point of view, that of an avid paddleboard athlete and outdoorsman named Norm Hann. In the spring of 2010, Hann traveled 400 kilometers along the B.C. coastline on his stand-up board, tracing a proposed tanker route from Kitimat to Bella Bella."
CHASING ICE
Frank Kaminski reviews Jeff Orlowski's documentary film on the work of photographer James Balog. Balog's still photos and time-lapse photos of melting Arctic ice serve as sure proof of climate change and what it's doing to our planet.
INTO ETERNITY: A Film for the Future
"There's a growing sense that we modern-day humans are morally obligated to protect our descendants from the hazards of our nuclear waste," writes Frank Kaminski to set up his review of this Finnish documentary. "Yet the task of providing this protection may be a fool's errand. The most obvious way of doing it, which is to leave some sort of warning, could prove completely ineffectual and could even backfire."
COLD, HUNGRY AND IN THE DARK and SNAKE OIL
Frank Kaminski reviews two new critical examinations of fracking, Richard Heinberg's SNAKE OIL and Bill Powers' COLD, HUNGRY AND IN THE DARK.
THE FIVE STAGES OF COLLAPSE: Survivors' Toolkit
"More and more," writes Frank Kaminski in his review of Dmitry Orlov's new book THE FIVE STAGES OF COLLAPSE, "it's starting to seem like the sensible approach is to get out of the awareness-raising business entirely and focus our energies instead on providing practical guidance to those who are willing to use it."
STATE OF EMERGENCY
"So the other night I was browsing Netflix's instant view collection for a good, recent zombie movie with which to satiate my doomerish craving for mass societal mayhem and collapse," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "when I came upon a film called STATE OF EMERGENCY. My advice to you is that if in coming days you find yourself doing the same thing, don't make the same mistake. The film is egregiously clichéd, foolishly plotted and wildly unbelievable–in short, it's a reanimated turkey of a zombie movie."
THE BLOOD OF THE EARTH: An Essay on Magic and Peak Oil
John Michael Greer's new book THE BLOOD OF THE EARTH, "is, in many ways," writes Frank Kaminski, "a grand culmination of Greer's intellectual journey. It draws on twin themes developed throughout his work–the regrettable fate of industrial civilization and the extraordinary potential of ceremonial magic–and relates them both in brilliant and myriad ways."
SUPPLY SHOCK: Economic Growth at the Crossroads and the Steady State Solution
"Of all the proposed solutions to the conundrum of perpetual growth in a finite world," writes Kaminski in his review of Brian Czech's SUPPLY SHOCK, "one stands out for its straightforwardness and frankness. It is the notion of a steady state economy, or one that strives toward equilibrium rather than continual expansion."
A SMALL AMERICAN CITY: A Podcast Series by Duncan Crary
"For many people, a city means the excitement and the cultural allure–as well as the crowding, pollution and other problems–of an enormous metroplex. Yet that notion of a city is being challenged as more and more people come to appreciate small-city living. The former steel town of Troy, New York offers a case in point. Despite being small, it lays just as much claim to offering true "city" life as does any major world center, from New York City to London to Mumbai. It's simply a different brand of city life.," writes Frank Kaminiski in his review of Duncan Cracy's podcast series.
THE LOCALIZATION READER: Adapting to the Coming Downshift
Frank Kaminski reviews THE LOCALIZATION READER, a collection of essays about preparing for the post-carbon age, edited by Raymond De Young and Thomas Princen.
SHARE OR DIE:Vocies of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis
"We find ourselves adrift without the old social contracts and economic opportunities enjoyed by previous generations," writes Frank Kaminiski describing the predicament of Generation Y, "and that's the real reason for our underemployment, poverty and protracted parental dependence. Good credentials and a solid work ethic, once the key to success and prosperity, count for so little now."
TOO MUCH MAGIC
"James Kunstler has a new work of social criticism titled TOO MUCH MAGIC, his first nonfiction book since The Long Emergency came out in 2005. The book is an inquiry into a skewed, delusional perception of reality that Kunstler thinks has become 'baseline normal for the American public lately.' Americans, he says, have been led astray by the incredible technological advancements of recent times. We've come to believe that any problem we face is solvable—as if by magic–with the application of some new technology."
MOTHER: Caring for Seven Billion
"Christophe Fauchere's documentary film MOTHER: CARING FOR SEVEN BILLION," writes reviewer Frank Kaminski, "takes a penetrating look at overpopulation, what fuels it and why the world has become complacent about the issue after making a good start in addressing it during the late 60s. The film dispels some key myths about overpopulation–chief among them the belief that it's long been solved–even if it stops short of admitting the inevitability of a world population crash as the Earth's resources deplete."
THE KUNSTLERCAST: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler
Duncan Crary's new book, THE KUNSTLERCAST, draws on four years' worth of weekly interviews with James Kunstler—in the course of an eponymous Internet talk show–and lumps them under the tagline "the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl." And Kunstler himself seems to be onboard, describing his diatribes as having "sort of evolved into a comedy act."
WEALTH OF NATURE: Economics as if Survival Mattered
"Having written extensively on occultism and the esoteric, and himself an adept in ritual magic, John Michael Greer is an eager student of the unexplained," writes Frank Kaminski in the opening to his review of Greer's latest book. "Yet he's also a sharp observer of the unexamined assumptions that people make about the physical world around them, and how these assumptions have helped land the world in its present crisis."
TWO REVIEWS: SONGS OF PETROLEUM and DIAMONDS IN MY POCKET
Frank Kaminiski reviews two memoirs, Jan Lundberg's SONGS OF PETROLEUM and Amanada Kovattana's DIAMONDS IN MY POCKET.
THE GLOBAL WARMING READER: edited and introduced by Bill McKibben
"Author Bill McKibben is a foremost authority on climate change and the machinations of those who so vehemently refute it. His latest book, THE GLOBAL WARMING READER, is a well-chosen and arranged collection of climate-related writings by the likes of James Hansen, Al Gore and George Monbiot."
LIFE WITHOUT OIL: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future
"LIFE WITHOUT OIL," writes Frank Kaminski of this book by Steve Hallet and John Wright, " is an attempt, and not a bad one, to persuade the general public of the need to wean off fossil fuels. It provides an in-depth overview of the issue, arrives at sound conclusions and uses a chatty, largely jargon-free writing style."
END OF GROWTH: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
"While 'experts' assure us that the economy is slowly emerging from recession," writes Frank Kaminiski in this timely review, "a growing camp of well-informed dissenters thinks not. The scant evidence of recovery, insists this group, is not an anomaly but the sign of a profound sea change. THE END OF GROWTH, one book unequivocally calls it, next to a cover image of a burst balloon and a pin. The book's author, Richard Heinberg, makes his case by far the most eloquently and comprehensively–and though it may be a decidedly unwelcome one for those now struggling, that doesn't detract from its validity."
REINVENTING COLLAPSE: The Soviet Experience and American Prospects–Revised and Updated
"Neither an economist nor a formally trained scholar, Dmitry Orlov is perhaps best described in his own words, as 'more of an eyewitness' to the phenomenon on which he writes. He's a Russian émigré who saw the Soviet Union fall firsthand and has been drawing on this experience in warning of the coming U.S. collapse. He came to fame five years ago with a smash-hit Internet article that won him a loyal following and a subsequent book deal. The book, REINVENTING COLLAPSE, is now in its second edition–and regardless of how well it holds up to scholarly scrutiny, it's admirable in its wit and prodigious street smarts."
USER'S GUIDE TO THE CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION: And How to Save It
"There are two common reactions to news about our species' present-day crisis," writes Frank Kaminski. "One is confusion and bewilderment arising from the fact that even the experts can't seem to agree on which threats are real or what to do about them. The other is despair at the sheer number of crises and the dire implications of each, which can eventually lead to tune-out, apathy and annoyance whenever they're mentioned. Neither response is productive, and thus there's a dawning recognition on the part of experts, activists and educators that the way in which these issues are presented to the public must change if we're to keep people engaged. One person calling for such a change in focus is international security analyst Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in his USER'S GUIDE TO THE CRISIS OF CIVILIZATION."
DISASTER ON THE HORIZON: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story behind the Deepwater Well Blowout
In the six months since the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico was sealed, five books have been published on the topic. Frank Kaminski applies his analysis to this one by Bob Cavnar, a man who spent his career in the oil and gas drilling business.
LOCALISATION AND RESILENCE AT THE LOCAL LEVEL: The Case of Transition Town Totnes
"For several years groups of innovative, environmentally conscious people worldwide have been part of a social change movement called Transition," writes Frank Kaminski reviewing Rob Hopkins' doctoral dissertation. "It strives to create relocalized communities that are resilient to the looming climate and energy crises, and in which 'the future with less oil could be preferable to the present.' It all began humbly enough as a class project six years ago. Since then, it's spawned thousands of communities, inspired a documentary and several books, been awarded millions in grants and vaulted its figurehead, Rob Hopkins, to something like celebrity status in southwestern England. If there's a movement today that can be welcomed as a fulfillment of David Korten's 2006 book The Great Turning, this is it." Read at Energy Bulletin.
TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy
Matthew R. Simmons, one of the most respected commentators on peak oil, died in August of 2010. Frank Kaminski writes a commemorative review of the late Matt Simmon's last book, TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT. It's subtitle tells it all. Read at Energy Bulletin.
THE IMPENDING ENERGY MESS: What It Is and What It Means to You
"In The Maltese Falcon a character tells detective Sam Spade, 'By Gad, sir, you're a character, that you are! Yes, sir, there's never any telling what you'll do or say next, except that it's bound to be something astonishing.' I'm telling Bob Hirsch the same thing," says Kaminski. "There's no denying the man's considerable credentials within the energy industry, nor his contribution to peak oil scholarship as principal author of the first major U.S. government report to take the issue seriously. But neither is there any predicting what outlandish thing he'll propose next in his efforts to spread the message." Read at Energy Bulletin.
WHEN OIL PEAKED
Frank Kaminski's selection of books to review is invariably equal to his ability to critique. WHEN OIL PEAKED by Ken Deffeyes is a perfect example–an important new book viewed through Frank's discerning eye. Read at Energy Bulletin.
TRANSPORT REVOLUTIONS: Moving People and Freight without Oil
"TRANSPORT REVOLUTIONS presents an ambitious vision of a world, 15 years from now, that is well on its way to kicking oil and being run on renewably produced electricity," writes Frank Kaminiski. "The book's authors, internationally recognized transport policy experts Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl, readily acknowledge the enormity of this challenge, with transport worldwide currently 95 percent dependent on oil. They have no illusions that the transition would be painless. But they nonetheless insist that it could be done."
SOUND TRUTH & CORPORATE MYTH$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
"As dire as the Deepwater Horizon spill is already, its harm could be magnified still further by a bungled or ill-considered cleanup response. That's exactly what happened with the Exxon Valdez argues marine biologist and oil spill activist Riki Ott, who has been aptly called the Erin Brockovich of that earlier disaster. Ott has written two books showing how gross misconduct on the part of Exxon (now Exxon Mobil Corp.) in the wake of Valdez created a secondary disaster that was just as damaging as the first one. These books, titled NOT ONE DROP and SOUND TRUTH & CORPORATE MYTH$, exhaustively document how Exxon's actions compounded the oil's harm and destroyed the health of thousands of cleanup workers."
THRIVING BEYOND SUSTAINABILITY
"The more research you do into the subject of sustainability, the more you realize that talking about sustainability is like talking about matter. It's so wide-ranging, multifaceted and pervasive a topic that it's hard even to know where to begin" writes Frank Kaminski. "Given what a sweeping category sustainability is, author and noted sustainability expert Andrés Edwards is to be commended for distilling it down into two easily digestible volumes for lay readers: THE SUSTAINABILITY REVOLUTION and THRIVING BEYOND SUSTAINABILITY." Kaminski reviews the second of these titles here.
THE BIOCHAR DEBATE: Charcol's Potential to Reverse Climate Change and Build Soil Fertility
"It's called biochar, and if you believe its most ardent supporters, then this unassuming, fine black powder is a vital tool in the solutions to some of humanity's most urgent ecological threats, including climate change, peak oil, soil degradation and water pollution due to agrochemicals. However, if you side with biochar's staunch opponents, then it seems like a fledgling, poorly understood technology with real risks, including the displacement of entire communities and the serious jeopardizing of world food security and biodiversity. Which view is correct? That's the question that sustainability expert James Bruges, who is cautiously optimistic about biochar, investigates in his book THE BIOCHAR DEBATE."
WHY YOUR WORLD IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT SMALLER
"Jeff Rubin, former chief economist at Canadian investment bank CIBC World Markets, is not your typical economist," writes Frank Kaminski. "He gets peak oil. As far back as 2000, when public awareness of the issue was essentially nil, he was among the first economists to accurately predict the surge in crude prices that would ensue several years later. And now, in his bestselling book WHY YOUR WORLD IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT SMALLER, he argues that oil prices, temporarily dampened by the deepest post-war recession on record, will soon be vaulted to new highs as the economy begins to recover, which in turn will thrust the world into yet another recession right on the heels of this one."
THE AMERICAN WEST AT RISK: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
"Several weeks back, while reading this important, prodigiously researched book from Oxford University Press on America's endangered Western lands," writes Frank Kaminski, "I caught part of an interview on NPR that caused me to shake my head with chagrin. The interviewee was one of those "transhumanist" apostles; and, without a trace of irony, he described future technologies that he believes will allow us to save our minds like computer files and download them into new bodies–thus making ourselves exempt from mortality, the indignity of aging and other pesky earthly inconveniences. This unapologetic über-techno-optimism couldn't possibly have been more at odds with the sober, sensible views expressed in THE AMERICAN WEST AT RISK."
THE ECOTECHNIC FUTURE: Envisioning a Post-Peak World
"John Michael Greer has officially established himself as an institution within the peak oil community," writes Frank Kaminski in his review of Greer's latest book THE ECOTECHNIC FUTURE. "Truly one of the finest minds working on the predicament of modern-day industrial civilization, he is so well-read in so many fields that he regularly gains access to insights that utterly elude his contemporaries. For this he is treasured by a growing number of loyal readers–and, I suspect, hated by equally many fellow bloggers who wish that they could be half as good."
POWER FROM THE SUN
"For the average home- or small business-owner looking to purchase a solar PV array," writes Frank Kaminski, "there is much homework to be done–and truly good textbooks, amid the cacophony of voices on the subject, are a real find. Thankfully, POWER FROM THE SUN, the latest offering from green building guru Dan Chiras, is just such a book."
BLACKOUT
"Richard Heinberg's new book BLACKOUT tries to demolish current assumptions about the world's remaining coal endowment: namely, that it is immense beyond belief, barely tapped and will last for centuries to come. Heinberg argues that these assumptions are off-base, misleading and not at all supported by recent studies that suggest global coal production could peak in less than two decades. He warns that an impending shortage of minable coal threatens to plunge our civilization into one final, irreversible blackout unless we act wisely."
TAR SANDS
"If you've been following energy news with a discerning eye," writes Frank Kaminski, "then you already know better than to buy into all the hype about the Canadian tar sands. Far from being a panacea for declining supplies of conventional oil, the sands could never contribute more than a proverbial drop in the bucket to daily world oil production. And even achieving this modest rate of production would require such staggering quantities of water, natural gas and boreal forestland as to leave Alberta resembling "a third-rate golf course in the Sudan" before the bulk of the sands' 175 billion barrels had ever been produced. The Sudanese-golf-course quote comes from Andrew Nikiforuk's new book TAR SANDS, a powerful, eloquent litany of horrors associated with North America's frenzied dash toward tar sands bitumen as its next fuel of choice."
FUTURE SCENARIOS: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change
"In this short, crisp, well-reasoned book, writer and activist David Holmgren contemplates the possible futures that may lie ahead of us as the threats of climate change and oil depletion grow ever more acute."
CULTURE CHANGE: Civil Liberty, Peak Oil, and the End of Empire
"With superb insight, wisdom and erudition–one is almost tempted to say omniscience–Alexis Zeigler's CULTURE CHANGE charts an ambitious course for the future of our civilization. The book calls for a revolution to bring about what Zeigler terms a 'conscious culture' capable of responding intelligently to our ecological crisis." Once again, Frank Kaminski uses his keen eye for topical books and spot on literary analysis to give us a thoughtful and valuable book review.
NOT ONE DROP: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
"Riki Ott's book NOT ONE DROP is a history of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, told from the perspective of those most affected by it. Cutting through the cloak of willful deception, public relations campaigns and skewed, corporate-sponsored science, it finally exposes the truth about Exxon Valdez's devastating effects on the city of Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community where the spill struck," writes Frank Kaminiski in the opeing to this excellent and insightful review of Riki Ott's book on the Exxon Valdez Oil spill.
RHETORIC FOR RADICALS: A Handbook Tor Twenty-First Century Activists
"Radical activists are in the midst of a crisis. They have important messages to share, but they don't do nearly a good enough job of communicating those messages to the general public. And their messages and actions too easily fall victim to the distortions of skewed, corporate mass media and the remonstrations of political pundits. In short, radical activists find themselves in a rhetorical crisis–one that urgently needs to be addressed if they are to have any chance of changing the world. That's the assessment of Jason Del Gandio," writes Frank Kaminiski in his review of Gandio's RHETORIC FOR RADICALS.
THE LONG DESCENT: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age
"The Internet writings of John Michael Greer–beyond any doubt the greatest peak oil historian in the English language–have finally made their way into print," writes Frank Kaminski. "Greer's searingly perceptive blog entries on peak oil, which for the past several years have enjoyed a robust online following, have now been incorporated into a single bound volume from New Society Publishers titled THE LONG DESCENT."
DEPLETION AND ABUNDANCE : Life on the New Home Front
"Why are so few peak oil authors women? There's been much debate about this, and no one has yet arrived at a definitive answer. But whatever the reason, Sharon Astyk has established herself as a true rarity within the peak oil community by virtue of being a woman who has chosen to write about peak oil. The perspective that she offers in DEPLETION AND ABUNDANCE is both uncommon and vital."
TWO REVIEWS: PLAN C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change and SMALL IS POSSIBLE: Life in a Local Economy
Frank Kaminski review two books, PLAN C and SMALL IS POSSIBLE, in this selection from the Energy Bulletin.
CRASH COURSE: Preparing for Peak Oil
"We need to be prepared for the worst when it comes to peak oil, insists Zachary Nowak. Just as homeowners pay hefty insurance premiums in exchange for a promise of help in the unlikely event of a fire, so, too, should peak oil believers be developing their own sort of insurance policy against the worst imaginable consequences of peak oil."
THE BETTER WORLD SHOPPING GUIDE (2nd Edition): Every Dollar Makes a Difference
"'[This] book has been purposefully made small so that you can keep it with you in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or pocket…Whatever you do, don't put it on a shelf!' That's author Ellis Jones' advice regarding his latest edition of THE BETTER WORLD SHOPPING GUIDE, a handy, pocket-sized reference book intended to help shoppers make socially and environmentally responsible purchasing choices."