By Michael Nickerson. Seven Generations Publishing, 447pages, $19.95
Mike Nickerson's "Life, Money and Illusion" is a compelling and wide-ranging tome. With magisterial comprehensiveness, Nickerson makes forays into a vast area of causes related to prosperity, social justice, and the protection of the environment, churning out insightful comments on a great variety of topics. These range from the looming crisis of mass extinctions, the vivid contrast in successful efforts to curb ozone-depleting chemicals and the failure to reduce green house gas emissions, and the need to replace calculations of gross national production with a more meaningful well being measurement.
While Living on Earth has numerous creative ideas, the one I found most innovative proposed increasing popular medical skills. This would be done to reduce the impact of shock on victims of sudden illness. A way to do this would be to provide training in first aid for people on social assistance.
Since Nickerson's book has such wide scope, it is difficult to endorse all of his prescriptions and analysis. One that I differ with is his account of the breakup of Yugoslavia, which involved much more than the wiles of the International Monetary Fund and the lust for Kosovo's lead, which are described here.
Despite minor glitches, the fundamental soundness of Nickerson's analysis can be seen in his description of a state in India that is free of the racial and religious bigotry and violence that scars so much of the world. This is the state of Kerala, which, as the author notes, has achieved "European standards of health and literacy, along with population stability, all on an average of $330 per year."
Kerala's success shows the solution to the horrific environmental impacts of automotive use, which, as the author reveals, accounts for two-thirds of the oil consumption of the United States, a country that has shown willingness to go to war over threats to its petroleum supply. Kerala's thirty million people are a good example of the majority of the world, which, as Nickerson calculates, amount to eight out of nine people, who do not have cars.
Kerala's success in literacy and health care is a compelling example of how Nickerson's bold prescriptions do offer a sustainable path to the future. Having high literacy and life expectancy, with virtually no cars, in a state with a population equal to Canada's, illustrates the truth of his message that there is no need for pessimism, which is the greatest obstacle to triumph. There is indeed, "much cause for hope."
Reviewed by John Bacher, a St. Catharines environment and peace activist.