This year is a good time to reread Silent Spring

Written in 1962, Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, was and still is nothing short of revolutionary in its importance. The first piece of writing that clearly collected and synthesized the existing work of environmental scientists and ecologists on the harmful effects of pesticides and insecticides in the environment, Silent Spring was a profound wake up call, an alarm bell, a highly effective call to arms for a new environmental conservation movement. Today, it is an essential document of the beginning of that movement and an education in basic ecology for the student looking to better understand our planet.

Should you ever feel in need of proof that one dedicated person can seriously change the world, this book may be it. Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist who began her career at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries writing humble educational radio scripts, used a combination of poetic prose and relentlessly damning evidence from the study of the natural world to do two things in Silent Spring: First, to illustrate the beauty, preciousness and incomprehensible wonders of nature. And second, to condemn and tear apart, beyond any shadow of doubt, the cavalier use of toxic chemicals for “control” of insects, pests and unwanted plants on farms, in gardens, along roadsides and elsewhere.

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Review: Timothy Snyder Examines the Holocaust in Black Earth

Black Earth, by Timothy SnyderWe all learn about the Holocaust when we’re children. I learned about it when I was quite young, in grade school. Childhood lessons on the Holocaust and the persecution of Jews in Germany often center on the most gruesome atrocities, the concentration camps and the ovens and the torture of people.

It is understandable why that is so. These things are so terrible to imagine, they seem to bear repeating to make sure that future generations know they happened.

But they are not the entirety of the horrors of the Holocaust. And there is a danger to the way these atrocities are so often taught to school children. They’re taught in such as way as to isolate them from our current reality, and that is dangerous because when we hear about them, we might believe that we live in a different time, where such things are the product of a madman’s racism, and being so singular, would never happen again.

We’d be wrong.

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Review: Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values

A highly meditative take on how to conduct oneself in life and in business with others, Kofman’s book, Conscious Business, contains much to discuss and learn. I picked it up in response to reading an article by Matt MacInnis, the CEO of San Francisco tech firm Inkling, where the book is required reading for all employees.

Having just wrapped up my first experience taking an early stage startup from 1 to 20 employees, and wishing to understand more about how leaders may intentionally create business culture where employees can not only create business value but thrive personally and emotionally as well, Conscious Business felt highly relevant.

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Review: The limits of “Grit”

Grit is considered a “must-read” by many in my professional circle. For good reason – it’s an engaging, thought-provoking book. It’s useful and satisfying for its clear explanation of the core concept of grit (which is essentially: passionate perseverance) and its many inspirational stories. It’s also frustrating as hell for the nuance it lacks.

On the surface, this book is about the power of effort, and how deeply, mistakenly, undervalued the power of personal will is in our society. Modern people tend to romanticize and over-value “natural talent” and under-value sustained effort – to the great disadvantage of many.

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Review: Ring in 2017 with The Plot Against America

The Plot Against America by Philip RothOut of some dark, masochistic impulse, I chose to prepare myself for the upcoming coronation of the least qualified president in the history of these fine United States by reading this classic novel by famous pessimist Philip Roth.

Told in long, nostalgic descriptive sentences that unfurl around the reader like swamp- monster tentacles, this novel imagines a chilling alternative history of the 1940s in the USA as experienced by Roth as a little boy.

Famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, a celebrity and media creation, is elected president after positioning himself as a champion of the “regular people” and advocating an isolationist stance toward World War II for the good of America. Lindbergh openly criticizes “Jewish interests” for trying to drag America into “Europe’s war” and signs a treaty with Nazi Germany, promising that the USA will stay out of the war and do nothing to prevent Nazi expansion. Emboldened by Lindbergh’s victory, racists rejoice and a brutal wave of anti-Semitism flourishes in America.

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