The Overstory

Today’s Lunch Loop was a Library Run to return this book, The Overstory by Richard Powers. To be honest, I didn’t want to, I wanted to read it again. That doesn’t happen often. I wonder sometimes if one wants to re-read a book if it makes more sense to do it immediately or wait, and discover it again, only with a hint of familiarity, at a later time. My reading queue is currently backed up so this one will have to wait.

I can’t remember the last time a book affected me such as this one – fiction or otherwise. Powers is a master of the written word and the subject matter is of monumental weight, yet presented in a way not to be overbearing on the story. After finishing it I’m left feeling alternately exhilarated and helpless, still trying to process it all. I think the fact that this book and the discussion around it isn’t a bigger deal points to the fact that we’re still not ‘getting it’ as a species.

If this is on your to-read list, I suggest you bump it up several notches. If it wasn’t even on your radar, it should be – read it. If you’re saying, “meh, I don’t read so much anymore and the kinds of books I like to read aren’t really-“ stop. You probably need to read it the most.

Viking Oil

I am liking the way the Norwegians do business. From the article:

When the government tabled a new law that would boost taxes on oil profits to almost 80 percent, the stage was set for a showdown. According to Lie, “Companies were furious when they heard about the new taxation law. They started a media campaign saying that they would leave Norway and that it was impossible to work in a socialist country like this that does not understand the rules of international capitalism.”

After demanding a meeting with the Minister of Finance, oil executives around the room all pounded the table and threatened to abandon their concessions unless Norway backed down. The unfazed minister instead turned to his aides and said in full view of the enraged oilmen, “Why are they all still here? We should have taken more!”

That attitude, in a nutshell, is why the country now has more than $1 trillion in the bank. In spite of the usual industry fear mongering, the new tax law easily passed Norwegian parliament and has been supported by every government since 1975.

…and…

What can the world learn from the oil Vikings? Obviously good policies and strong institutions matter, but perhaps most important is the fierce sense of place to back it up. In a fragmented natural world, that strong connection to the land increasingly resides with indigenous peoples and cultures. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people are also disproportionately the ones confronting extractive capitalism around the world.

The United Nations just released a global report on biodiversity showing that areas with some form of indigenous governance—amounting to a whopping one-quarterof the world’s land base—have significantly better protection of ecosystems. Culture, connection and protection seem to naturally flow from continuous occupation. The report calls for governments to support indigenous involvement in conservation efforts as a key part of helping to “transform the public and private sectors to achieve sustainability at the local, national and global levels.”