The book is a collection of George Monbiot’s best newspaper columns written over the past 10 years. The collection of texts approaches different events that happened between 2006 and 2016, providing the reader with a lively picture of the last decade besides reflecting on some of the most problematic issues of our world today. Some of the topics covered in the chronicles are the devastation of the natural world, the crisis of inequality, the corporate takeover of nature, the present obsession with unhealthy growth and profit, and the the ineffectiveness of the political debate to find new solution on what to do.
Even though the book has a pessimistic tone, as Monbiot’s columns are mostly describing the terrible problems we are creating with our actions, it also provide solutions, and brings awareness to the current politics of fear.
With his examples taken from current affairs he asks the reader to reflect on ancient questions such as:
- How do we stand up to the powerful when they seem to have all the weapons?
- What can we do to prepare our children for an uncertain future?
He says: ‘Without countervailing voices, naming and challenging power, political freedom withers and dies. Without countervailing voices, a better world can never materialise. Without countervailing voices, wells will still be dug and bridges will still be built, but only for the few. Food will still be grown, but it will not reach the mouths of the poor. New medicines will be developed, but they will be inaccessible to many of those in need.’
George Monbiot is very known in Great Britain for his environmental and political activism. He is one of the most vocal and eloquent, critics of the current consensus writing hard truths about the unfairness of the system we created, that we all need to know:
“If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.” George Monbiot
He writes a weekly column for The Guardian, and is the author of a number of best selling books, including Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding , Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain
and The Age of Consent. Passionate about nature and wild life, Monbiot founded in 1999 The Land is Ours which is a peaceful campaign for the right of access to the countryside and its resources.
The only criticism I would make to the overall book is about its structure, done through the classical mindset of “us versus the others” ( others being the powerful rich and/or right wing politicians, taken as symbols of neoliberalism). This kind of mindset can put off some readers, as it evokes the old political paradigm of fight between left against right, where compromise is only reached after combative debating.
Such a “masculine” style of arguing disengages increasingly larger sectors of the public opinion, that don’t identify exactly with any side of the political arena, and are more aware than ever how we are all part of the system. As Einstein once famously said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Regardless of this, this is a book which even though controversial, it is clear and brilliantly argued. How Did We Get into this Mess? makes a persuasive case for change in our everyday lives, our politics and economics, the ways we treat each other and the natural world.
Founder Dinis Guarda
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