John Baxter

Illusions of Power

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Review of 'Calling the Shots', Phyllis Bennis, Arris £12.99

Phyllis Bennis has written perhaps the best critical history of the UN to date. She briefly covers the foundation of the organisation, describing how it emerged from the machinations of the US State Department and its negotiations with the other victorious powers at the end of the Second World War. However, the bulk of her book covers the period since 1989, the end of the Cold War.

Waste Not, Want Not

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Review of 'State of the World 2004', Worldwatch Institute, Earthscan £14.99

I am typing this review on my computer, which probably weighs a few kilograms. To produce it hundreds of kilograms of materials were processed, most of which were discarded. To produce each two-gram microchip requires 630 times its own mass in materials, including 72 grams of constituent chemicals, 1,200 grams of fossil fuels to power the processes, and an astounding 32,000 grams of water. For every gram of copper wire, 110 grams of waste rock and ore was discarded.

Inglorious Food

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Review of ’Don‘t Worry, It‘s Safe to Eat‘ by Andrew Rowell, Earthscan £16.99

Genetically modified (GM) crops are once again in the headlines. The government is due to announce whether commercial growth of GM crops will be permitted. Given Blair‘s current unpopularity, the report is likely to be a fudge, neither allowing unlimited planting, nor closing the door forever. The outcome was foreshadowed by the publication of the ’independent‘ GM science review in July. A group of hand-picked, tame scientists published an account which claimed that while GM is unlikely to damage our health, it may, perhaps, damage the environment.

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