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The 8 pages below cover the key elements of my healthy atmosphere campaign and are written for reading in the order presented.

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Book reviews

2nd level pages adding detail to pages above

Book reviews.

A few books well worth reading.

"Conversations with God" totally held my attention from beginning to end. Neale Walsch was at an all time low when he started writing messages to God. To his surprise he started getting answers. The answers were profound. They also had a ring of truth about them and were totally logical, but as the book progresses the answers become increasingly challenging. For instance; our bodies could last for ever, and they were never designed to take alcohol. This book launched Walsch from obscurity to international fame, and deservedly so. A must read with a critical message for today.

"The Transition Handbook" by Rob Hopkins is an important book that deserves to be read by anyone interested in creating a sustainable future for our planet. Hopkins was a permaculture instructor and by expanding this philosophy to be more inclusive and to address energy issues more seriously the Transition Town movement began to develop.

The book is divided into 3 main sections; The head, The heart and The hands. The head is about understanding how important taking action really is and it starts by emphasizing that we need to consider both climate change and peak oil in order to arrive at a good solution for both. The Hirsh report showed how serious peak oil is but because it did not consider climate change it recommended dangerous options such as coal to gasoline conversion. The Stern review highlighted the dangers of global warming but did not consider peak oil so it recommended the short-sighted option of carbon dioxide capture and storage.

Chapter 2 discusses various scenarios for the future and discusses how realistic the various possible futures are. Pierre Wack was one of the founders of scenario planning and used this method to turn around the fortunes of Shell and then South Africa.

Hopkins goes on to explain how peak oil, climate change and the other serious problems we face highlight the lack of resilience in modern society and how important it is to build it up again.

Chapter 4 is called "why small is inevitable" and explains why many proposals for business as usual, like the hydrogen economy, are seriously flawed.

The Heart section (pages 80 to 133) is about motivating people to take action once they have learned why it is needed. There are chapters explaining why concern about our global situation is creating stress in people and then how to help people address their concerns in a constructive way using techniques such as the FRAMES model.

Chapter 7 is "Harnessing the power of a positive vision" and chapter 8 is his example vision for 2030 that addresses many of the problems that we face today. Unfortunately I think many people will not like it and there is a risk this could make them reject the whole transition movement. We therefore need more people proposing their own 2030 visions so that people can see that what they do not like about Hopkins' vision need not apply to them.

The Hands section (pages 134 to 213) is about the practical steps of forming a Transition Town and getting it working. David Holmgren's 12 permaculture principles, and the six principles that underpin the Transition model form the foundation for this section. There is a wealth of useful information here and I imagine most people will need to come back to this section several times as they progress with their projects.

Cohousing is mentioned just twice in the book hinting that maybe he discovered it just before sending it for publishing. I hope the next addition makes more of it because Cohousing offers an excellent mechanism for bringing many of the objectives of Transition towns into reality.

The Transition movement is extremely important and needs to continue expanding. Getting to know our neighbours better and cutting the time we spend travelling can only bring benefits. However, because I have foreseen the possibility of using the area of the sea to generate all the renewable energy we need I disagree with how peak oil is being equated with peak energy. It is important for us to embark on an oil descent plan but this is not the same as an energy descent plan. Confusing the 2 can lead to us misdirecting our efforts by putting too little of our effort into renewable energy projects because of too much emphasis on doing everything locally. Things like travelling to experience foreign cultures and international trade are extremely important for opening our minds and these things must continue and even increase. I therefore disagree with the book's emphasis on doing everything locally. Doing more things locally is good and cutting down the time we spend on mundane travel is good, but international travel and trade must also continue. The challenge is to do this without using fossil fuels, or causing pollution, and this is possible if the appropriate emerging technologies are given sufficient support.

This book is a very valuable resource with a wide range of information and if you replace the emphasis on "energy descent" with an emphasis on "pollution descent" and energy efficiency then you are unlikely to go far wrong following its advice. The book concentrates on opinions that favour the scaling back of our industrial activity and dramatically cutting our energy use. My opinion differs in emphasis because I see industrial activity that fully respects the planet as being a good thing that benefits humans, animals and plants alike.

Reading Ken Carey's "Starseed Transmissions" was a total revelation for me. Finally I knew for sure why astronomy and space travel holds such a fascination for so many people. We were designed to help spread life to other planets. It is our purpose. That is not to say we all have to risk space travel but to say that creating environments where life can thrive, on Earth and other planets, is what is important. It is many years ago that I read the book yet I still remember the excitement of having so many questions that had haunted my mind for so long finally being answered. A must read for anyone who has wondered about the purpose of human existence.

Louise Hay's, "You can heal your life" has been on my reading list for many years. Because I had previously read a huge amount on the subject there were no big surprises in it but it was still very worthwhile and I will be referring to it many times in the future. Hay already knew of the power of positive thinking when she was diagnosed with cancer. Suddenly she was challenged to test her own believes and by taking totally responsibility for her own health she managed to cure herself. I guess this victory gave her the authority in her own mind to write this best selling book.

Her fundamental theme is that every disease is created by a particular type of thought pattern. My own final validation of this theory came during a period of nearly a year when I had the misfortune to share a house with someone with mental health problems. What annoyed me is that although he was proud of being a scientist he would not listen to logical advice and his habits started to become extremely annoying. After a few weeks I had developed a cough that just would not go away. It lasted many months and at times it was so bad my ribs were in agony from the constant effort of coughing. Nothing would take away the itch until it finally occurred to me to look at my own thought patterns. I started telling my house-mate what's what (to hell with politeness) and also made an effort not to let it bug me when he failed to cooperate. Gradually the cough subsided and when I had totally learned the lessons he was sent to teach me he was able to move away. Now, whenever there is a hint of a cough I ask myself what words are stuck in my throat and it seems to stop the disease in its tracks.

Identifying the thoughts that are causing the disease is sometimes the easy step and stopping ourselves thinking them can often be far more difficult. A substantial chunk of the book is therefore about learning to love ourselves and using that love as a foundation on which to build healthy thoughts. A truly valuable resource!

"The Celestine Prophecy" is a gripping story about James Redfield travelling to South America and discovering 9 incredibly important insights. To me these insights seemed so obviously true and important that it seemed amazing that we have not all always known them. I think deep down we have, but somehow putting them into words and bringing them to full consciousness had eluded us.

The formula of using a story to deliver a new-age philosophical message is an effective one for attracting those who would not normally read a self-improvement book to do so. I suspect that is why a few people have written such negative reviews - they feel they have been tricked. However, the formula works and the message is important so maybe that is what really matters. Other books in the series help those who are seriously interested in the insights to put them into practice in their lives.

Jean Liedloff was travelling in the Amazon jungle when she came across a tribe of Indians with a remarkable culture. She noticed a uniquely peaceful ambiance among the tribe members and an absence of behavioural problems with their children. The children rarely cried and came immediately if an adult called them. By living with them for a time she gradually came to understand their secret and she called this the "Continuum Concept". The theory is that it is best to introduce a child to every new experience in a progressive manner with no sudden shocks. If the parents trust their instincts and the messages their child gives them then there are no tantrums or fuss as the child learns about its environment. A newborn child is suddenly removed from the protection of the womb and so it needs to be introduced to this new world gradually and the best way that is done is to maintain constant skin contact with it. It is a mother's instinct to hold her new baby all the time and it is best for the baby. Squashing it while sleeping is a totally unfounded fear.

The book was published many years ago now and played an important role in improving the understanding in the West of what babies need. It is therefore not as influential as it was but it is still very important. It teaches the immense benefits of totally respecting the free will of others, irrespective of their age.

Anne Miller is an unusually successful inventor and product developer and "How to get your ideas adopted (and change the world)" is a valuable compilation and analysis of the experience she has gained. The first three chapters of the book are about making sure that our ideas are properly developed before we start launching them. Chapter 1 warns that selling a new idea is sure to meet resistance. Chapter 2 goes into some detail about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessment method so that we can work out how our type of thinking is best developed and how we relate to other people. The final chapter in part 1 is about making sure our idea is realistic.

Everyones reaction to new ideas is first to ignore them (blindness or ignorance) and then to freeze as we realise that we might have to change something. Change is never easy to accept. Once people have accepted the need for change they become interested in the idea and then the 4th step is to continue the promotion until the new idea is integrated into their habits. How to do all this is illustrated throughout with fascinating examples.

One small complaint with the book is that it is printed on low quality paper with low quality ink. Obviously this keeps the price down but it does not help reflect the quality of the text within it which is a pity because it is well written and is a worthwhile read for anyone with any interest in promoting new ideas.

"The Optimist" by Laurence Shorter. There is much misunderstanding about what optimism actually means. Essentially it is about believing that the world is the optimum it can be. This is important because without this belief we waste huge amounts of effort trying to defend ourselves against imagined hazards. This theme is another angle on what I say on my Evolution and creation page. Shorter spent about 2 years seeking out optimists all over the world to ask them how they maintained their happy outlook on life. Most of the rest of us get sucked into pessimism, or even depression, by all the bad news bombarding us, but some very famous and wealthy people attribute their success to their optimism. He shares the story of his quest and his adventures with us in an humorous and honest style and most will pick up a few gems of insight from his experiences. However, this is not so much a self-help book as an autobiography about the author following his passion for a short period of his life.

This passion and conviction was successful in bringing about some remarkable meetings with influential leaders, to ask them about the secrets of their success and their outlook. Generally, though, he finds that putting their wise words of advice into practice is not at all easy. Richard Branson's comment about enjoying every single moment of his live was memorable. One could say it is easy for him to not do anything he does not enjoy but maybe that is looking at it the wrong way around. Fix the thoughts first and then the outer circumstances will fix themselves. Do what you love and the success (however that is defined) will follow? One thing that puzzles me is that I learned about this book from Subud literature and I am sure Shorter is a practising member but his book makes no mention of a practice that is probably an important part of his life.

Copyright Robert Copcutt 2013
Healthy atmosphere campaign, Robert Copcutt's adverts page, climate change solutions, green house effect

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