this is a breakthrough book for the green and peace movements, and a must-read for anyone interested in solutions to the linked problems of economic globalization, global warming and conflict proliferation. Like literal breakthroughs, however, it's really a work-in-progress, with a fair bit of rubble still on the ground. It requires some persistence on the part of the reader, but after the first few chapters it reads engagingly and well.
The author shows the clear connection between petroleum extraction revenues and authoritarian governments on a case-by-case basis. His solution for this, politically, is western liberal democracy, which he thinks is easily exportable anywhere, a highly dubious proposition.
The book's general thesis is more plausible -- that there is a causal relationship between modern civilization's dependence on petrochemicals and both increasing worldwide environmental degradation and the growth of tyranny in the developing world.
And so he counsels the curbing of this dependency in both developed and developing countries, whether liberal and social democratic, Islamic, ethnic nationalist, socialist or market-Leninist, by a change in ethos.
The actual program set out (horse transport, bicycle riding, birdwatching and religious liberalism) is either intended as a literary vehicle or a latter-day variety of 19th-century utopian speculation with humorous overtones, or both.
Whatever the case, the careful reader will see that historian Bacher wants to say that the current global crisis is ethical and spiritual: the mentors who gradually emerge are Mahatma Gandhi, Immanuel Kant and Eduard Bernstein, the chief founder of European ethical democratic socialism.
Bernstein, part of the back-to-Kant philosophical movement, has found wide support in Europe but has largely been ignored in North America. It is, therefore, especially encouraging to see Bacher, an activist in the currently soul-searching NDP, going back to Bernstein for inspiration.
PETROTYRANNY PETROTYRANNY PETROTYRANNY
by John Bacher, foreword by David Suzuki (Dundurn Press/Science for Peace), 343 pages, $27.99 cloth. Rating: NNN