Planet Earth by John Gribbin, Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © THEBLITZI

An image of earth from space courtesy of NASA illustrates the cover of John Gribbin’s highly readable summary of how our planet originated and has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years.  The image is reminiscent of the iconic 1968 “Earthrise” photograph taken from the Apollo 8 mission, the first view of earth from deep space and a disorienting perspective which reminds us of our place within the universe.  The book is particularly relevant for helping us to live in a manner which consciously apprehends the impact of our activities on our environment and thoughtful reading may help us to dissolve those arbitrary categorisations which separate self from surroundings.  At a time when the British Geological Survey on Shale Gas Fracking, the Bowland Shale Gas Study, has just been released, and when there is considerable discussion regarding the potential exploitation of this resource and its social and environmental impact, the book provides a contextual backdrop which reminds us of the deep intimacy of our integration with our planet.  Its particles and energy comprise our physical being and flow through us.  We are indeed stardust, formed from the ashes of a supernova over distances, volumes and time scales which are barely comprehensible.  The book is of considerable assistance in promoting such comprehension. Read more of this post

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 Book Review: The Great Tax Robbery by Richard Brooks

Frederick Cowell 

Image© DS Pugh

Simon Hoggart’s diary column in a recent edition of the Saturday Guardian, whilst not referencing Richard Brooks’ detailed book, captures its essence

“Suppose you got a letter from HMRC saying: “Your tax bill of £3,258.47 is now overdue. If it is not paid immediately further action will be taken.” At the end is a scrawled note, saying, “but if you buy me lunch, and give me a job when I leave, we can call it quits for £105.”

That’s not a joke – that’s actually a reasonable summary of what the Inland Revenue actually did. As Richard Brooks details in exhaustive depth in Chapter Eight of The Great Tax Robbery the Inland Revenue has form in this area – in 2011 they negotiated what can only be called a sweetheart deal with the authorities in Switzerland which simply wrote off billions of pounds in evaded and avoided taxes. Only last week the heads of government at the G8 seemed to be waking up to the scale of tax avoidance which is astonishing given that just five years ago it was still a fringe concern of a few left-wing campaign groups and a handful campaigning writers. Read more of this post