Redland Meeting Library News

New books in the library: What we can do in times of challenge and change 

We have five new additions to our shelves to increase the literature on pressing current issues. Three (reviewed here) relate directly to climate and action for change. The other two, which will be reviewed in the next newsletter, are Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012) which takes a philosophical perspective, providing insights that can help us ‘face the mess we’re in’; and  On the Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer (2018) which reflects deeply on ageing and what it evokes and encourages.

Martin Doreyauthor of No More Plastic (2018), co-founded the Beach Clean Network in 2009 and started the hashtag #2minutebeachclean in 2013 after North Atlantic storms left UK beaches littered with plastic rubbish. Dorey wants us to feel empowered and positive, not browbeaten and helpless – hence his highly pragmatic ‘two minute solutions’ – two minutes of anyone’s time is ‘no bother’ and in that time you can cut out a plastic item or pick up some plastic in your local street or park. The point is, you’ll be acting, and small acts can amount to big ones if they accumulate. In this compact pocket-sized paperback he outlines problems with plastic and alternatives to it, lists the 15 top sources of plastic in our everyday lives, discusses recycling and provides a handy checklist.

Our Meeting is experiencing growing awareness of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement and non violent direct action with three key aims: government and media truth-telling about environmental emergency, reduction of carbon emissions to net zero by 2025, and Citizens’ Assemblies to contribute to participatory democracy. Affinity groups are forming which enable people to be part of this movement in different ways. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the issues demanding attention. Practical books like Dorey’s and inspirational and informative books ar  vital if individuals are to find motivation to get involved rather than ‘freeze’, which ultimately does not contribute to the ecosystem.

Bristol’s Green Roots by Emmelie Brownlee (2011) is not a new publication but provides useful documentation some of the pioneering examples of ‘sustainability’ in our city – environmental actions and organisations, while also shining a light on the city’s inconsistencies and shortcomings in this domain. By talking to people involved in initiatives of different kinds, from housing to transport to biodiversity, the author collects perspectives on what has been done and how social justice is fundamentally implicated in environmental matters. The historical context shows up some of the contradictions in Bristol’s reputation as a ‘green’ city, where there is huge energy for change while simultaneously many embedded practices that prove barriers to positive progress. The recent demise of Hamilton House as a community-run organisation with an altruistic ethos benefitting diverse groups, and its reinstatement as a privately-owned building ready to be converted into flats (which will add to housing stock, but at what price?), is a case in point – though too recent to be included in the book which was published in 2011 and confines itself to description rather than detailed commentary on the complex forces at play in our city’s green identity.

Bristol Inspiring Change by Alistair Sawday, Chair of Bristol Green Capital Partnership, was also published in 2011, prior to Bristol becoming European Green Capital in 2015.This large hardback with its busy array of font sizes and colour pictures, is now a historical snapshot but some of the projects have grown and developed and the book’s celebratory tone is worth accessing if you need to be reminded of the positives.

If you like reading or simply chatting informally with others at Meeting, look out for Around the Bookshelves sessions – an hour of relaxed conversation on Sundays after Meeting for Worship from 12.30 to 1.30pm by the library bookshelves in the entrance area. All are welcome. Listen out in Meeting for dates or keep an eye on the website. An opportunity to browse books and discuss themes with others.

If you have questions about the library please ask Fiona: hamiltonfi@yahoo.co.uk

Fiona Hamilton, Librarian