|"Ive come up with various shorter and shorter summaries," says Thomas Homer-Dixon, "right down to the elevator pitch: the one you can use between the 1st and 6th floor of a building." Hes referring to his fresh-off-the-presses book, The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization. Its a big-picture book, tackling economic, political and ecological crises in increasingly complex societies what problems we can expect to arise, what we can do about them, and how we might even benefit! Its a lot to swallow, hence the pitch at his website, www.theupsideofdown.com.
Really, hed be thrilled if you visited his website. "I see this website as a critical complement to the book," he says. "The thing about a book is that its nowhere near as ephemeral as other media." On the web, you can check out a lot of the resources Homer-Dixon used for the book, including, for the mathematically-inclined, calculations of how much energy it took to build the Roman Coliseum.
Homer-Dixon has a presentation that stays standard throughout his book tour, but he likes to mix things up a bit depending on the city hes visiting. "When I was in San Francisco, I talked about the earthquake," he says. "In Calgary, of course Ill talk about the tar sands. We take just about the highest quality energy weve got, natural gas, and use it to produce oil out of bitumen, which is very low-quality energy. Its actually, thermodynamically, a really silly thing to do we should use natural gas for something other than turning tar sands and crud into oil."
Global change is always a weighty issue, but Homer-Dixon offers some hope. "I think change has to be both top-down and bottom-up," he says. "Given that weve reached an impasse on some really significant problems, such as climate change, on an elite level, I argue for a social movement approach, trying to mobilize people in large numbers across the Internet. Theres a huge amount we can do as individuals, making our lives, communities, companies and households more resilient. Start thinking about breakdown now, rather than waiting for it to happen."
Putting his money where his mouth is, Homer-Dixon has embarked on what is quite possibly the first book tour that seeks to reduce its carbon footprint. Hes teamed up with Zerofootprint, Bullfrog Power and the International Institute for Sustainable Development to calculate the carbon hell be burning on his tour air and ground travel, venue electricity, etc. and inject the equivalent of green energy back into the grid. "Were not doing the book itself, production and trees and stuff like that," he says, "but that would be the obvious next step." More information about his green tour, and how you can reduce your own carbon footprint, is available on his website. Homer-Dixon will share his ideas at McNally Robinson on Monday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m.
bill bissett mania strikes this week! bissett is one of Canadas most renowned poets, painters and performers, and the man himself touches down in Calgary November 13 to 19 for th spektacular tribute 2 th brilliant bill bissett dansing in a hurricane uv stars (November 18 to 19), but hell be keeping busy in the meantime. Starting on Monday, November 13, bissett will roam the city (with a camera crew) searching for his poetry, meeting people along the way and keeping a blog at www.calgaryspokenwordfestival.com. If you cant wait for the tribute extravaganza next weekend, you can catch bissett performing on Wednesday, November 15 in the East Arts Building (Room 3001) at Mount Royal College.
filling Station magazines monthly flywheel reading series rolls around once more. This month, we put the "filling Station presents" back into flywheel with the people behind the curtain: editors and collective members that put the magazine together. Emily Carr, Chris Ewart, ryan fitzpatrick and Natalie Zina Walschots swarm McNally Robinson with fiction and poetry on Thursday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m., hosted by yours truly.
Its the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Uprising, and Calgary Herald journalist Joanne Sasvari rings in the occasion with Paprika: A Spicy Memoir from Hungary. Its a celebration of Hungarian food, culture and history at Pages Books on Thursday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
WordFest may be over for the year, but it keeps on churning out more events. Margaret MacMillan hits town with her new book, Nixon in China. In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American president to visit China, shocking the world and plunging himself into a politically-charged drama. He will discuss his book at the John Dutton Theatre in the W.R. Castell Central Library on Friday, November 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Thought Express is a quirky, artistic collage that may have flown under your radar until now, but youve still got time to catch the fourth event. On top of poetry readings by Wakefield Brewster, Bugs, Möe Clark, Jordan Dack, James Dangerous, Colin Martin and Sabo, there will be a photography exhibit with the work of Vincent Joachim and the possibility of belly dancing and tarot card readings. The action hits on Monday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m., at Victorias Restaurant (306-17th Ave SW).