We still can save our future

The gold standard of climate change books.
Compulsory reading for anyone wanting to contribute to the debate about the future of our earth. Requires multiple sittings, as David Wallace-Wells’ analysis is far from optimistic (although he places some faith in technological solutions).

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Interview Rolling Stone

Interview The Guardian

The concept of rewilding is simple: bring back grassland mega-fauna (large herbivores as Konik horses, European Bison and Taurus) to make our ecosystem diverse again. Rich in plants and animals. Centuries of domestication and the spread of agriculture have done terrible harm to nature’s capacity to restore itself. It has downgraded earth.

It is also a great way to fight climate change. Soils store more carbon than all terrestrial plants, including rainforests. Rewilding (parts of) Antartica with herbivores could help keep the carbon stored in the soil, as the large animals snow trampling compacts the snow layer and leads to deeper winter soil freezing. Which sets in motion a series of events that favours deep-rooted grasses and herbs.

We tend to think that what we see and know, is what needs protection. But: forests are not the natural vegetation of our planet, vast grasslands are. The rewilding movement thus challenges the traditional conservation science, aiming at preserving – and expanding – what we have and what we see.
The great thing about rewilding science is that it is not about anti-globalism; it does not seek to restore what industrialization has destroyed or damaged. It wants to go hand-in-hand with technological progress. in the first place by organizing our available space more efficiently, thus freeing up space to rewild our nature: integrating nature and people, with a focus on innovation rather than on protection.

Akin to the big five of African wildlife, there is such a thing as ‘the big four’ in rewilding experiments: Oostvaardersplassen (‘OVP’, the Netherlands), Yellowstone (USA), the Pleistocene (Russia) and the Mauritian islands in the Indian Ocean. They have all their own characteristics (for starters their size: the Dutch ‘OVP’ project is dwarfed by the vast Russian Arctic territory), but together make up the avant-garde of the global rewilding movement. These areas work on reintroducing different ‘keystone spieces’ and have various rewilding approaches.

So, why haven’t we implemented this at scale yet? Money. And the concept is at odds with the current narrative, which means political backing. It can only work if society is aligned. And we all know, how hard that is.
Moreover, the current movement is mostly made up of activists and biologists, while the movement needs to become more financial savvy, i.e. leveraging carbon finance. If these projects can prove to reduce carbon emission (or capture carbon), then an income stream based on credits becomes viable.

According to the authors – Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe – rewilding is viable and is beginning to happen in Europe and America. They predict Europe will lead the way, because rural depopulation and the decline of traditional agriculture are creating large areas of land in need of a new future. When combined with economic reasons for nature-based solutions, a desire for commercial breeding and ranching could emerge.

This book’s a great introduction to this inspiring and exciting movement, that could make a real difference in the decades to come.

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Bijzondere koeientaal

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld schrijft prachtig, en even gemakkelijk over koeien als over de dood. Wat een metaforen, wat een zinnen. Het verhaal is beklemmend, in de oud-hollandsche traditie van ‘t Hart en Siebelink. Inderdaad, een daverend debuut.

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Beter leven

Het leven is gewoon leuker met Etgar Keret naast je bed.

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Hailed as one of the start-up bibles, this classic on how to build a business does indeed hold great lessons. Horowitz manages to avoid most of the worn-off cliches on the need for excellent leadership and relentless focus, and instead shows the more brutal side of building out an idea. This is due to his own experience as entrepreneur. He has lived the life himself: from failure to multi-million dollar success.
He talks about there being no rules, that having character really makes the difference, and that a leader has to lead even when he doesn’t know where’s going. The chapter on how to stay great is one of the best.
And next to being streetwise, Ben Horowitz is a funny guy. At least in his writing.

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Schrijven doe je zo

Jan Brokken schrijft prachtige boeken, zoals Baltische Zielen. Hij blijkt ook zeer bedreven in de het uitleggen van de kunst van het schrijven.
Na lezing, krijg je geheid zin om een start te maken met je literaire oeuvre. Dat succesvol romans en verhalen schrijven slechts weinig gegeven is weten we, maar met deze handleiding naast het toetsenbord is de kans groter dan nul.

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too much silence

Don de Lillo – according to many “one of the greatest” – has published a new book. To raving reviews. Not sure I understand all the praise. I like the way he leaves dialogues unfinished, he’s clearly comfortable with uncomfortable situations and has a great eye for detail. But that doesn’t make this a great novel. More a peek into the lives of ordinary people waiting for something to happen. This ‘something’ never gets scary though. Reality still is more chilling.

Leaders do matter

Not only has Tim Bouverie written a real page-turner, this beautiful book is also a great reminder of the importance of moral courage and thorough intellectual analysis.
Many other narratives of the European pre-war years portray Chamberlain as a fool, as Hitler’s puppet. Bouverie is more nuanced: the prime minister was a good man with the best intentions. Chamberlain’s judgment is first and foremost heavily influenced by his desire to avoid war. We now know that his appeasement policy, the fatal delusion that Nazi Germany could be contained by buying it off with concessions, was the most momentous British mistake of the 20th century.

In Chamberlain’s defense, there were some mitigating circumstances; e.g. Britain wasn’t capable of fighting a war (until ’38/’39 the RAF had only a couple of fighters) and Europe had just come out of one. But Hitler’s behavior was quite alarming, to say the least. Nevertheless, Chamberlain stood his ground. Wishful thinking was his compass. Kristallnacht, the “Rape of Austria” and the occupancy of Czechoslovakia didn’t convince him otherwise.
Leaders do make a difference. And Chamberlain was the wrong man, at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

What an incredible book. Hands-down the best history book I’ve read in a while.

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Mental fitness

Tougher, calmer and more resilient: clearly the way forward for me. William Irvine is an engaging writer on stoicism. Little by little I’m uncovering my inner stoic. Can’t think of a better way to become a ‘good’ person. This book is great.

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Rutte: de Polder-Biden

Ik las de Rutte-biografie van Petra de Koning tegelijkertijd met die van Joe Biden. De overeenkomsten tussen de toekomstige Amerikaanse president en Mark Rutte zijn opvallend. Beiden zeggen niet veel met visie te hebben, beiden voelen goed het maatschappelijke sentiment aan (en handelen ernaar, gelijk een windvaan) en beiden ambieerden vanaf hun jonge jaren het hoogste politieke ambt. Familie is belangrijk. En eenmaal aan de top, zijn ze succesvol.
Het zijn mannen van deze tijd.

Helaas voor de lezer betekent dit ook dat de verhaallijnen in zekere zin lineair zijn, zeker die van onze premier. Waar Biden zo nu en dan in emotionele rollercoasters terecht komt, is het leven van Rutte overzichtelijk en vol met vaste rituelen. Het meest opmerkelijke is dat de premier die zo’n grote controlebehoefte zou hebben, tegelijkertijd de meest flexibele politicus in jaren is.
We moeten dan ook niet vreemd opkijken als Ruttes politieke leven net zo lang zal blijken te zijn als dat van Joe Biden.

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Joe Biden, the right man after all?

Evan Osnos’ timing is perfect. His biography of Joe Biden was published when his protagonist was declared President-elect.
Most of us know, by now, his all American story. Joe Biden’s life is one of great highs and incredible lows: from contemplating suicide after losing his wife and daughter at early age to traveling the world as a powerful man. A seasoned political warrior. A man with little vision, but with incredible stamina. A weather vane, with a great sense for where society is headed to.

Now that he’s finally achieved his White House dream, he will be facing a whole new set of battles. Dealing with the alternative fantasy world of Donald Trump and his acolytes, while fighting the left wing (“Biden is just a tool to kick Donald Trump out of the White House”) of his own party. A tall order. Near impossible.

The again: experience, a feel for compromise and grit may just be what’s needed. Maybe he’s the right man at the right time after all.

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Een geanimeerd gesprek met Vincent Everts over mijn tijd als algemeen manager van De Publieke Zaak (2008-2013). We praten over @TheFactClub 21minuten.nl, en maatschappelijke innovatie. Leuk!

John Fante – Ask The Dust ****

Sometimes, you just need to follow the advice of experts. Ask the Dust figures on many list of “most underrated books ever”. It is used in writing classes to teach the importance of having your own style and rhythm. It was the book that made Charles Bukowski finally understand what literature was meant to be. He later stated that Fante was ‘his God’.

It is indeed a powerful read, that deserves more fans. I especially loved Fante’s ability to make me part of the misery and despair of the two protagonists, who, in their struggle to keep up their hopes for a better future, destroy every chance to ever attain it.

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How I Learned to Understand the World: A Memoir: Rosling, Hans:  9781250266897: Amazon.com: Books

Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness did a fantastic job demonstrating how little we know about the world and how ignorant our models and assumptions are. His biography, published posthumously, takes us on a tour around the world, following Rosling’s career as doctor and researcher.
It is a great story of a man guided by curiosity and the will to change the world for the better. A truly unique man.

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As long time CEO of Walt Disney, Bob Iger has some lessons and insights to share with us. It’s wonderful to get a peek into the famous entertainment company, but as a creative leadership guide book it is somewhat disappointing. Iger is a business man, proud of his deals and his great success, which he doesn’t mind stressing. Unfortunately, this clouds the more humble leaderships, more interesting, lessons, that, doubtlessly, could’ve been told as well. Bill Gates, Brené Brown and Steven Spielberg seem to think otherwise – maybe it takes an American to fully appreciate Iger’s approach.

Creativity Inc describes a similar world (Pixar), but does a far better job in explaining how creativity works and what’s needed to stay atop of the entertainment heap.

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Pieter Waterdrinker – Poubelle ****

Poubelle

Pieter Waterdrinker heeft zo langzamerhand een stevig oeuvre bij elkaar geschreven, dat steeds beter zijn weg naar het grote publiek weet te vinden – mede door de mooie recensies. Op mijn vraag met welk boek ik zou moeten beginnen, antwoordde Waterdrinker (via twitter) dat Poubelle een goede introductie zou zijn.

Hij had gelijk. Het boek stelde niet teleur: grote thema’s, veel dramatiek, helden en anti-helden, politiek, seks, actualiteit. Het zit er allemaal in, met een scherpe kritiek op de moderne maatschappij.
Dat de auteur in zijn lyriek af en toe uit de bocht schiet, zien we graag door de vingers. Hij doet het immers met veel zwier.

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