For Adults

Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla by Anil Padmanabhan

What an inspiring story of the human spirit overcoming all seemingly impassable obstructions to reach their goal! And what a tragic, heartbreaking ending to such a remarkable life!

I was in India for four years, during the war, and was "adopted" by a wonderful Bengali family. In this position I was able to observe the Indian way of life, their culture, habits and behaviour. Even then, the young women I got to know had already emerged from the days of meek subservience to their menfolk, although there were plenty, outside their family circle, who hadn't.

So it was perhaps less of a shock to learn of the life, character, habits and career of the subject of this book. She seemed to embody the spirit of independence and (and even "feminism") which I had already encountered among the young women I knew then.

Even so, no-one ever dreamed, at that time, that a rather small, thin little girl of middle class parents in a small town hardly known to the outside world, would defy all the usual conventions and difficulties, to pursue a university career in a far away country and eventually reach the height of her most unusual ambition, via post-graduate study of aeronautics, and become – yes, an astronaut!

After outstanding educational success in her own country, she successfully overcame all the family objections and travelled to America, where her quite unique persistence achieved the desired result.

What sort of person was she? By all accounts, she was modest, even rather shy. To look at her, no-one would have suspected that she had that fierce spirit of persistence to defy the usual expectations, press on with dogged determination and achieve her seemingly impossible goal.

In addition, she showed compassion and fellow feeling and did much for those less fortunate than herself all over the world.

It all ended in a horrific explosion when the spacecraft of her last flight attempted to land. Those who had been following her remarkable career were overwhelmed at the news. Her life remains an inspirational memorial to courage, adventurousness and determination. An inspiring book.

Just one Planet

just one planet

Just one Planet by D. Mark Smith.

The world faces many problems. The present global financial crisis is one, though equally important are the tragic issues of poverty and the ecological disaster facing us all. This study attempts the daunting task of outlining and analysing the close connections between these and of suggesting remedies. As in similar studies, the message is blindingly clear: we haven't much time, immediate actions are necessary and it won't be easy.

How can you demand a reduction in consumption and a simplification of our lives and yet, at the same time, try to assist the semi-starving majority of mankind to achieve the same living standards as our own?

The book takes us through the intricacies of the causes of poverty and climate change and suggests detailed solutions. It maintains that those most responsible for pollution (and, I would add, mass poverty) have an obligation to share and use their superior resources and knowledge for the benefit of all. We must take immediate steps to reduce our carbon emissions both individually and collectively.

"The stakes are high because without globally effective actions we will fail ... to protect the most disadvantaged sections of humanity ... we have only one planet."

The Climate Files

The Climate Files

The Climate Files by Fred Pearce

But this belief and Is the climate warming? Is this caused by human activity? Is our planet in danger of destruction unless we do something drastic to prevent it? even hesitant steps to take action have alarmed those who make huge profits out of that lifestyle, especially the oil companies. These and their faithful supporters in sections of the Press have mounted a huge campaign to sow doubts about climate change in people's minds.

Imagine their delight when, as a result of hacking, an unexpected weapon was placed in their hands. It seems that some scientists at the forefront of the climate debate have been emailing each other with the intention of concealing certain facts which expose either downright falsification or at least suppression of evidence that they have deliberately hidden from the public, which might shed doubt on some of their conclusions..

This book by a noted scientific journalist from The Guardian thoroughly examines all the evidence on both sides and is well worth reading by those (and it should be all of us) interested in the fate of our planet.




Solar by Ian McEwan.

Now take that man on a more personal level. His marital and social life is in chaos. He has married five times and deceived all his wives . He is lascivious and greedy, hence his increasing bulk and sagging flesh. However, despite his unprepossessing appearance, he is still a serial seducer. To add to all this, his present wife is having an affair in revenge for his philandering.

His professional standing is revived when he gets drawn into the drive to protect the environment. He is about to introduce a non-polluting energy-producing machine to the world public. The event is to happen in New Mexico to an accompaniment of the beating of drums and a mass audience. How this is disrupted I leave readers to find out for themselves.

The red thread throughout the story is how his personal and public lives begin to merge. You may wish to skip the lengthy scientific explanations and simply read the plot as it unfolds, in its myriad but intriguing directions. Whichever way you slice it, you'll find the story fascinating.

Len Goodman

On guerrilla gardening

On guerrilla gardening

On guerrilla gardening by Richard Reynolds.

Some people who felt that more than most have done just that.

The guerrilla movement has become a worldwide movement. It takes its name from the real guerrillas who fought to defend their country against invaders. They have even adopted the same rules and strategies. And they see each other as comrades in the struggle against official neglect and degradation of the environment. They are proud of themselves as public benefactors and cherish their freedom of action and a distinctive romantic spirit feeling about the whole thing. The Robin Hood syndrome?

Guerrilla gardeners claim to be serving the public and I would not seek to deny them credit for that. The guerrilla movement is certainly exciting and publicly beneficial and, who knows, could make a difference to public and official attitudes. It may even stir the authorities to encourage and provide the resources for volunteers to carry on the good work

The detailed description of the movement, how it began and the multiplicity of venues in which it is operating is well worth a read.

Len Goldman

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