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Oct. 24th, 2005 @ 01:55 pm Jane Jacobs, National Treasure
I just picked up a copy of Jane Jacobs's "Dark Age Ahead", a riveting critique of trends in today's society, and how she believes they are leading to a new Dark Ages.  Here's the blurb:

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Visionary thinker Jane Jacobs uses her authoritative work on urban life and economies to show us how we can protect and strengthen our culture and communities.

In Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs identifies five pillars of our culture that we depend on but which are in serious decline: community and family; higher education; the effective practice of science; taxation and government; and self-policing by learned professions. The decay of these pillars, Jacobs contends, is behind such ills as environmental crisis, racism and the growing gulf between rich and poor; their continued degradation could lead us into a new Dark Age, a period of cultural collapse in which all that keeps a society alive and vibrant is forgotten.

But this is a hopeful book as well as a warning. Jacobs draws on her vast frame of reference -- from fifteenth-century Chinese shipbuilding to zoning regulations in Brampton, Ontario -- and in highly readable, invigorating prose offers proposals that could arrest the cycles of decay and turn them into beneficent ones. Wise, worldly, full of real-life examples and accessible concepts, this book is an essential read for perilous times.
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I only just started, but I'm already hooked.  She makes great points, like the fact that basic agricultural knowledge was lost after the fall of the Roman Empire, leading to constant famine during the European Dark Ages.  Even though crop rotation was well known during Roman times, somehow, hundreds of years later, this technology was lost.  It was like a massive cultural downgrade.  Apparently she believes that something like this is what may be in store for us.  Yikes...

What the coolest thing is about Jacobs, by the way, is that she's 89 years old, and still going strong.  Not only is she still writing, but she's still as timely and sharp as ever.  We should all hope to be as on top of things at that age as she is.

--YY
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