On my bed side table there is always a pile of books, often half read as my ability to process them has waned considerably with the advent of children. Among them there are always some that have really made me think; made me cross, or motivated me to do something better than we are already doing it.

This week, I cleared off the table three books, two to put back on my own shelves, another destined for the local library. All are worth a look. I also borrowed a fourth, one which has me riveted and which focuses on a favourite topic of mine.

Judith Levine's Not Buying It is an entertaining and informative account of one couple's year without buying. Living in the nation regarded as the home of modern consumerism, Levine and her supportive partner go against the flow, resisting temptation for 12 months and in doing so they explore the ethics and contradictions involved in consumption. It was an enjoyable book, and throught provoking. Just how much "stuff" do we really need?

Susan George's Whose Crisis, Whose Future discusses the path towards a greener, fairer, richer world. She discusses the "multifaceted" crisis which impacts on us all, and talks about how we do have the skills, tools and knowledge to tackle the problems. All we seem to be lacking is motivation. She discusses "rethinking" reconomics so that more emphasis is placed on the importance of the planet, less on finance.

The third book is one that most Australians have heard of, even if they don't know it. The Garnault Review 2011 Australia in the Global Response to Climate Change, by Ross Garnaut. This book outlines the thinking that resulted in the introduction of the "carbon tax" in Australia. It is so beautifully written and argued and, given its content and subject matter, should probably be compulsory reading for anyone really interested in the climate change policy debate. Even if one does not agree with the Federal Government's policies in this area, reading this book will give an idea of why they were formulated.

All three books are truly fascinating, and frustrating in that while there are people out their providing us with information, and examples of how we could change practices and thinking to make the world a healthier and happier place for all of us, we are all so slow to follow through.

The third volume, which I am just chipping my way in to, is The World According to Monsanto - Pollution, Politics and Power. One chapter in to the book and I am already astounded by the account of the PCB contamination of Anniston, Alabama: how can a company which has behaved like it has as a global citizen be taken seriously when it assures us its products are safe? 

We had an incident on the farm where we live recently involving a horse and some chemicals: the horse reacted to a particular chemical in a dramatic and life threatening way. Fortunately her symptoms were noticed early and she was effectively treated. Agronomists consulted at the time said it was impossible for a horse to be affected by that chemical unless she had been eating it. Well, obviously she must have been eating it---spray drift from a paddock nearby must have reached her and she reacted accordingly. What I found frightening about the incident was the immediate denial and assurances that it was impossible. With companies like Monsanto telling us their product is safe (it was not a Monsanto product that made the horse sick!), how can we have such unquestioning faith?

Ross Garnault, author of The Garnault Review 2011