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Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power [Paperback]

Alastair McIntosh
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2004

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the torrent of information about environmental catastrophes taking place all over the world.
In this powerful and provocative book, Scottish writer and campaigner Alastair McIntosh shows how it is still possible for individuals and communities to take on the might of corporate power and emerge victorious.

As a founder of the Isle of Eigg Trust, McIntosh helped the beleaguered residents of Eigg to become the first Scottish community ever to clear their laird from his own estate. And plans to turn a majestic Hebridean mountain into a superquarry were overturned after McIntosh persuaded a Native American warrior chief to visit the Isle of Harris and testify at the government inquiry.

This extraordinary book weaves together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new philosophy of community, spirit and place. His daring and imaginative responses to the destruction of the natural world make Soil and Soul an uplifting, inspirational and often richly humorous read.

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Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power + Rekindling Community: Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality (Schumacher Briefing) + Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; New Ed edition (1 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1854109421
  • ISBN-13: 978-1854109422
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alastair McIntosh (b. 1955) is a Scottish writer, broadcaster and activist on social, environmental and spiritual issues, raised on the Isle of Lewis. A Fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, a former Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde, and an Honorary Fellow in the School of Divinity (New College) at Edinburgh University, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the College of Social Sciences at Glasgow University, he holds a BSc from the University of Aberdeen, an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in liberation theology and land reform from the University of Ulster.

His books include Hell & High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition on the cultural and spiritual dimensions of climate change, Rekindling Community on the spiritual basis of inter-relationship, and Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power on land reform and environmental protection - the latter described as "world changing" by George Monbiot, "life changing" by the Bishop of Liverpool and "truly mental" by Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

For the past 9 years he and his wife, Vérène Nicolas, have lived in Govan where he is a founding director of the GalGael Trust for the regeneration of people and place. A Quaker, he lectures around the world at institutions including WWF International, the World Council of Churches, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the UK Defence Academy (on nonviolence). His driving passion is to explore the deep roots of what it can mean to become fully human, and use such insights to address the pressing problems of our times.

Product Description


‘Make no claim to know the world if you have not read this book’

(George Monbiot)

‘No Logo in a Fair Isle jumper’

(Sunday Herald)

About the Author

Alastair McIntosh is a Scottish writer and campaigner. A fellow of the Centre for Human Ecology, he lectures all over the world on subjects including new economics, community and non-violent defence strategies. He is author of Soil and Soul, published by Aurum.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is enough here for everyone 1 Aug 2003
By Brim
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
`Soil and Soul` is a story of one thing and many things; the Earth and its people. Alastair McIntosh provides us with an object lesson and demonstration inhow the welfare of the later is indivisibe from that of the former. He demonstrates this interconectivity by telling the story of how crofters, on the Hebridean island of Eigg, reclaimed their custodianship of the land from the Laird and thus ended nearly 1000 years of injustice and feudal land tenure. He also tells the story, as yet unresolved, of the worlds largest aggregates consortiums attempts to gain licence to hollow out a superquarry on the Isle of Harris which would result, as one local put it, turn Harris into `..the gravel pit of Europe`.

`Soil and soul` is, though, more than the lineal accounting of eco campaigning and legal battles from an author who was intimately involved with both issues. Much of the book is given over to matters of history, theology, feminism and ecology. McIntosh begins with the tale of how Kings and corporations, power and wealth, have, over the centuries, in the Scottish Highlands obscenely stolen, terrorised and bullied it indigenous people. Inherent in this process, he posits,was the wilful destruction of native spirituality and self sufficiency all in the pursuit of power and worship of Mamon. In one sense then it is the history, writ small, of much of the history of the world.

If you blanch at the invocation of Mamon then perhaps this book isn`t for you. McIntosh doesn`t pull his theological punches. His spiritual outlook is deeply rooted in pagan christianity and its deep reverence of the `Mother Earth` and an imminent god. Passages from the Bible are often quoted. Do not, though, be put off by his pertinant meanderings into eco-feminism or liberation theology.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most important book I have ever read 6 Jan 2002
By F. Meek
This book is essential reading for all those who care about the way our society is developing. Alastair McIntosh shows by examples such as the Harris superquarry that the giant corporates can be taken on and defeated. He does this in such a way as to (re)awaken a genuine sense of reverence for the Earth in general and my own country Scotland in particular. I have read it once since I received it at Christmas and I will be reading it again very soon!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Alastair McIntosh's Soil and Soul leads me on from my first reading of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The same thirst for justice, the same identification of the eloquent bard with the voiceless ones rekindles poetry and revolution in the readers heart and thunders forth "alarm! alarm!" as deep as any Biblical prophesy.
McIntosh is able to leave one foot firmly planted in the old ways of a native Celtic people and the other slap bang in the middle of scholarly argumentation thereby bridging the great divide between poetry and science. He helps us to come to terms with our broken hearts and understand the dysfunctional power behind the carnage.
Soil and Soul is a major work which stretches us from the psychohistory of colonisation as seen through the lens of Hebridean culture to inspiring, empowering and entertaining case histories of community empowerment and cultural healing in which the author has played a pioneering part: read it!

- John Seed (author of Thinking Like a Mountain).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Alastair McIntosh's book begins with a rich and detailed depiction of his childhood on the Isle of Lewis, with stories of hunting and fishing, local lairds and bards, Celtic legends and histories of both triumph and atrocity. Foremost among these are the clearances, which saw the Scottish highlands cleared of farmers and crofters and given over to a landowning nobility. Countless thousands moved to the cities or took passage to America, and hundreds of years later Scotland's feudal system remained. 80% of the land was owned by just 900 families.

A second strand running through this opening section is the creeping force of globalisation and its impact on Hebridean culture. The Islands had a `vernacular economy' based on reciprocity and sufficiency, and this was gradually replaced work and money. "We were classed as poor because nothing went through the cash economy" writes McIntosh, raising the question of what we value, what wealth really is. Instead of sharing and cooperation came wages and consumption, and with them a gradual erosion of identity, community, and responsibility. `Progress' came to the islands, but much was lost in the process.

Part two of the book explores responses to these powers through two case studies. The first is the Isle of Eigg Trust, a group who contested and finally bought back their island homeland from the international playboy lord, kicking off land reform in Scotland in the process. The second is the story of how Redland Aggregates was thwarted in its attempt to create the world's largest quarry out of the Isle of Harris' Mount Roineabhal. The public enquiry for the superquarry was the first to include theological arguments, and included the testimony of a native American chief on the sacredness of place and the duty of care for God's earth.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By anon
A wonderful book by a great writer, spiritual teacher, community worker, and human being. In it he brings together a deep and lived experience of healthy communities rooted in place and mutual support, a profound and engaged understanding of power and politics and how the misuse of power has shaped our landscapes and lives, and his sense of the human spirit and its determination to keep returning to connection, to love, and to life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Seek it out
I don't usually leave reviews, but the more people who read this the better. Inspirational, and very relevant in our current political climate.
Published 21 days ago by Nicola Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absolute Favourite
This was my first introduction to Alastair McIntosh's insightful and fascinating writing. He has since become a favourite author and has influenced both my understanding of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David L. Grant
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
I'm only half way through the book, reading it leisurely on holiday. It was recommended to me but I could not resist reviewing it now - half way through - as it is truly one of the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marcus Markou
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life
I recommend this to anyone a bit lost in the jungle of consumerism. It's very spiritual without being preachy or religious. It offers hope to anyone trying to find a way to matter.
Published 14 months ago by Clare Misselbrook
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever
This is simply the best book ever. I have bought 2 copies (the other from Oxfam!) and handed back the original my son leant me. Read more
Published on 14 April 2012 by Justsalli
5.0 out of 5 stars Scottish independence
I have had this book in the house since it first came out but have only just recently got around to reading it. Read more
Published on 3 April 2012 by Harry J. Key
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and soulful
Inspiring, soulful and interesting tale of Scotland and eco-psychology.

Ranges from stories of the Islands to stories of North American Indians. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2011 by Pete Burden
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep, thought provoking and just an excellent read
I usually put books down at the first mention of the bible/koran etc but I persevered with this one because his faith obviously isn't blind and is deeply affected by an academic... Read more
Published on 7 Aug 2011 by Magnus Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Life-Affirming Book
If anyone asks you what lies at the soul of the modern Green movement then you could not do better than advise them to read this masterpiece. Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Corker
I rarely make time to write reviews, but I found this book so eye-opening that I feel compelled to trumpet it. Read more
Published on 8 April 2011 by bumblebea
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