Variations on a Planet


126 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919001-77-7
DDC 179'.1






Reviewed by Simon Dalby

Simon Dalby is an assistant professor of geography at Carleton
University in Ottawa.


This short book is a collection of personal meditations on the
limitations of conventional understandings of knowledge, environment,
and the human condition by a Nova Scotia-based writer and part-time
sailor. These meditations are supplemented by line drawings by the
author that reveal his love of the sea and sailboats. Peter Brock
grounds his philosophical reflections in his practical personal
experiences; in many ways, this is an autobiographical account. Any
reader who has worked with animals will appreciate his humorously
insightful discussion of the division of labor between sheepdog and

Early on, we are introduced to Brock’s law (“The answer is never
where you find the question”), which provides a theme for most of the
book. The necessity of changing context and thinking about alternative
understandings of commonplace problems is a theme repeated throughout
these chapters. In a discussion of the immensely destructive nature of
logging in British Columbia, and the inability of many of the
participants to understand the larger significance of their activities,
Brock’s law suggests tellingly that “problems created by wealth and
power cannot be solved by wealth and power.”

Brock cites thinkers as diverse as Nietzche, Illich, Schumacher, and
Prigogine, but makes his points in language simple enough not to
intimidate the philosophically timid. At the same time, this is an
intensely personal book—one that links the author’s practical
experience with his philosophical reflections on the necessity of acting
and thinking in very new ways in order to deal with contemporary social
and environmental problems.


Brock, Peter., “Variations on a Planet,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 12, 2024,