An encyclopedic but somewhat uneven guide to Kilimanjaro’s ecology.

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DEVASTATIONS IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

A meticulous study of the social and environmental challenges facing Tanzania.

Economist and policy-development analyst Temba (Three Hundred Years on Kilimanjaro Mountain Area: Vol. 2, 2017, etc.) is now retired from Tanzania’s Civil Service. However, his familiarity with the Kilimanjaro region’s resources and climate has led to this admirably thorough report on changes in the region, particularly since the end of colonialism. For instance, water shortages and problems with pesticides and pollution are on the rise; deforestation has led to desertification, and the Kilimanjaro snowcap has reduced in size by 82 percent between 1930 and 2000, the author notes. These environmental issues, along with government corruption, have perpetuated poverty, he says; meanwhile, poor sanitary conditions have exacerbated health risks. Increasing tourism revenue has been helpful for the country, Temba concedes, but also contributes to various types of pollution—from plastic to noise. German colonists’ feeling of having found an idyll in Tanzania (then called Tanganyika), accounts for the book’s title, and Temba draws a timeless, metaphorical message from the Book of Genesis: Ignoring rules can lead to environmental degradation. Temba sets up a parallel between Adam and Eve eating the fruit of “the tree of life” and people exploiting resources and polluting the environment today. The author even discusses sources of “personal pollution,” such as bad breath. The book’s theological overlay feels unnecessary and sometimes distracting, particularly in lines such as “Thanks to God, Tanzania has discovered huge natural gas deposits.” Moreover, it feels overlong and repetitive, especially regarding population and pollution. Chapters on global concerns, meanwhile, fall well outside the book’s scope. The work would have also benefited from a stronger copy edit; missing punctuation and odd phrases (“However low-profile caused a lot of fear”) are persistent issues. Although it is important to draw attention to local ramifications of an environmental crisis, this overly detailed study may only be of use to experts on the region.

An encyclopedic but somewhat uneven guide to Kilimanjaro’s ecology.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-72838-036-0

Page Count: 514

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

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EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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