An intelligent, elegant call to action in the defense of fresh water.

Porter (History/St. Edward’s Univ.) addresses the legal, social, economic and environmental consequences of our present water rights system, a serious disaster in the making.

Although the author focuses his investigation on the fresh water situation in Texas, his arguments are widely applicable. Simply put, there is a finite amount of fresh water on the planet, timelessly moving through the hydrologic cycle, which is too often being hogged by irrigators or befouled by one form of human use or another. Porter approaches the water issue from two angles: how to secure a sustainable water-use system and how water is going to impinge on the value of real estate. Each state has laws regarding who owns water: surface water, as in water moving through a course; diffused surface water, as in water that runs off a roof and over the ground in an undefined pattern; and aquifers and underground pools. But water is fugitive, always in motion and vexatious to lawmakers since it rarely stays still long enough to tag it with ownership rights. Porter ably describes the looming crisis. Without specific regional water plans—determining demand, supply, social and economic impacts, strategies and options to meet growing needs, and all the infrastructural requirements to maximize water use—shortages are a given. How are we going to balance common good with private right? Anyone upstream is at an advantage; anyone with a large-capacity pump can command a greater share of the aquifer. Without use laws in place, things will get nasty quickly. Porter has an easy, professorial voice, eschewing hysterics but providing a cautionary note that carries a weight of understanding and experience. He also gives advice about simple lifestyle changes to conserve water: from showering and brushing your teeth to dripping faucets and low-flow toilets, dishwashers and dishwashing detergent.

An intelligent, elegant call to action in the defense of fresh water.

Pub Date: May 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62349-137-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Texas A&M Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014



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

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. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011


Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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