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A solid demonstration of why those who have a taste for lobster rolls better eat up while they can.

An environmental journalist turns in a somber story of vanishing fisheries and ways of life Down East.

Jumping aboard lobster boats and heading to sea, White (The Melting World: A Journey Across America’s Vanishing Glaciers, 2013, etc.) returns with an affecting report on the way humans have mismanaged marine resources. Economics is all about scarcity—and the scarcer the good in question, the more expensive it is likely to be. But in the case of the lobster, he writes, what looks to be a species in grave danger of disappearing has been overly abundant on the market, so much so that lobstermen had trouble selling their catches—which, in 2014, were six times the size of a normal year’s yield. Well, that’s the tragedy of the commons for you, or, as he puts it, “tragedy of the capitalists,” and, to trust White, it won’t continue for much longer. The supply will eventually dry up. The author examines the parallel story of the Atlantic bluefin tuna, an apex predator on the path to extinction thanks to overfishing. Some temporarily lucky lobstermen are able to extract huge numbers of shellfish from a sea fast warming and acidifying, while others, he writes, “are switching professions or moonlighting as truck drivers, telephone repairmen, and tollbooth attendants.” If there are a few stock characters in the narrative (“We’ll try to catch some lobstah—that’s my idear anyways,” says one veteran captain), there is also an obvious moral lesson: We have only so much influence over climate change at this late hour, but we must adjust our demands if food fisheries are to outlast the first half of the century. There are no shortcuts, for aquaculture doesn’t work for lobsters, and other species are dwindling alongside the crustaceans. “Does anyone ever learn from their neighbor or from the past?” White wonders. His answer is self-evident.

A solid demonstration of why those who have a taste for lobster rolls better eat up while they can.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08085-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!

It should come as no surprise that the gifted author of The Sea Around Usand its successors can take another branch of science—that phase of biology indicated by the term ecology—and bring it so sharply into focus that any intelligent layman can understand what she is talking about.

Understand, yes, and shudder, for she has drawn a living portrait of what is happening to this balance nature has decreed in the science of life—and what man is doing (and has done) to destroy it and create a science of death. Death to our birds, to fish, to wild creatures of the woods—and, to a degree as yet undetermined, to man himself. World War II hastened the program by releasing lethal chemicals for destruction of insects that threatened man’s health and comfort, vegetation that needed quick disposal. The war against insects had been under way before, but the methods were relatively harmless to other than the insects under attack; the products non-chemical, sometimes even introduction of other insects, enemies of the ones under attack. But with chemicals—increasingly stronger, more potent, more varied, more dangerous—new chain reactions have set in. And ironically, the insects are winning the war, setting up immunities, and re-emerging, their natural enemies destroyed. The peril does not stop here. Waters, even to the underground water tables, are contaminated; soils are poisoned. The birds consume the poisons in their insect and earthworm diet; the cattle, in their fodder; the fish, in the waters and the food those waters provide. And humans? They drink the milk, eat the vegetables, the fish, the poultry. There is enough evidence to point to the far-reaching effects; but this is only the beginning,—in cancer, in liver disorders, in radiation perils…This is the horrifying story. It needed to be told—and by a scientist with a rare gift of communication and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Already the articles taken from the book for publication in The New Yorkerare being widely discussed. Book-of-the-Month distribution in October will spread the message yet more widely.

The book is not entirely negative; final chapters indicate roads of reversal, before it is too late!  

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 1962

ISBN: 061825305X

Page Count: 378

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1962

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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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