A captivating argument that will intrigue general readers and give policymakers and investors much to ponder.




Despommier (Microbiology and Environmental Sciences/Columbia Univ.) details his optimistic vision of a sustainable future based on urban agriculture.

In the past decade, the author and his graduate students have developed the idea of vertical farming, which would move American agriculture from rural areas into high-tech greenhouses stacked up in specially constructed city buildings. This debut is the author’s first full discussion of the concept, which has been widely covered in major media but never implemented. Recounting the evolution of agriculture, Despommier argues that traditional farming has ruined our ecosystems and cannot possibly meet the needs of a global population expected to grow to nine billion by 2050. Horizontal farming requires 70 percent of available freshwater, uses 20 percent of fossil fuels yearly and produces runoff that is a major source of water pollution. By contrast, vertical farms would rely on soil-free technologies: hydroponics, which permits growing plants in a water-and-nutrient solution; and aeroponics, which grows plants in a nutrient-laden mist. Housed in transparent buildings to capture sunlight, the urban farms would operate year-round, immune to the weather, and produce dozens of varieties of pesticide-free fruits and vegetables. Lower floors would house chickens and fish subsisting on plant waste. Providing food for “60 percent of the population that will live in cities twenty years from now,” the high-rise farms would recycle their own water, use the host city’s remediated household wastewater to grow crops, reduce carbon emissions and permit reforestation of farmlands to restore ecosystems and sequester carbon. They would also create new jobs, for workers to build and maintain the vertical farms, and for displaced traditional farmers, who would be paid to return their lands to hardwood forests. How this will sit with agribusiness and other powerful vested interests remains to be seen, but Despommier writes that his quixotic-seeming idea is feasible and has already won enthusiastic attention from scientists and others. The only thing lacking, he writes, is the political will and the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build a prototype.

A captivating argument that will intrigue general readers and give policymakers and investors much to ponder.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-61139-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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