An optimistic book filled with genuine heroes, but it also reminds us that saving the planet is a war in which the bad guys...

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ECO BARONS

THE DREAMERS, SCHEMERS, AND MILLIONAIRES WHO ARE SAVING OUR PLANET

Enthusiastic account of a dozen Americans currently making spectacular contributions to the preservation of the environment.

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, 2007, etc.) delivers the usual litany of ecological outrages but concentrates on hopeful accomplishments. After cashing out of Esprit, the hugely successful fashion company he founded with former wife Susie, Doug Tompkins has devoted his millions to purchasing immense areas in Chile and Argentina to preserve as permanent wilderness. Far less wealthy, Peter Galvin and Kieran Suckling established the Center for Biological Diversity, a scrappy group that specializes in suing the U.S. government. For decades, officials ignored existing laws, enabling logging and development to proceed undisturbed. Through aggressive lawsuits and petitions, the Center forced the government to enforce the law and protect forests and endangered species; it even persuaded the Bush administration to admit that global warming exists. Thirty years of battles have taught activists the necessity of finding middle ground. The last great wild forest east of the Rockies, in Maine, and Tejon Ranch, an ecological preserve just north of Los Angeles that is home of the endangered California condor, will be developed, but developers have agreed to donate much of their lands to preservationists so that they can exploit the rest free of lawsuits. This, admits the author, may be the best we can hope for. Further eco-friendly accomplishments, such as the plug-in hybrid car, seem just around the corner. Others, like saving the polar bear or sea turtle from extinction, are not assured. Many will involve painful compromises.

An optimistic book filled with genuine heroes, but it also reminds us that saving the planet is a war in which the bad guys show no signs of giving up.

Pub Date: March 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-135029-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2009

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A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

REIMAGINING CAPITALISM IN A WORLD ON FIRE

A well-constructed critique of an economic system that, by the author’s account, is a driver of the world’s destruction.

Harvard Business School professor Henderson vigorously questions the bromide that “management’s only duty is to maximize shareholder value,” a notion advanced by Milton Friedman and accepted uncritically in business schools ever since. By that logic, writes the author, there is no reason why corporations should not fish out the oceans, raise drug prices, militate against public education (since it costs tax money), and otherwise behave ruinously and anti-socially. Many do, even though an alternative theory of business organization argues that corporations and society should enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit, which includes corporate investment in what economists call public goods. Given that the history of humankind is “the story of our increasing ability to cooperate at larger and larger scales,” one would hope that in the face of environmental degradation and other threats, we might adopt the symbiotic model rather than the winner-take-all one. Problems abound, of course, including that of the “free rider,” the corporation that takes the benefits from collaborative agreements but does none of the work. Henderson examines case studies such as a large food company that emphasized environmentally responsible production and in turn built “purpose-led, sustainable living brands” and otherwise led the way in increasing shareholder value by reducing risk while building demand. The author argues that the “short-termism” that dominates corporate thinking needs to be adjusted to a longer view even though the larger problem might be better characterized as “failure of information.” Henderson closes with a set of prescriptions for bringing a more equitable economics to the personal level, one that, among other things, asks us to step outside routine—eat less meat, drive less—and become active in forcing corporations (and politicians) to be better citizens.

A readable, persuasive argument that our ways of doing business will have to change if we are to prosper—or even survive.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5417-3015-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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