THE UNCOMMON KNOWLEDGE OF ELINOR OSTROM

ESSENTIAL LESSONS FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION

An intriguing exploration of pioneering research in natural resource management and the economist who led it.

A professor of natural resources management and economics explores the work of Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012), the first woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, for her work focused on the governance of commons.

As Nordman notes, the term commons (also known as common-pool resources) refers to goods that can be depleted if overused but which are difficult to exclude people from using, such as water, fish, and land. Prior to Ostrom’s work, the methods for managing commons were largely influenced by the work of ecologist Garrett Hardin. In his 1968 essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” he argued that overpopulation was a large part of the problem and believed that the only ways in which common-pool resources could be properly managed were through market forces or governmental regulation. Ostrom felt that there was another way. Based on her research, she argued that communities were capable of solving their own resource problems without restrictions or government intervention. In this compelling work, Nordman explores numerous examples that support Ostrom’s claim, such as the coordination of groundwater withdrawals in Los Angeles, the formation of “lobster gangs” in Maine, and the ancient water court in Valencia, Spain. “Each Thursday at noon,” writes the author, “as they have for the last one thousand years, members of this unique court conduct a public hearing in which they resolve disputes over irrigation water.” As Ostrom noted, institutions that have successfully managed their communal resources tend to follow a recognizable pattern. These principles emerge organically through community interactions over time, and those institutions that do not succeed are frequently missing one or more of these principles. In clear language, Nordman details and examines these principles and communities that have successfully adopted them. He also shares details of his interviews with members of other communities that have created collaborative systems for sharing their resources.

An intriguing exploration of pioneering research in natural resource management and the economist who led it.

Pub Date: July 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64283-155-9

Page Count: 275

Publisher: Island Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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