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OCEANS RISE EMPIRES FALL

WHY GEOPOLITICS HASTENS CLIMATE CATASTROPHE

A convincing indictment of nation-states for crimes against the planet.

An academic assessment of the relationship between geography and the politics of nations.

Driven by an impetus to control and/or expand their territory and to influence what happens within and beyond their borders, “world powers use and abuse the earth,” writes geography professor Toal, author of Near Abroad: Putin, the West, and the Contest for Ukraine and the Caucasus. To protect and enhance their sovereignty and boost their economies, nation-states exploit the land, oceans, air, and now outer space, and they do so in competition with other nation-states. The author argues that this struggle for resources, trade, political status, and territorial dominance—anchored in the modernist “dream of endless growth”—has made, and continues to make, Earth less habitable. Toal’s title, however, is not quite accurate. The author emphasizes climate change, while discussions of geopolitics and the issue of declining empires are effectively absent. Toal devotes most of the book to the intellectual origins of—and counter-arguments to—a geopolitical point of view, and he does so insightfully and with authority. Major figures in the text include the 20th-century British geographer Halford Mackinder, the “Father of Geopolitics,” and the political theorist Carl Schmitt. Climate takes center stage only in the chapter on Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine; the author uses the invasion as an example of how war, a major form of international competition, devastates the environment. Central to Toal’s discussion is his assessment of NATO’s efforts to expand its territorial, political, and economic influence, an institutional project that may have triggered Putin’s attempt to remake Russia as a great power. In conclusion, the author reflects broadly on how current geopolitical factors might be changed to halt their destructive climate consequences. As an optimist, he suggests that “when conditions are right and leaders courageous, great powers can and do cooperate.”

A convincing indictment of nation-states for crimes against the planet.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780197693261

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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