An encouraging exploration of how ancestral wisdom and political savvy have led to positive environmental policies.



Indigenous peoples testify to the realities of climate change.

For the past 20 years, environmentalist Raygorodetsky—a research affiliate at the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance at the University of Victoria and executive director of the Indigenous Knowledge, Community Monitoring, and Citizen Science Branch of the Department of Environment and Parks, Alberta—has been traveling to indigenous communities around the world to monitor their experiences of climate change. In his revealing debut book, he reports on his findings from visits to Finland, Russia, Ecuador, Thailand, and Canada, vividly portraying the communities’ ecologies, livelihoods, and “intimate understanding[s] of landscapes and seascapes.” Indigenous peoples, the author writes, although comprising only 4 percent of the world’s population, care for more than a fifth of the Earth’s surface, environments teeming in biodiversity. Their traditional knowledge has allowed them to adapt to the challenges of climate change. In northern Lapland, for example, changes in ice and snow have had an impact on the Skolt Sámi reindeer herders, who confront shortened snow seasons and freezing rain that encases pastures and leads to reindeers’ starvation. Like other indigenous groups, the Skolts rely partly on traditional knowledge and partly on modern tools, such as meteorological radio reports, to track weather patterns. They also collaborate with governmental and nongovernmental organizations to intervene in biocultural decisions. On the Yamal Peninsula of Siberia, reindeer herders and environmental NGOs vigorously protested Soviet plans to build a pipeline through the region. Public hearings led to a decision to construct an elevated pipeline that allowed reindeer herds to pass beneath without disruption. Many advocacy groups, such as the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment, the Association for Nature and Sustainable Livelihoods, and Land Is Life, press for the development of “culturally appropriate strategies to cope with climate change and to inject local voices into the global climate change discourse.” Besides ancestral wisdom, spiritual beliefs, and traditional land use, the communities’ participation in influential NGOs and activism justifies Raygorodetsky’s message of hope.

An encouraging exploration of how ancestral wisdom and political savvy have led to positive environmental policies.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68177-532-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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