A concise and personal yet universally applicable examination of a problem that affects everyone on planet Earth.

THE STORY OF MORE

HOW WE GOT TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

Following a critically and popular debut, the lab girl turns teacher in a course on climate change.

As most readers know, a bestseller gives a fledgling author a bigger megaphone. In her follow-up to Lab Girl (2016), Jahren (Geosciences/Univ. of Oslo) uses it to show how issues that are clearly important to her are crucial to all of humanity and the survival of the world as we know it. She doesn’t use scare tactics or shrill warnings; unfortunately, “we kind of stopped listening. By now we’re quite practiced at not listening to things scientists say over and over again.” The author cites warnings about the dangers of fossil fuels dating to the 1950s and the linking of fossil fuels and the threat of global warming “as early as 1856.” Few listened then, and now the crisis is urgent. In matter-of-fact detail and conversational prose, Jahren interweaves biographical information about her Midwestern girlhood and takes readers on a journey with her to her current home in Oslo, where she moved in 2016 “because I am worried about the future of science in America.” She methodically takes us through discussions of food, especially regarding changes in production and consumption, and energy and the planet as a whole, emphasizing one central point: “What was only a faint drumbeat as I began to research this book now rings in my head like a mantra: Use Less and Share More.” Over and over, the author shows how the world divides between those who consume and waste more and those who live on much less. She explores not only food scarcity, but also lack of electricity and sanitary water conditions. She clearly shows how the amount of waste created by the privileged could provide plenty for those less privileged. “The earth is sick,” she writes, “and we suspect that it’s something bad,” and a cure begins with individual action but will require significant shifts in values and practices.

A concise and personal yet universally applicable examination of a problem that affects everyone on planet Earth.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56338-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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