A welcome reminder that there are things we can do to heal the planet that go beyond useless half-measures.

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HOW ARE WE GOING TO EXPLAIN THIS

OUR FUTURE ON A HOT EARTH

An irreverent, urgent look at climate change.

Building on a column he writes for the Dutch magazine De Correspondent, Mommers seeks a “much-needed antidote to despair” in the face of the grave transformations that are manifesting themselves around the planet: skies choked with particulates and the smoke from countless wildfires, rising sea levels, declining species and ecosystems. He finds some in the small and personal—giving up meat, for example, in his own life, though he realizes that since he still participates in the worldly economy, “that’s no reason to get all self-congratulatory”; or taking young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg’s advice and giving up flying, since, as she explained, “When you are in a crisis, you change your behavior.” It’s difficult to change one’s behavior, notes the author, when the most powerful economic forces remain committed to a fossil-fuel regime that accounts for the 42 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere yearly—a staggering figure, Mommers writes, so huge that, even if we covered the planet with scrubbers, we could remove only 1% of the total of annual emissions “at a cost of $400 billion per year.” After surveying the nightmarish damage to world agriculture and environmental systems, Mommers finds odd solace in the coronavirus pandemic, which has had the effect of reducing those emissions by 7%. The problem is that in order to keep the global temperature from creeping up by a catastrophic 1.5 degrees Celsius, we’d have to maintain that 7% drop annually for another decade, which probably won’t happen. Mommers avoids hectoring or preaching to the choir, and he does turn up at least a flicker of hope in remaking the economy with an eye to sustainability. “Not enough is happening yet,” he writes, “but a green course is now visible and attractive.”

A welcome reminder that there are things we can do to heal the planet that go beyond useless half-measures.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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