An idiosyncratic and often engaging look at how meat isn’t cutting it.

AFTER MEAT

THE CASE FOR AN AMAZING, MEAT-FREE WORLD

Data scientist Sekar imagines a meatless future in this debut work on food technology.

When most people think of technology, they probably don’t think of animals. However, like the wheel, the plow, or the sail, the cultivation of animals for their valuable resources has been one of humankind’s key technological advances. Today, domesticated animals provide people with food, various materials, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals—though not without a cost, and animals happen to be incredibly inefficient tech that doesn’t offer progress: “All indications suggest that the future of food will ultimately be tastier, healthier, cheaper, kinder, and better for the environment,” the author says. “This will happen because we won’t use animal products.” Rather than making an argument based primarily on ethical or health concerns, Sekar walks readers through all the ways that raising animals on an industrial scale is technologically outdated. Advances in biochemical technology, he notes, mean that people can make anything that animals can by using organic compounds found in plants, fungi, and microbes. What’s more, he adds, it can be done in a way that helps to alleviate global problems, such as water and food insecurity, poverty, and climate change. Along the way, Sekar locates this coming “alternative food revolution” within the larger sweep of history, from humanity’s evolution as a species to the beginnings of agricultural society, industrialization, and the current climate crisis. In addition to predicting the many ways that humans will phase out meat in the near future, he offers advice for readers who are looking to become meat-free right now.

Sekar’s book is not a traditional treatise on the evils of meat. His writing style is arrestingly matter-of-fact, as in this passage, in which he asserts how his own views are quite different from those of some other anti-meat thinkers: “Vegans and vegetarians are…more likely to buy something only if it’s organic or all-natural. I dislike this. I’m unfairly lumped in with these groups when I wholly disagree with many of these ideas,” which he then discusses in detail. The author has a background in biochemical engineering and systems biology, and his prose can be fairly technical, though not so much that the layperson won’t be able to follow along. He’s certainly done his research; the endnotes take up 70 pages alone. However, Sekar takes the book in unexpected directions, devoting entire chapters to such ideas as morality and the very nature of knowledge. This is sometimes to the detriment of his overall message, as when he ends with an extended digression on the concept of the multiverse. Even so, the book’s left-brained approach to its subject means that even longtime meat skeptics will learn something new to bolster their argument. The book’s greatest strength is that it places meat consumption not only in an economic and nutritional context, but also in the larger context of human life, presenting a no-meat future as just the latest in a long line of tech upgrades.

An idiosyncratic and often engaging look at how meat isn’t cutting it.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-97737-9

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A cogent “horror story” about the plot to reanimate mid-20th-century White male supremacy at the expense of abortion access.

THE LIE THAT BINDS

Incisive look at the destructive path of anti-abortion ideology in the U.S.

Even though most Americans believe in a woman’s right to choose—“consistent research has shown that more than 7 in 10 Americans support legal access to abortion”—the radical right has succeeded in steadily eroding reproductive freedoms since Roe v. Wade. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America leaders Hogue and Langford, the campaign against abortion is but a means to an end for the architects of the pro-life movement. Their true aim is the uncontested dominion of White Christian men. The battle began in 1954, when Brown v. Board of Education struck down “state laws used by segregationists to maintain structural inequality in the nation’s schools.” In 1976, the IRS rescinded the tax-exempt status of the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s segregationist Bob Jones University. What has followed, argue the authors convincingly, is more than a half-century of machinations designed “to halt progressive cultural change and maintain power for a privileged minority.” Anti-abortion rhetoric is just a weapon, driven by design, propaganda, disinformation, and cowed Republican politicians—hallmarks of the Trump era. Hogue and Langdon make a strong case that the rises of Trump, fake news, and science skepticism are not flukes but rather the culmination of a dogged campaign by forces still smarting from desegregation and second- and third-wave feminism. The reproductive freedom of American women is the victim of an “anti-democratic power grab on a historic scale.” The authors build a chilling case that the startling 2019 wave of abortion bans across the nation should serve as a canary in the coal mine for citizens concerned with democracy and a catalyst for bolder messaging, better strategic planning, and sustained action to combat disinformation.

A cogent “horror story” about the plot to reanimate mid-20th-century White male supremacy at the expense of abortion access.

Pub Date: July 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947492-50-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Strong Arm Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2020

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