This sobering book should be read—and studied—by policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in...

MANUAL FOR SURVIVAL

A CHERNOBYL GUIDE TO THE FUTURE

An award-winning historian challenges the notion that the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident had few consequences, arguing that the “public health disaster” killed at least 35,000 to 150,000 people and left most adults and children in affected areas sick with cancer, anemia, and other illnesses.

In this explosive, exquisitely researched account, Brown (Environmental and Nuclear History/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; Plutopia: Nuclear Families in Atomic Cities and the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters, 2013, etc.) draws on four years of fieldwork in Soviet and other archives—27 total, some previously unvisited—and in towns and farms in contaminated territories to provide a powerful story of the devastating health and environmental effects of radioactive fallout in areas outside the 30-kilometer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. “The accounts of unspecific, widespread, and chronic illness, reproductive problems, and acute increases in cancer resound like a lament across the area of Chernobyl fallout,” she writes. The official death toll from the exploding nuclear power plant was 54, but there was never any long-term study of health consequences, including the effects of exposure to radiation over time. After interviewing workers, evacuees, and scientists; visiting affected factories, swamp ecosystems, and abandoned towns; and examining transcripts of secret Politburo meetings and other documents, the author concludes that Soviet officials hid the radiation’s impact through “secrecy, censorship, counterespionage, and fabricated news.” In the face of Soviet “half-truths and bald-faced lies,” international scientists nodded agreeably. Like the Soviets, Western officials blamed stress—not radiation—for health issues, out of fear of Chernobyl’s implications for other radiation exposures and possible lawsuits. Brown’s prose is sometimes technical but largely accessible and even turns poetic when she describes changed lives. She offers horrifying descriptions of the processing of radioactive meat and other foods for shipment to large cities and towns and of the continuing sale abroad of contaminated berries.

This sobering book should be read—and studied—by policymakers and citizens; pair with Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl to spark a renewed debate over nuclear power.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-65251-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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