An optimistic and often enthralling book of advocacy for environmental justice.

THE GREEN AMENDMENT

THE PEOPLE’S FIGHT FOR A CLEAN, SAFE, AND HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT

A treatise on the current environmental crisis by committed attorney.

This timely, expanded second edition of van Rossum’s 2017 brief for environmental reform contains extra chapters and forewords by actor and activist Mark Ruffalo and Kerri Evelyn Harris, former candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. In it, van Rossum takes a strong personal and professional stand against corporations’ profiting from exploitation of natural resources. From the start, she draws on numerous anecdotes to make her points, such as a visit she made to her late mother’s forested property in Central Pennsylvania, during which she heard that oil companies were buying up surrounding property, and the story of one of the nation’s most polluted elementary schools, in Manchester, Texas. Van Rossum uses these accounts to advocate for protective “constitutional environmental rights”—or “Green Amendments”—in every state’s constitution. The author combines experts’ evaluations with historical context and personal tales from her decades of nonprofit work to paint a clear picture of where the nation stands. And the verdict of this research is critical: More people die annually from pollution than from war, she points out, citing a report from United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. National laws often accommodate corporations, she asserts, despite evidence of their contributions to the environmental crisis. Fracking, gas pipelines, and overdevelopment are all shown to bear deadly consequences. For van Rossum, however, there’s hope. While addressing counterarguments and economic fears, the author insists that “Democracy will reign, our natural environments will be protected, and our economies will grow and prosper.” In this convincing argument for environmental reform, she presents complex principles in lay terms, and a concluding chapter that will likely encourage many readers to take concrete action in favor of the Green Amendments; it not only provides specifics on how each state amends its constitution but also offers practical ways to get other people enthusiastic about the cause. The volume can sometimes be repetitive, but van Rossum expertly balances science, law, and an engaging narrative to convey an urgent need for reform.

An optimistic and often enthralling book of advocacy for environmental justice.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63331-064-3

Page Count: 365

Publisher: Disruption Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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