Promising prescriptions to five of India’s baneful environmental cases—right thinking and accusatory in all the right places.



Journalist Subramanian examines a handful of environmental woes besetting India, along with hopeful remedies.

This is investigative journalism as story: fact-filled but optimistic, rueful and inviting. The author writes with warm intelligence, and she challenges readers. She sounds five particular environmental issues—though, inevitably, they also reach into cultural and economic concerns—each a grave, ruinous path. She categorizes the five issues as elements: earth (agriculture, toxicity), water (purity), fire (pollution, disease), air (extinction, chemistry), and ether (reproductive health, sexual predation). She devotes a chapter to each, providing an overview of the problem: how the green revolution has bottomed out, soil has been destroyed by herbicides and fungicides, farmers are indentured servants to fertilizer (which has become “like crack for crops”), and how seed industries are now patented and pricey. The author also looks at industrial, residential, and sacrificial effluents that have contaminated the water supply; the destruction of wetlands; the overuse of groundwater; cookstove pollution; deforestation; chronic respiratory and heart diseases; the looming extinction of vultures (uncharismatic, yes, but “a natural and efficient disposal system”); the explosion of vicious, carrion-eating dogs; and the unwanted children and sexual violence that have become increasingly commonplace. In each chapter, as well, Subramanian offers specific antidotes as anecdotes, narrating in a measured, conversational, welcoming voice. She examines the increase in soil complexity through tilth development; the return of natural predators for pests; the brilliance and effectiveness of small-scale irrigation, a return toward the great Indian waterworks; efficient cookstoves; the banning of toxic chemicals; and grass-roots reproductive education and “criminalizing sexual harassment, voyeurism, and stalking—acts still widely dismissed as ‘Eve-teasing’ in India.” Each of the stories is comprehensive while nimble, as well as provocative.

Promising prescriptions to five of India’s baneful environmental cases—right thinking and accusatory in all the right places.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-530-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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