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THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

CAPITALISM VS. THE CLIMATE

A sharp analysis that is bound to be widely discussed, with all the usual suspects, depending on their politics, lining up...

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A best-selling anti-globalization activist and author argues that surviving the climate emergency will require radical changes in how we live.

The time for marginal fixes has expired, writes Klein (The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, 2007, etc.). We will not be saved by toothless international agreements, spurious political bargains, outlandish geoengineering environmental groups in bed with corporations or magical thinking of any kind—and surely not by deregulating the capitalist system responsible for the crisis. Carbon emissions continue to rise, and greenhouse gases dangerously accumulate as the fossil fuel industry ramps up devastating extraction. In part, Klein’s narrative is a personal story about her own awakening to and increasing engagement with the climate issue. But this always-interesting polemic is built mostly on her interviews with experts, environmentalists and activists and her colorful on-site reporting from various international meetings and conferences and particularly from worldwide pockets of resistance to corporate bullying. “Blockadia,” she calls these places, where communities have risen to oppose open-pit mining, fracking and pipelines. In them she finds hope for a grass-roots rebellion, a kind of “People’s Shock” where push back against the aggressive energy industry can be a catalyst for advancing a range of policies dear to the progressive agenda. Klein has no time for deniers of man-made global warming, but she credits right-wing ideologues with better understanding the high stakes, the vast scope of the changes necessary to meet the climate challenge. This awareness accounts for their vigorous opposition to the activists’ docket and for the movement’s consequent loss of momentum for the past decade. The author’s journalism won’t slow down the fossil fuel companies, but it surely holds out hope for activists looking to avert a disaster, for a widespread people’s movement that, if it happens, “changes everything.”

A sharp analysis that is bound to be widely discussed, with all the usual suspects, depending on their politics, lining up to cheer or excoriate Klein.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1451697384

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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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. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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