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THE THREE AGES OF WATER

PREHISTORIC PAST, IMPERILED PRESENT, AND A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

A well-documented book with more hard facts than usual but not more optimism.

An expert warning on climate change with an emphasis on water.

MacArthur fellow Gleick, a globally recognized expert on water, begins with statistics—e.g., 97% of the world’s water is salt water, and 80% of the fresh water is used to grow food—and then devotes nearly half of the text to a history of the world. The author’s first “age” of water runs from the Big Bang to the end of the Middle Ages, and the second is “our age,” when scientific and industrial revolutions led to the “replumbing of the entire planet with hard infrastructure that dammed, channelized, collected, treated and redistributed almost every major freshwater source on Earth.” Though we possess the ability to feed Earth’s 8 billion people, deliver safe drinking water, and take away wastewater, it’s not happening because these advances came with “the unintended consequences of pollution, ecological disruption, water poverty, social and political conflict, and global climate change.” The third age of water will lead to a dystopian future unless we fix matters, and Gleick devotes the remainder of the book to that prospect. The most gripping (and distressing) chapters recount our disastrous abuse of freshwater ecosystems, which cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface and continue to shrink. Freshwater fish have the world’s highest rate of extinction among vertebrates. When fossil fuels are exhausted, alternatives exist, but this is not the case with fossil water (wells, aquifers for irrigation). Gleick delivers a realistic solution in which economists do cost-benefit analyses that include the loss of free-flowing rivers, dislocated communities, floods, the costs of human ill health from pollution, pandemics, loss of wilderness and nature, and the “use-value” of natural ecosystems. However, this requires governments to spend money, nations to work together, and communities to “do what needs to be done.” Ultimately, writes the author, “the chronic problem is a lack of will and commitment.”

A well-documented book with more hard facts than usual but not more optimism.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

ISBN: 9781541702271

Page Count: 368

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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ELON MUSK

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

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A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.

To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.

Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9781982181284

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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THE ELEPHANTS OF THULA THULA

A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.

The third volume in the Elephant Whisperer series.

In this follow-up to An Elephant in My Kitchen, Malby-Anthony continues her loving portrait of the Thula Thula wildlife reserve, which she co-founded in 1998 with her late husband, South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who published the first book in the series, The Elephant Whisperer, in 2009. Following his death in 2012, Malby-Anthony sought to honor his legacy by continuing his vision “to create a massive conservancy in Zululand, incorporating our land and other small farms and community land into one great big game park.” At the same time, the elephants gave her “a sense of purpose and direction.” In the Zulu language, thula means quiet, and though the author consistently seeks to provide that calm to her charges, peace and tranquility are not always easy to come by at Thula Thula. In this installment, Malby-Anthony discusses many of the challenges faced by her and her staff, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic. These included an aggressive, 2-ton rhino named Thabo; the profound loss felt by all upon the death of their elephant matriarch, Frankie; difficulty obtaining permits and the related risk of having to relocate or cull some of their animals; the fear of looting and fire due to civil unrest in the region; and the ongoing and potentially deadly struggles with poachers. Throughout, the author also shares many warm, lighthearted moments, demonstrating the deep bond felt among the humans and animals at the reserve and the powerful effects of the kindness of strangers. “We are all working in unity for the greater good, for the betterment of Thula Thula and all our wildlife….We are humbled by the generosity and love, both from our guests and friends, and from strangers all around the world,” writes the author. “People’s open-hearted support kept us alive in the darkest times.”

A heartwarming and inspiring story for animal lovers.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9781250284259

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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