The best exposés leave readers yearning to take action. This one will make them want to gnash their teeth and discard their...
Two environmental journalists angrily assert that spineless politicians and lenient regulators defer to rapacious industrialists as their factories drench America in toxic pollutants.
The authors provide an avalanche of anecdotes featuring dreadfully sick children and their devastated parents appealing in vain to guilty industries and getting no help from mealy-mouthed officials. In chapter after chapter, they describe innumerable toxins, their poisonous effects, the researchers who study and denounce them, the regulators who sometimes act but mostly complain that their hands are tied and the industry representatives who defend their products, repeating ad nauseum that the evidence for harm is not conclusive. To those who assume scientists don’t know what causes most birth defects, cancers, allergies, asthma, Alzheimer’s, mental illness, attention-deficit disorder and premature births, this book offers the answer: pollution. Sadly, the Shabecoffs are preaching to the choir, pouring out so many horror stories that shell-shocked readers may grow annoyed with their bias. The authors treat industry representatives with the contempt they deserve, but not every victim or lawyer merits the respectful absence of skepticism accorded them here, and fringe groups given similar hands-off treatment include antifluoridation advocates and people who insist vaccines cause autism. The authors glide right over the unpalatable reality that industrial pollution is now so catastrophically severe that making the bad guys pay will not solve the problem. Taxpayers will end up funding the cleanup, and stricter regulation will mean more expensive goods. Politicians refuse to deliver this news because they want to be reelected, but the Shabecoffs don’t have this excuse. They conclude with sensible instructions for minimizing toxins within the household and good advice for regulatory reform, but neither is likely to improve our environment anytime soon.The best exposés leave readers yearning to take action. This one will make them want to gnash their teeth and discard their plastic containers.
Pub Date: Aug. 19, 2008
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008
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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.
“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
Page Count: 432
Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019
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SEEN & HEARD
by Bonnie Tsui ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 14, 2020
An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.
A study of swimming as sport, survival method, basis for community, and route to physical and mental well-being.
For Bay Area writer Tsui (American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, 2009), swimming is in her blood. As she recounts, her parents met in a Hong Kong swimming pool, and she often visited the beach as a child and competed on a swim team in high school. Midway through the engaging narrative, the author explains how she rejoined the team at age 40, just as her 6-year-old was signing up for the first time. Chronicling her interviews with scientists and swimmers alike, Tsui notes the many health benefits of swimming, some of which are mental. Swimmers often achieve the “flow” state and get their best ideas while in the water. Her travels took her from the California coast, where she dove for abalone and swam from Alcatraz back to San Francisco, to Tokyo, where she heard about the “samurai swimming” martial arts tradition. In Iceland, she met Guðlaugur Friðþórsson, a local celebrity who, in 1984, survived six hours in a winter sea after his fishing vessel capsized, earning him the nickname “the human seal.” Although humans are generally adapted to life on land, the author discovered that some have extra advantages in the water. The Bajau people of Indonesia, for instance, can do 10-minute free dives while hunting because their spleens are 50% larger than average. For most, though, it’s simply a matter of practice. Tsui discussed swimming with Dara Torres, who became the oldest Olympic swimmer at age 41, and swam with Kim Chambers, one of the few people to complete the daunting Oceans Seven marathon swim challenge. Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of “an unflinching giving-over to an element” and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually).An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.
Pub Date: April 14, 2020
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020
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