by Robert Paarlberg ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2021
A cogent, revealing look at the future of food.
A perceptive analysis of America's food system.
Political scientist Paarlberg, who teaches public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School, levels a well-informed, evidence-based critique of a broad swath of players in food production and consumption: food companies (which process, package, transport, and advertise products), supermarkets, and restaurant chains, all of which have created “food swamps” of unhealthy choices; as well as “advocacy organizations fixated on local food and organic food” and “those who push for agroecology or food sovereignty over green revolution farming.” He debunks food movement activists such as Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, and Alice Waters, calling their advocacy of preindustrial agriculture elitist. A return to those farming methods, he writes, “can work on a small scale for those with plenty of money to spend, but it will never be a society-wide solution.” Drawing on scientific and economic research, combined with visits to farms and food plants, Paarlberg asserts persuasively that “modern farming protects the environment not only by using less land compared to several decades ago; it also uses less water, less fossil energy, and fewer chemicals.” Analyzing the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and GMOs, the author argues that much fear of these products is unsupported by research. “Visions that privilege what comes from nature over what is made by people have a mystical appeal,” he writes, “but they malfunction as practical guidance.” Paarlberg highlights many commercial farms that judiciously employ scientific methods in planting, harvesting, and raising livestock. Yet for many food activists, the idea of applying modern science to agriculture and food production has “become strangely controversial”—even though “compared to small farms and local marketing systems, bigger operations are better able to detect and avoid contamination.” Paarlberg criticizes commercial farm organizations, too, for supporting food processing companies, and he calls for farmers to become strong advocates for healthful eating.A cogent, revealing look at the future of food.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2021
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020
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by Thomas Sowell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 19, 2023
For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
The noted conservative economist delivers arguments both fiscal and political against social justice initiatives such as welfare and a federal minimum wage.
A Black scholar who has lived through many civil rights struggles, Sowell is also a follower of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, who insisted that free market solutions are available for every social problem. This short book begins with what amounts to an impatient declaration that life isn’t fair. Some nations are wealthy because of geographical advantages, and some people are wealthy because they’re smarter than others. “Some social justice advocates may implicitly assume that various groups have similar developed capabilities, so that different outcomes appear puzzling,” he writes. In doing so, he argues, they fail to distinguish between equal opportunity and equal capability. Sowell is dismissive of claims that Black Americans and other minorities are systematically denied a level playing field: Put non-white kids in charter schools, he urges, and presto, their math scores will zoom northward as compared to those in public schools. “These are huge disparities within the same groups, so that neither race nor racism can account for these huge differences,” he writes, clearly at pains to distance himself from the faintest suggestion that race has anything to do with success or failure in America. At the same time, he isn’t exactly comfortable with the idea that economic inequalities exist, and he tries to finesse definitions to suit his convictions: “The terms ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are misleading in another and more fundamental sense. These terms apply to people’s stock of wealth, not their flows of income.” As for crime? Give criminals more rights, he asserts, as with Miranda v. Arizona, and crime rates go up—an assertion that overlooks numerous other variables but fits Sowell’s ideological slant.For those satisfied with blame-the-victim tidbits of received wisdom.
Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023
Page Count: 224
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
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
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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