Surprisingly optimistic, realistic, and persuasive.

ELECTRIFY

AN OPTIMIST'S PLAYBOOK FOR OUR CLEAN ENERGY FUTURE

Positive news on climate change from an expert.

The degradation is well underway, and matters will get worse before they get better. However, according to this enthusiastic account by engineer and MacArthur fellow Griffith, real change is possible with today’s scientific know-how and an energetic effort. Overcoming the problem of global climate change—essentially by reducing carbon-dioxide emissions to zero—requires a tricky combination of politics and technology. Largely avoiding politics, Griffith emphasizes technology. His solution is to electrify everything. “America can reduce its energy use by more than half by introducing no other efficiency measures other than electrification,” he writes. This climate-friendly future will contain the usual familiar objects in our lives, affecting cars, homes, offices, appliances, etc., but miraculous breakthroughs (fusion power, sucking carbon from the atmosphere) won’t be necessary. Griffith warns that America is stuck in the 1970s mindset of conservation with the mantra “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle.” This has produced great improvements in gas mileage and home insulation and more efficient appliances, but you can’t “efficiency” your way to zero. In a torrent of technical explanation, graphs, and tables, Griffith shows how solar and wind power are already cheaper despite massive subsidies and tax breaks that support fossil fuel companies. He proposes that the government subsidize upfront costs of switching—about $40,000 per household—by guaranteeing low-interest “climate loans.” As he notes, “if US policymakers can offer [these loans] at the right rate, the transition to clean energy will start saving us money today.” To critics proclaiming that the Green New Deal would be a budget-busting government handout, he points out that the U.S. has launched similar programs in the past. For example, it began subsidizing long-term home mortgages in 1933, and predictions of a massive loss of taxpayer money never happened. Indeed, writes Griffith, the result will be prosperity: more jobs and less poverty, with no sacrifice of our current lifestyle.

Surprisingly optimistic, realistic, and persuasive.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-262-04623-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: MIT Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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