A valuable contribution to the ecological bookshelf.

LIVING IN THE ANTHROPOCENE

EARTH IN THE AGE OF HUMANS

Original essays by leading scientists, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists that address the related problems of unchecked population growth, scarcity of resources, climate change, and environmental pollution.

Like many ecologically minded authors and thinkers before them, National Museum of Natural History curators Kress (The Weeping Goldsmith: Discoveries in the Secret Land of Myanmar, 2009, etc.) and Stine (America’s Forested Wetlands from Wasteland to Valued Resources, 2008, etc.) warn that these complex, still-to-be-resolved issues will endanger humanity’s future if they are not addressed immediately. As the title suggests, human activities have transformed terrestrial and maritime habitats, causing mass extinctions of other species at an unprecedented rate, comparable to a geologic turning point. “Our planet,” they write, “has been experiencing a multitude of dramatic and far-reaching changes.” The articles are grouped into five sections: “A Changing Planet,” “Drivers of Change,” “Responding to Change,” “Visual Culture,” and “The Way Forward.” Smithsonian Institute geologist Scott L. Wing sets the tone in the first section. “We are no longer a bit player in the story of this planet,” he writes, and “the influence of our actions now will change the global environment for at least hundreds of human generations to come.” In the second section the editors suggest that we must widen our notion of biosphere pollution to include “space junk” like “expended rockets…and dead satellites.” In “Black and Green,” Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, points to the interconnections among environmental and racial issues created by the segregation in urban housing. In an upbeat afterword, renowned biologist and naturalist professor Edward O. Wilson emphasizes that if humanity passes through the current “bottleneck of overpopulation and environmental destruction…human existence could be a paradise compared to today.” New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert provides the foreword, and other contributors include Stephen J. Pyne, Wade Davis, and Kelly Chance.

A valuable contribution to the ecological bookshelf.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58834-601-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“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

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more