A delightful exploration of traditional foods as well as a grim warning that we are farming on borrowed time.

EATING TO EXTINCTION

THE WORLD'S RAREST FOODS AND WHY WE NEED TO SAVE THEM

Fascinating descriptions of Indigenous and mostly disappearing foods, plus an alarming message.

Veteran BBC food journalist Saladino emphasizes that world food production exploded after World War II when scientists produced superproductive grains, plants, and livestock. Though these developments drastically reduced famine, the mechanics involved require enormous inputs of chemicals, fertilizer, and water. Relying on elite, high-yield species eliminated those that didn’t measure up, diminishing their diversity. Today, rice, wheat, and corn provide half of all human calories. Most global pork comes from a single breed of pig, and more than 95% of U.S. dairy cows are a single breed, the Holstein. Limiting food diversity has been enormously profitable for large corporations, but the future consequences make scientists uneasy. “We are living and eating our way through one big unparalleled experiment,” writes the author. Having defined the problem, Saladino chronicles his travels around the world, describing dozens of vanishing edibles and pausing regularly to deliver the history of the major foods and food production. Readers will be intrigued and educated by his interviews with experts who warn of our disastrous dependence on a shrinking number of standardized foods. Commercial barley can’t survive in the cold, infertile islands north of Scotland, but its ancestral variety does fine. Although nearing extinction in the wild, Atlantic salmon is a familiar food item because almost all of them are farm raised. Bred to be faster growing and meatier, they have become a bland domestic food animal no less than the chicken or cow. Though there are more than 1,500 varieties of banana, most markets are dominated by the Cavendish, a cloned fruit grown in immense monocultures visible by satellite. Being genetically identical, they can’t evolve and so can’t develop resistance to disease, which inevitably spreads like wildfire. One specific disease is currently devastating the Cavendish, but scientists are working to edit the plant’s DNA “to find a fix against the disease.”

A delightful exploration of traditional foods as well as a grim warning that we are farming on borrowed time.

Pub Date: tomorrow

ISBN: 978-0-374-60532-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

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PERIL

An account of the last gasps of the Trump administration, completing a trilogy begun with Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

One of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Costa’s most memorable revelations comes right away: Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling his counterpart in Beijing to assure him that even after Jan. 6 and what Milley saw as an unmistakable attempt at a coup d’état, he would keep Trump from picking a war with China. This depiction has earned much attention on the talking-heads news channels, but more significant is its follow-up: Milley did so because he was concerned that Trump “might still be looking for what Milley called a ‘Reichstag moment.’ ” Milley emerges as a stalwart protector of the Constitution who constantly courted Trump’s ire and yet somehow survived without being fired. No less concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior was Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, who studied the psychiatric literature for a big takeaway: “Do not humiliate Trump in public. Humiliating a narcissist risked real danger, a frantic lashing out if he felt threatened or criticized.” Losing the 2020 election was one such humiliation, and Woodward and Costa closely track the trajectory of Trump’s reaction, from depression to howling rage to the stubborn belief that the election was rigged. There are a few other modest revelations in the book, including the fact that Trump loyalist William Barr warned him that the electorate didn’t like him. “They just think you’re a fucking asshole,” Barr told his boss. That was true enough, and the civil war that the authors recount among various offices in the White House and government reveals that Trump’s people were only ever tentatively his. All the same, the authors note, having drawn on scores of “deep background” interviews, Trump still has his base, still intends vengeance by way of a comeback, and still constitutes the peril of their title.

A solid work of investigation that, while treading well-covered ground, offers plenty of surprises.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982182-91-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”

THE CONTAGION NEXT TIME

The Covid-19 pandemic is not a one-off catastrophe. An epidemiologist presents a cogent argument for a fundamental refocusing of resources on “the foundational forces that shape health.”

In this passionate and instructive book, Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, writes that Covid emerged because we have long neglected basic preventative measures. “We invest vast amounts of money in healthcare,” he writes, “but comparatively little in health.” Readers looking to learn how governments (mainly the U.S.) mishandled the pandemic have a flood of books to choose from, but Galea has bigger issues to raise. Better medical care will not stop the next epidemic, he warns. We must structure a world “that is resilient to contagions.” He begins by describing the current state of world health, where progress has been spectacular. Global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900. Malnutrition, poverty, and child mortality have dropped. However, as the author stresses repeatedly, medical progress contributed far less to the current situation than better food, clean water, hygiene, education, and prosperity. That’s the good news. More problematic is that money is a powerful determinant of health; those who have it live longer. Galea begins the bad news by pointing out the misleading statistic that Covid-19 kills less than 1% of those infected; that applies to young people in good health. For those over 60, it kills 6%, for diabetics, over 7%, and those with heart disease, over 10%. It also kills more Blacks than Whites, more poor than middle-class people, and more people without health insurance. The author is clearly not just interested in Covid. He attacks racism, sexism, and poverty in equal measure, making a plea for compassion toward stigmatized conditions such as obesity and addiction. He consistently urges the U.S. government, which has spared no expense and effort to defeat the pandemic, to do the same for social injustice.

An oft-ignored but fully convincing argument that “we cannot prevent the next pandemic without creating a healthy world.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-757642-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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