Books and literature

Columbus could not have foreseen the results of his search for piperine, Magellan was unaware of the long-term effects of his quest for isoeugenol, and Schönbein would surely have been astonished that the nitrocellulose he made from his wife’s apron was the start of great industries as diverse as explosives and textiles. Perkin could not […]

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Thesis proposal reading continues to dominate my information diet, but I bought a couple of unrelated books today. Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson’s Napoleon’s Buttons — recommended by my friend Myshka — describes the influence of seventeen molecules on human history. I’m about 60 pages in and have been finding it entertaining and reminiscent […]

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For analyzing climate change activism, the contentious politics theoretical framework associated with Doug McAdam (a sociology professor at Stanford), Sidney Tarrow (a professor of government and sociology at Cornell), and Charles Tilly (formerly a social science professor at Columbia) has much to recommend it. In particular, it incorporates many explanatory factors used in the related […]

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On the Washington Post website, there is an article about my aunt Mirka’s new book: Making the Mark: Gender, Identity, and Genital Cutting.

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A surprising oversight in Timothy Mitchell’s generally-insightful Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil is how he gives relatively little consideration to static versus mobile forms of fossil fuel consumption. He strongly emphasizes the production and transportation logistics of coal versus oil, but gives little consideration to special needs for fuels with high […]

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But Hillary still struggled with the question of whether she was running for Bill Clinton’s third term, Obama’s third term, or her own first term. “How do you take credit for eight years of Democratic progress but also get that things haven’t gone far enough?” said one aide who wrestled with the conundrum. “She hired […]

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Saying mainstream environmentalism now reflects the interests and concerns of the rich is like coming upon a river of spawning salmon and noting the colour red. There are naturally many shades of difference. Not all of the mainstream, everywhere, has to the same extent come to embrace markets, corporations, and technologies as solutions. Nor does […]

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My family in Vermont sent me Bill McKibben’s 2005 book (updated in 2014) as a Christmas gift. In it, he recounts a meandering trek through the Lake Champlain region of the Adirondacks. It’s part nature writing, partly an account of the history of the region and the ways his neighbours are tying to earn a […]

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I told the UN chief about my recent conversations with disgruntled tribesmen, and their complaints about the Afghan police behaving like robbers. “Yes, this is a case of bad governance,” Mr. Masadykov replied. “I can say now, when we’re talking about Taliban, maybe half of these so-called anti-government elements acting here in this area of […]

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Bruce Blair’s Strategic Command and Control: Redefining the Nuclear Threat (1985) effectively demolishes some of the core ideas in U.S. nuclear strategy. The book is largely focused on command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) and emphasizes how, while the U.S. raced ahead with developing vast numbers of nuclear weapon systems, it does not have a […]

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