Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist’s View of Genetically Modified Foods

May 7, 2007

From the book’s preface:

Our civilization rests on food: on our ability to make the earth say beans, to store those beans and fruits and seeds, and to share them. Our creatures might feed their young, but as adults each one fends for itself, spending much of the day doing it. By contrast we humans have learned to farm. Over the last few centuries, advances in science have allowed fewer and fewer farmers to feed more and more people, freeing the rest of us to make and sell each other houses, hats, and video games, to be scientists and writers and politicians, painters, teachers, doctors, spiritual leaders, and talk-show hosts. In some parts of the world, only one person in 200 grows plants or raises animals for food. The other 199 of us buy what we eat . . . .

What genetic engineering actually is and how it differs from earlier techniques of plant breeding is not understood by many outside the laboratory and breeding plot. Nor do most people understand the effects on the science of plant breeding of new interpretations of patent protection. People have heard that scientists themselves oppose genetically modified foods–and few do, although they are rarely those who know this new science well. Most people lack the time–and often the knowledge–to critically examine the scientific research cited in support of the opposing views of the technology. By writing this book we seek to answer the questions that most people–whether for or against the idea of genetically modified foods–often forget to ask.

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Let Them Eat Precaution: How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture

April 26, 2007

How Politics is Undermining the Genetic Revolution in Agriculture

From the book jacket:

The genetic revolution has offered more promise than substance, except in agriculture, where it has brought profound benefits to farmers and consumers for more than a decade. More nutritious food is now produced with less environmental costs because genetically modified crops require almost no pesticides. Vitamin-enhanced crops and foods are helping to reduce malnutrition in parts of the developing world, and a wave of biopharmaceuticals is being developed. Yet, for all its achievements and promise, agricultural biotechnology is under intense fire from and fanning fear of a “corporate takeover” of agriculture by biotech firms. Mired in a rancorous trade and cultural war between Europe and the United States and inflamed by a politicized media, this technology remains dramatically underutilized, with particularly tragic consequences for millions of starving people in Africa and other poverty-stricken regions.

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Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power

April 25, 2007

From the book jacket:
Chicken–both the bird and the food–has played multiple roles in the lives of African American women from the slavery era to the present. It has provided food and a source of income for their families, shaped a distinctive culture, and helped women define and exert themselves in racist and hostile environments. Psyche A. Williams-Forson examines the complexity of black women’s legacies using food as a form of cultural work. While acknowledging the negative interpretations of black culture associated with chicken imagery, Williams-Forson focuses her analysis on the ways black women have forged their own self-definitions and relationships to the “gospel bird.”Exploring material ranging from personal interviews to the comedy of Chris Rock, from commercial advertisements to the art of Kara Walker, and from cookbooks to literature, Williams-Forson considers how black women arrive at degrees of self-definition and self-reliance using certain foods. She demonstrates how they defy conventional representations of blackness in relationship to these foods and exercise influence through food preparation and distribution.

Understanding these phenomena clarifies how present interpretations of blacks and chicken are rooted in a past that is fraught with both racism and agency. The traditions and practices of feminism, Williams-Forson argues, are inherent in the foods women prepare and serve.

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Coping with Poverty

March 30, 2007

From the book jacket:

Conservatives often condemn the poor, particularly African-Americans, for having children out of wedlock, joblessness, dropping out of school, or tolerating crime. Liberals counter that, with more economic opportunity, the poor differ little from the nonpoor in these areas. In answer to both, Coping with Poverty points to the survival strategies of the poor and their multiple roles as parents, neighbors, relatives, and workers. Their attempts to balance multiple obligations occur within a context of limited information, social support, and resources. Their decisions may not always be the wisest, but they “make sense” in context.

Contributors use qualitative research methods to explore the influence of community, workplace, and family upon strategies for dealing with poverty. Promising young scholars delve into poor black inner-city neighborhoods and suburbs and middle-income black urban communities, exploring experiences at all stages of life, including high-school students, young parents, employed older men, and unemployed mothers. Two chapters discuss the role of qualitative research in poverty studies, specifically examining how this research can be used to improve policymaking.

The volume’s contribution is in the diversity of experiences it highlights and in how the general themes it illustrates are similar across different age/gender groups. The book also suggests an approach to policymaking that seeks to incorporate the experiences and the needs of the poor themselves, in the hope of creating more successful and more relevant poverty policy. It is especially useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, public policy, urban studies, and African-American Studies, as its scope makes it the basic reader of qualitative studies of poverty. Sheldon Danziger is Director of the Poverty Research and Tranining Center and Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan. Ann Chih Lin is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan.

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City of Bits

March 28, 2007

From the book jacket:

Entertaining, concise, and relentlessly probing, City of Bits is a comprehensive introduction to a new type of city, an increasingly important system of virtual spaces interconnected by the information superhighway. William Mitchell makes extensive use of practical examples and illustrations in a technically well-grounded yet accessible examination of architecture and urbanism in the context of the digital telecommunications revolution, the ongoing miniturization of electronics, the commodification of bits, and the growing domination of software over materialized form.

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Next to Godliness

March 4, 2007

Next to godliness

From the book jacket:

To many Progressive Era reformers, the extent of street cleanliness was an important gauge for determining whether a city was providing the conditions necessary for impoverished immigrants to attain a state of “deceny” – a level of individual well-being and morality that would help ensure a healthy and orderly city. The struggle for enhanced civic sanitation significantly reinforced the broader movement to improve social and environmental conditions and influence the individual behaviors considered crucial to personal advancement and societal health.

Daniel Eli Burnstein’s Next to Godliness examines prominent street sanitation issues in Progressive Era New York City – ranging from garbage strikes to pushcarts to “juvenile street cleaning leagues” – as a way of exploring how reformers amassed a base of middle-class support for social reform measures to a greater degree than in practically any other period of prosperity in U.S. history. Linking social reform concerns with practical politics and with compelling urban environment and public health issues, Burnstein stresses an ethos of mutual obligations in discussing reformers’ attitudes toward individual and governmental responsibility, individual character and its relationship to the social and physical environment, and the integration of immigrants into the broader society. 

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Environmental Governance Reconsidered

March 4, 2007

Environmental governance reconsidered

From the book jacket:

This survey of current issues and controversies in environmental policy and management is unique in its thematic mix, broad coverage of key debates and approaches, and in-depth analysis of concepts treated less thoroughly in other texts. The contributing authors, all distinguished scholars or practitioners, offer a comprehensive examination of key topics in environmental governance today, including perspectives from environmental economics, democratic theory, public policy, law, political science, and public administration. Environmental Governance Reconsidered is the first book to integrate these wide-ranging topics and perspectives thematically in one volume.

Many are calling for a change in the bureaucratic, adversarial, technology-based regulatory approach that is the basis for much environmental policy — a move from “rule-based” to “results-based” regulation. Each of the thirteen chapters in Environmental Governance Reconsidered critically examines one aspect of this “second generation” of environmental reform, assesses its promise-versus-performance to date,
and points out future challenges and opportunities. The first section of the book, “Reconceptualizing Purpose,” discusses the concepts of sustainability, global interdependence, the precautionary principle, and common pool resource theory. The second section, “Reconnecting with Stakeholders,” examines deliberative democracy, civic environmentalism, environmental justice, property rights and regulatory takings, and
environmental conflict resolution. The final section, “Redefining Administrative Rationality,” analyzes devolution, regulatory flexibility, pollution prevention, and third-party environmental management systems auditing. This book will benefit students, scholars, managers, natural resource specialists, policymakers, and reformers and
is ideal for class adoption.

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American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to end Welfare

January 23, 2007

American Dream by Jason DeParle

From the book jacket: Bill Clinton’s “drive to end welfare” sent 9 million women and children streaming from the rolls. In this masterful work, New York Times reporter and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce the definitive account. As improbable as fiction, and equally face-paced, this classic of literary journalism has captured the acclaim of the Left and the Right.

At the heart of the story are three cousins, inseparable at the start but launched on differing arcs. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart into her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that her kids and her life. DeParle traces back their family history six generations to slavery, and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

At times, the very idea of America seemed on trial: we live in a country, where anyone can make it, yet generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why.

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Nickel and Dimed

January 23, 2007

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

From the book jacket: Our sharpest and most original social critic goes “undercover” as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job — any job — can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly “unskilled,” that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough you need at least two if you want to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity — a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich’s perspective and for a rare view of how “prosperity” looks from the bottom. You will never see anything — from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal — in quite the same way again.

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American Slavery, American Freedom

January 23, 2007

American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund S. Morgan

From the book jacket: “If it is possible to understand the American paradox, the marriage of slavery and freedom, Virginia is surely the place to begin,” writes Edmund S. Morgan in American Slavery, American Freedom, a study of the tragic contradiction at the core of America. Morgan finds the key to this central paradox in the people and politics of the state that was both the birthplace of the revolution and the largest slaveholding state in the country. With a new introduction. Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize and the Albert J. Beveridge Award.

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