Book Bits: 2 April 2022

The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters
Juliette Kayyem
Interview with author via Lawfare
We live in a time of seemingly constant catastrophes, and we always seem a step behind and still fumble when they occur. It’s no longer about preventing disasters from occurring, but learning how to use the tools at our disposal to minimize the consequences when they inevitably do.
Juliette Kayyem has just written a book about it all called, “The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters.” Juliette is a lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a CNN national security analyst, and David Priess sat down with her to talk about it all.

Economics for a Fragile Planet: Rethinking Markets, Institutions and Governance
Edward Barbier
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
In a world of growing environmental risks and ecological scarcities, ensuring a safe Anthropocene for humankind is essential. Managing an increasingly “fragile” planet requires new thinking on markets, institutions and governance built on five principles: ending the underpricing of nature, fostering collective action, accepting absolute limits, attaining sustainability, and promoting inclusivity. Rethinking economics and policies in this way can help to overcome the global challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, freshwater scarcity, and deteriorating marine and coastal habitats. It requires decoupling wealth creation from environmental degradation through business, policy and financial actions aimed at better stewardship of the biosphere.

Spin Dictators: The Changing Face of Tyranny in the 21st Century
Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman
Review via The Economist
Russia did not invade Ukraine. Ukrainians are shelling their own cities. A Jewish president is actually a Nazi. Dictators have always told lies, so the Kremlin’s recent whoppers have precedent. Dictators have often used terror, too, so what Vladimir Putin is doing to civilians in Ukraine is nothing new, either. But the balance between lying and killing has changed, argues a fascinating new book. For most modern autocrats, lying matters more.

8 Billion and Counting: How Sex, Death, and Migration Shape Our World
Adapted excerpt via The Atlantic
“They keep coming. The numbers are climbing with no end in sight,” claims an ominous voice over images of migrants crowded at the southwestern U.S. border. The implication of the 30-second spot sponsored by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which lobbies for lower immigration, is that the mass migration of people across borders is inevitable. On that point, even many immigration advocates agree. Only their interpretation is different: If large-scale population movement is inevitable, they argue, the receiving countries—and especially wealthy liberal democracies such as the United States—need fairer, more humane systems for processing people as they arrive.

The Worth of Water: Our Story of Chasing Solutions to the World’s Greatest Challenge
Gary White and Matt Damon
Summary via publisher (Portfolio)
On any given morning, you might wake up and shower with water, make your coffee with water, flush your toilet with water—and think nothing of it. But around the world, more than three-quarters of a billion people can’t do any of that—because they have no clean water source near their homes. And 1.7 billion don’t have access to a toilet. This crisis affects a third of the people on the planet. It keeps kids out of school and women out of work. It traps people in extreme poverty. It spreads disease. It’s also solvable. That conviction is what brought together movie actor Matt Damon and water expert and engineer Gary White.

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