–Graeme Simsion – $A29.99 – $NZ 37 – Text Publishing Don Tillman, a professor of genetics, has a difficult time interacting with people generally and women specifically. He hasn’t even made it to a second date. Early on he explains it is because some women are late, which he hates, or that they don’t really understand the pragmatic and obvious things in life. For instance, at the end of one date, the woman suggests she’d like apricot ice cream. Don insists that because all ice cream tastes essentially the same, owing to the chilling of the tastes buds, particularly fruit flavoured ones. He suggests a taste test to prove his point. “But by the time the serving person had prepared them, and I turned to ask Elizabeth to close her eyes for the experiment, she had gone.” Don decides that he wants to get married, though, and the best way to do this is to create a questionnaire and The Wife Project becomes his main focus. The reader knows that Don is autistic, on some level. He has a difficult time understanding and connecting to other individuals and recognising the importance of social rituals. He wants a woman who is punctual, doesn’t smoke, is logical. Like him. Enter Rosie Jarman who is a barmaid, late, drinks, smokes, and is on a quest to find out who her father is. Don becomes intrigued by The Father Project, as he dubs it, and then by Rosie herself. The hardest part of the book was understanding how Don connects with Rosie. We’re told that he does and I found Rosie fun as a reader, but it was difficult to find consistency with Don “all ice creams are the same why are you leaving upset?” with Don “I don’t care that you violate every principle that I […]
It’s weird, the weather. Or it may just be that it is obvious. Depends on whom you talk to. Climate change has been on the march for a while now, or it may just be a phenomena – what has been happening lately – in the earth’s cycle. –Doug Green, Publisher For example, this week the highest waves ever recorded off the coast of Hawaii; Australia coming to terms (again) with searing heat and the unpredictability of bushfires and extreme temperatures; the USA where a third of the population was recently affected by unrelenting and totally unexpected freezing temperatures and huge snow storms and winds. At the end of 2013 cyclones in The Philippines. Changes in extreme weather threaten human health as well as prosperity. Many societies have taken measures to cope with historical weather extremes, but new, more intense extremes have the potential to overwhelm existing human systems and structures. More frequent and more severe extreme weather events are more likely to destabilise ecosystems and cripple essential components of human livelihood, such as food production, transportation infrastructure, and water management. Death, disease, displacement, and economic hardship may follow, as we have seen with recent hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and droughts. As the earth’s climate has warmed, some types of extreme weather have become more frequent and severe in recent decades, with increases in extreme heat, intense precipitation, and drought. Heat waves are longer and hotter. How can it be that in Australia, for example, they talk of temperatures of 50 degrees being the new normal in some areas? Heavy rains and flooding are more frequent. In a wide swing between extremes, drought, too, is more intense and more widespread. So we adapt – and need to adapt – to move on.
By Alain Bertaud, Urbanist, Senior Research Scholar, Stern School of Business, New York University Former Principal Planner – The World Bank. http://alainbertaud.com/ This year, Demographia is publishing its 10th Annual International Housing Affordability Survey. It ranks 360 metropolitan markets in nine countries. Are planners in the worst performing cities paying any attention? And are they drawing any conclusions on how to improve the situation? Or do local governments conclude that the best way to increase the supply of affordable housing is to impose new regulations that will mandate developers to build housing units at prices, standards, and in locations selected by the government? The last approach, under the name of inclusionary zoning is unfortunately the most common response, as recently seen, for instance, in New York and Mexico City. Urban planners have been inventing all sorts of abstractly worded objectives to justify their plans for our future cities – smart growth, liveability, sustainability, are among the most recent fads. There is nothing wrong, of course, for a city to try to be smart, liveable, or sustainable. But for some reasons these vague and benign sounding objectives usually become a proxy for imposing planning regulations that severely limit the supply of buildable land and the number of housing units built, resulting in ever higher housing prices. In the name of smart growth or sustainability, planners decide that densities should be lower in some places and higher in others. Population densities are not a design parameter whose value depends on the whim of planners but are consumption indicators which are set by markets. Even the Communist Party of China recently declared that resource allocation is best achieved through markets; why can’t urban planners in so-called market economies reach the same conclusions and let markets decide how much land and floor space households and firms will […]
By Paul McMahon Profile Books Agriculture seldom makes headlines and when it does, it struggles to sustain its high profile. It is easy to forget that all development is founded on agriculture and the success of nations depends on food security: as Paul McMahon writes in Feeding frenzy, there would have been no pyramids without full granaries. Yet despite clear signs that global food production and distribution is teetering on the edge of crisis, attention is directed to other priorities. McMahon sets the scene with a review of the history of the global food system and the underlying causes of the recent turmoil in food markets. Much of this will be familiar ground for New Agriculturist readers but worth reading for the lively if astringent analysis. He concludes that the world could feed 8 billion or more without awaiting silver bullets from genetic modification and miracle seeds. It’s just that: “So far we have spectacularly failed to construct a just global food system – this is why one in eight people go hungry while one in five is overweight.” McMahon has travelled widely and authored major reports on sustainable food systems for the FAO. He is also an advisor to The Prince of Wales’s International Sustainability Unit. He believes that sub-Saharan Africa is Ground Zero for many of the food production challenges discussed in this book but goes on to write, “Sub-Saharan Africa has enormous potential to increase production with more than 750 million hectares of suitable land that could be brought into production and the potential to triple yields.” The author is convinced that the answer lies in two major themes: “The first is the need to help small farmers in poor countries produce more food. The second theme is the importance of switching to agro-ecological farming systems that […]