Book Review: Looking at politically incorrect history of Latin America

Historia Políticamente Incorrecta de América LatinaHistoria Políticamente Incorrecta de América Latina by Leandro Narloch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a tough book to review. Narloch is absolutely brutal in his dissection of the idols of the Latin American left. I don’t disagree with his conclusions and that these idols do not deserve to be idolized as they are and that the left has chosen to be willfully ignorant in continuing to raise them up onto a pedestal. However, I can’t shake the feeling that it feels a bit like a hatchet job. I am not suggesting that the research was poorly done, and I realize that the objective of the book was to confront the left with its own hypocrisy, something I greatly appreciate, as the left has often ignored deplorable actions done by those on their side while shrilly attacking (and rightfully so) the deplorable acts done by the right. However, the lack of any positive message makes it at times hard reading, and I suspect will make its impact less as it probably won’t be read much by leftists who may become immediately defensive. I wonder if Narloch would have offered alternative leftist leaders who demonstrated some of the more humane characteristics it would have made the whole story more impactful. Narloch also does not focus his criticism much on the right. This is understandable as the Latin American right has gotten a fair amount of criticism in the recent past, but by not including much of this in the book it might not feel completely fair. Nevertheless, if you can get past these limitations, I think the book is definitely worth reading. I especially would like social liberals to read this to reconsider some of the absurd hero worship that has been done on some very deplorable historical figures, and at least try to be just as critical and demanding of those on our side of the ideological spectrum as we are of those on the opposite side.

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Book Review: Equality and Efficiency the Big TradeOff

Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff (A Brookings Classic)Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff by Arthur M. Okun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very interesting book, written back in the 1970s, and still relevant. While this was written 40 years ago, the challenges between equality and efficiency is one that continues to bedevil us, and has recently returned to to forefront of discussion. Considering this, I think that this book is definitely worth revisiting especially considering the very pragmatic way that Okun approaches the subject. I really liked the way that Okun presented the issue of having to balance social good with economic efficiency. I found his frank discussion appealing, especially with how objective he tried to be showing both the pros and cons of different decisions that each society must make, as well as his own preference of where he would have liked society to have come to.

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CCAFS Annual Report

The CGIAR Research Project on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (2014) just released their 2014 annual report. They have done so in a fairly innovative and interactive online format. Lots of cool work was done for CCAFS on a variety of different topics across a range of scales and regions. Some of the work that I did last year working with the OECD was highlighted in the report, which is pretty gratifying considering how much time and effort went into the report. You can take a look at the Annual report at:  http://ccafs.cgiar.org/research/annual-report/2014/

Book Review: The Price of Civilization

The Price Of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue And ProsperityThe Price Of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue And Prosperity by Jeffrey D. Sachs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I often find reading any book by Jeffrey Sachs requires that I first remove my general dislike for an arrogance that comes through in his books with a know-it-all like characteristic that feels like he is slowly leading along a bunch of slow children to the “correct” answer. Once I was able to get past this, there was actually quite a bit that I found interesting or agreed with in this book. Sachs looks at many of the issues currently challenging our society, and I found the book a good addition to the recent literature exploring the challenges of declining social capital and trust in a post-modern world, as well as the challenges of inequality that is confronting the country

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New IFPRI Publication Looking at Climate Change and Gender in Mexico, Brazil, and Peru

IFPRI just released a new discussion paper that I helped with looking at the potential effects of climate change on incomes in Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. This discussion paper estimates that there will be significant losses to agricultural income through negative climate shocks and that these losses will have gender differentiated effects at the household level.

Take a look at the discussion paper, which you can download for free at: http://www.ifpri.org/publication/agriculture-incomes-and-gender-latin-america-2050

Presenting in Bogota Colombia

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Last week I presented work I’ve been involved with at IFPRI with the IMPACT model. I explained how the model works and how this tool can be used in conjunction with other tools developed at IFPRI can be applied to the Colombian context to analyze complex issues like the effects of climate change on agricultural prices, land-use, and GHG emmissions.

Take a look at the blogpost I posted about the event at the Global Futures website: http://globalfutures.cgiar.org/2014/12/03/leds-modelling-workshop-adapting-ifpri-tools-and-methodologies-to-the-colombian-policy-context/

 

Presenting in Buenos Aires

Just posted a blog on the Global Futures website about my trip to Buenos Aires, where I presented work done at IFPRI looking at the potential role of new agricultural technologies in sustainable intensification and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Agricultural Projections at the Cereals Exchange in Buenos Aires – INAI conference Argentina

Southern African Agriculture and Climate Change

Check out the new IFPRI research monograph about climate change and agriculture in Southern Africa. This book is the second of 3 books looking at the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Africa. The first was released in the spring and focused on West Africa (book 1). The third and final book in this series focuses on East Africa and will be released by the end of the year.

This book like the one on West Africa has chapters focusing on the unique challenges each country in Southern Africa will face due to climate change. The book is free to download in whole, or by chapter if you are only interested in a particular country or want to reduce your downloading time.

Development Links – May-July

Wow, so I’ve been pretty busy and haven’t gotten around to writing up some posts, so let’s see if I can get back into the habit of blogging again by getting this draft of several articles I was looking at from the begining of the summer.

  • Violent Conflict and Gender Inequality – A World Bank working paper that takes a look at the varying gendered effects of conflict around the world. It feels a bit like a literature review. There are some very interesting papers cited in this review. I didn’t see a whole lot of new information, but it is a good summary of the many ways that conflict can effect both men and women.
  • Education Technology Success Stories – Excellent paper from Brookings looking at some of the successful and promising technologies that could be harnessed to improve our education system. I think that the spirit of the paper is especially important in that they are looking at technologies as aids, that can enable teachers and students to better use their skills and improve the efficiency of the education process.
  • A Welcome Half Loaf on Food Aid Reform (Center for Global Development) – An excellent post looking at the proposed reforms the the U.S. Food Aid program. I am generally in agreement with the author that any reform of the program would be welcome. Increasing local and regional sourcing would be more efficient, and allow for greater spill over effects into regional economies, instead of using food aid as an excuse to subsidize the transportation and agriculture sector. If a full reform isn’t possible at this time, incremental steps are better than nothing, and if implementing these reforms increases the push towards greater trade liberalization of the agriculture sector in Europe, than all the better.
  • RTC Study on School Uniforms in Ecuador (PDF)
  • Internet and Elections (World Bank Blog) – Not sure if the world is ready for voting on the internet. It is true electronic voting could encourage greater participation, improving access to voting, and speeding up the counting of votes and encouraging transparency, while reducing opportunities for voter intimidation. However, moving the election online could also open up elections to security attacks (hackings) and easier falsification of identity on the one hand, and if implemented by less than honest governments could facilitate ballot stuffing. Much like in most areas the promise of technology to improve our lives needs to be weighted with a good deal of skepticism, because the devil is always in the details.
  • Kenya’s laptops for schools dream fails to address reality (The Guardian)

Climate Change and Conflict

Climate Change and Conflict

I’ve been so busy I haven’t been blogging. Hopefully I can get back into the habit. I found this article at The Guardian, and thought it was interesting. The effects of temperature on human behavior and the potential implications this has with climate change and social stability is fascinating. Guess, it is just one more potential impact of raising temperatures on human civilization.