Gillian Tett in the Financial Times, June 2021
Thus the fact that I grew up seeing empty jam jars stored for the future made it seem natural to reuse them. Harvesting bilberries from moorland bushes prompted me to scan the ground around my feet (and recoil from litter). Later, being surrounded by the constant use and disposal of plastic bags in shops instilled a different mindset.
The question we collectively face now is whether we can reshape our habits — and habitus — again. And as Josh Berson … argues in a fascinating new book The Human Scaffold, the issue is not just about material goods: social, emotional and biological patterns also matter deeply.
“Stuff is what’s prominent in archaeological assemblages, not to say our own everyday lives,” he writes. “But that’s a recent phenomenon. If we look at the deep history of human adaptation to climate change, we see stuff playing a subsidiary role.”
UC Faculty Senate Editorial Committee, endorsing The Human Scaffold
A rare case of a true high-level crossover book, one that offers really useful, life and methods-enhancing concepts and ideas for scholars … yet open and flexible to other kinds of readers, people who are looking for a way to live adaptively. Cleanly and elegantly written, it is also understated to an extreme, stylistically graceful yet humble, modeling the concept of epistemic humility that is one of the book’s key concepts. … Berson offers a stylistics of living with calm and flexible resolution, with an adaptive mobility that was awesome to read at just this time of pandemic failure, when the scaffold is all we have in a time of nothing stored, nothing guaranteed in the way of resources.
Review of The Meat Question, CHOICE, May 2020
Humans’ relationship to food is complicated, and that holds especially true for meat. Must we consume it? Did it make us human? Will we consume more meat as affluence rises around the globe? The first half of Berson’s book is a thorough, imaginative, and compelling rebuttal of the pervasive argument that our hominid antecedents and more modern human ancestors made meat a staple of their diet. Drawing from a range of disciplines, Berson … identifies telling assumptions about human evolution and marshals an impressive array of evidence that dispels the myth that meat consumption is central to human existence. In the remainder of the book, he makes an even more critical contribution: a case against the widespread assertion that demand for meat is elastic, which proves to be unfounded. He then presents the case for meat as an economically precarious food, one that occasions oppression across species lines. The intersection of food and violence, including the vast exploitation of human and animal populations, removed from mainstream view — or met with a shrug, as Berson aptly observes — is the crux of this timely work, which is ideal for students of development, economics, and animal studies.