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Upcoming Events/Recent Media

  • APRIL 26: The San Francisco Chronicle put Banana on its Top Shelf list of recommended non-fiction, calling it "an entertaining and provocative look at the banana and its role in changing the course of history."

    APRIL 26: The Green LA Girl blog just posted an interview with me, which follows up the review it did of my book last week. Lots of tips throughout the blog on green living and networking, and not just for (Los Angeles) locals only.

    MARCH 9: KCLU, the public radio station in Santa Barbara, did an interview with me in advance of a day I spent at California State University Channel Islands giving talks and seminars on bananas and writing. In it, I discuss a little how some of my views have changed since the book was published a year ago.

    JANUARY 7: The Huffington Post says that the book is "brilliant."

    DECEMBER 17: I'll be giving a talk at the Wilton Public Library, in Wilton, Connecticut. Topic: Banana Diversity - and replacing our threatened supermarket variety.

    OCTOBER 28: I spoke at the Latin American Institute of the University of Southern California about corporate fruit, alternate banana supply chains, and how to reverse a century of banana monoculture. More info here, and thanks to UCLA for hosting me!

    AUGUST 28: Fenella Saunders, writing in the September/October 2008 issue of American Scientist, said my book was "mouthwatering" and "eloquent."

    JULY 26: Radio New Zealand's "This Way Up," hosted by Simon Morton. This was one of the most enjoyable interviews I've done; the host is funny, and we got to hit on a lot of topics. Show link here. Podcast here.

    JULY 24: The BBC's Brazil Service features an article written by Lucas Mendes, based on an interview he did with me on the future of the fruit. (Brazil is the world's second largest banana growing country, after India.) In Portuguese. Machine-generated English translation here. A televised version of the interview with Mr. Mendes is coming up soon.

    JUNE 28: Vikram Doctor, writing in The Economic Times of India, features "Banana" in a an amazing two-part series that highlights the stunning diversity of his country's banana crop. This is truly a great article - you'll find dozens of different banana types listed here, along with stories about the way people eat (and love) the fruit in the world's top banana-growing (and most banana-crazed) nation. Part one here, part two here.

    JUNE 20: One of my favorite public radio programs - NPR's To The Point, syndicated out of my local station, KCRW, interviews me about the future of the banana.

    JUNE 20: The Daily Green uses the book and my New York Times column to put rising banana prices in historical context.

    JUNE 19: Stephen J. Dubner, writing in his Freakonomics blog, says that my article answers a question he's "long wondered about: why are bananas so cheap relative to other fruit, especially since a lot of the fruit we consume in the U.S. is grown here while bananas are not?" (The book goes into detail about this, and more, of course!)

    JUNE 19: Lewis Lapham, in The Huffington Post, writes about the book and the history of the banana republics in Central America.

    JUNE 19: WFMY News, Greensboro/Winston-Salem/Highpoint, North Carolina, offers a video report on banana prices; I'm interviewed in it. Video here. Article here.

    JUNE 18: Paul Krugman, again in his NYT blog, recommends the book.

    JUNE 10: Guest spot on "After Hours," Canada's Business News Network. Go here; my segment is about three-fourths of the way in. (I have to say, I need some practice for television.)

    MAY 22: Johann Hari, in The Independent, explains why "bananas are a parable for our times," and describes the book as "brilliant." This story was picked up in dozens of other media outlets.

    MAY 14: I absolutely love - there are over a dozen essential commentators writing there - and one of my favorites is Razib Khan, who runs the Gene Expressions blog. He did an extended and thoughtful review of the book and the issues surrounding it.

    APRIL 23: Steve Mirsky interviewed me for the Scientific American's podcast. Topic: "Can Science Save the Banana?" Listen here. This was a fun one.

    APRIL 20: Paul Krugman, blogging in the New York Times, recommends my book. He's reading an electronic version of it on an Amazon Kindle.

    MARCH 17: The Nation calls "Banana" a "tale of a threatened species and the scientific heroes hunting to save the fruit," and a book with "a driving force and an urgency."

    MARCH 13: Banana on American Public Media's "Splendid Table" - the ultimate radio show for foodies. Station listing here. Direct download here. Podcast here.

    MARCH 8: Toronto Globe & Mail (March 8, 2008 ) calls "Banana" a "hard-nosed journalistic account" and "the book you've been looking for if you've heard rumours that the phallic golden fruit that adorns the breakfast table might be heading for extinction."

    FEBRUARY 18: "Banana" on NPR's "Fresh Air." Download/Podcasts here.

    FEBRUARY 14: Leonard Lopate's "Underreported," WNYC (New York Public Radio). Listen here.

    FEBRUARY 11: Interview on Public Radio International's "Marketplace." Listen here.

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Filmmakers Under Fire

  • "The Affected" is a new documentary that chronicles the lives of banana and sugar plantation workers in modern-day Latin America - and has uncovered a startling, ongoing nightmare: an epidemic of kidney failure among sugar workers, possibly related to pesticide exposure. The work the filmmakers have been doing has led to the killing of one crew member, and threats on the lives of others. You can read more about "The Affected" - and learn how you can help - here.

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November 18, 2008


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I just read the book (from the library, sorry, I'm unemployed), it's great. I literally put it down and came to your blog, which I'll now follow.

Two questions about your attack of the Holder pick:

1. What is your response to Salon's quote in defense of Holder's work with Chiquita:

"Anybody who believes in core liberties should want even the most culpable parties to have zealous representation before the Government can impose punishments or other sanctions. Lawyers who defend even the worst parties are performing a vital service for our justice system. Holder is no more tainted by his defense of Chiquita than lawyers who defend accused terrorists at Guantanamo are tainted by that."

2. Your book describes how the banana companies have divested of most of their land holdings they used to have. You say they now prefer to be middlemen. But doesn't that make their involvement in Colombia something of an exemption? And don't you think that the AUC is still demanding similar bribes from whoever now owns the plantations?

If every lawyer who had represented unsavory clients were barred from government service, there wouldn’t be many lawyers in Washington at all (which some people would argue would actually be a very good thing, indeed.)

From what I can gather, Holder is held in pretty high regard by both Democrats and Republicans. Most important: unlike most of Bush’s high-level appointments, Obama’s don’t appear to be narrow-minded ideologues. So far he seems to be selecting moderates, some of whom lean left and some more to the right. Again unlike Bush, Obama hasn’t so far picked any extremists. (Read David Brooks’ column in today’s Times.)

It’s always important to keep a skeptical eye on political appointees, but it’s virtually a foregone conclusion that all will have some sort of skeleton in the closet. But Obama’s qualification criteria appear to be really comprehensive and those, in and of themselves, should help screen out the truly unscrupulous and the truly dishonest.

Hi Seth -

Thanks for your comment, and thanks for reading the book (library users are welcome!)

I agree, completely, that Chiquita deserves the most vigorous defense possible. That our justice system grants that right is the best thing about it. But I believe that Holder having been that defender is an important thing to consider as he's considered for his new post.

The backstory in Chiquita's history is almost of invention of the kind of intervention that Obama himself campaigned against - so Holder's defending that company carries a lot of symbolic weight. I'm not against Holder, but I would like to hear him explain that he understands that burden, because people overseas who are hoping that Obama is serious about rebuilding America's shattered reputation certainly will appreciate that.

Your second point: I may be misinterpreting the question, so accept my apologies in advance if I am. There's still horrible stuff going on everywhere in the banana world at the subcontractor level, as well as at company-owned plantations (of which there are enough to still make a difference.) Do the banana companies have the ability to change it? Yes - even when the problems are related to guerilla movements, i.e. in the Philippines.) The answer is to work to change the banana supply chain, from beginning to end, so that there's more fairness and control at the local farm level.

Could Chiquita have done something else in Colombia? One place it could have started was by contextualizing its actions. The violence it helped continue in Colombia by paying the AUC was spawned, originally, but the instability it sponsored early part of the 20th century as it sought to control that country's banana supply.

I don't begrudge Chiquita a defense, or a right to exist, or thrive. Nor do I wish to see Holder shut out of a job that he'd probably be brilliant at (and pragmatically, this is Washington.) But shining a little bit of light into this one small debate could illuminate a century of ugliness - and even help heal some of it, perhaps.

- Dan


You are just naive. You believed Obama represented "change", how very pathetic. Did you even understand what Rezko or Exelon was about?

McCain, the most honest politician around, one who repeatedly showed himself willing to incur political cost by doing the right thing, was real "change".

I predict that with time you will become increasingly cynical of all things Obama.


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