Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster

John Konrad, Author, Tom Shroder, Author
John Konrad and Tom Shroder, Harper, $27.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-206300-7
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-06-206301-4
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-206302-1
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Konrad, a veteran oil rig captain, teams up with Shroder (Old Souls) to offer a thorough but plodding look at the "little-understood culture of offshore drilling." Starting in Korea with the construction of the Deepwater Horizon in 2000, the authors leapfrog through time and around the globe to explain the history and mechanics of oil rig life and offshore drilling. Profiles of the (mostly) men who work the rigs shed light on the class tensions aboard as well as on the personalities, educations, and customs of this special set of modern-day mariners. Konrad had close friends on the Horizon and the final chapters are an affecting blend of their firsthand accounts of the explosion. The authors suggest that oil rig blowouts are inevitable: while Transocean Ltd., owner of the Horizon and the world's biggest offshore drilling company, does what it can to prevent common safety hazards, the high cost of delays in the offshore oil business (use of the Horizon was costing BP $700 a minute) encourages management to postpone the maintenance of essential equipment. While informative and undeniably important, the book is so bogged down by clunky prose and jargon that it's difficult to mine its message. (Apr.) C reating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach Martha Nussbaum Harvard Univ., $22.95 (228p) ISBN 978-0-674-05054-9 Offering a forceful and persuasive account of the failings of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an accurate reflection of human welfare, the distinguished philosopher Nussbaum (Frontiers of Justice) provides a framework for a new account of global development based on the concept of capabilities. Taking her cue from the work of economist Amartya Sen, the author argues that human development is best measured in terms of specific opportunities available to individuals rather than economic growth figures. Nussbaum strives to provide a comprehensive practical and theoretical framework by linking capabilities with education, human rights, justice, and democracy. Placing this approach within a broad lineage that reaches back to Aristotle, Nussbaum makes a strong case both for its philosophical pedigree and its ability to deal with such contemporary issues as gender equality and animal rights. Though the complexity of questions raised would seem to demand a more detailed account of how the capabilities approach might be implemented, as an introduction to the issues and as an indictment of current development indexes, this small book provides a strong foundation for beginning to think about how economic growth and individual flourishing might coincide. (Apr.)
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