K Author Chronicles Dangers of Never Being Out of Season

Kalamazoo College alumnus Robb Dunn

Robb Dunn

Biology professor (North Carolina State University), scientist and science writer Rob Dunn ’97 has a new book out. Never Out of Season: How Having the Food We Want When We Want It Threatens Our Food Supply and Our Future, was reviewed by Raj Patel in and article titled “Seeds of Destruction.” The review appears in the April 16, 2017, New York Times Book Review. Patel finds the book an engrossing review of human hubris relative to agricultural production. Medicine effectively treating high blood pressure may barely register in a patient’s consciousness. But he will know if it fails catastrophically, however brief that moment of recognition might be. Such unconscious dependence characterizes most of us relative to the people (and their efforts) who manage the diseases and pests that threaten modern agriculture and the world’s food supply. There have been catastrophic failures in the past, and Rob covers several, most notably, the 1845-49 Irish potato famine, a devastation (millions died) more artificial than natural, caused by failures both political and scientific. Among the latter, the fear of scientists to speak truth to power and a contempt for the botanical ingenuity of indigenous science. Concludes Patel: “There are biologists today who stare into the abyss of global crop failure, and stand ready to protest commercial and governmental venality. We can hope that Dunn’s book encourages them to be less humble toward the interests they serve, and offer more humility toward the knowledge of indigenous people, on whose shoulders they stand.”