Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Giveaway: Simple Propserity

Wendy over at Home Is . . . is giving away a copy of Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle by David Wann. I very much enjoyed the book - finding it both uplifting and affirming. I recommend it for newly green to medium green but, hurry. You have to have your name in by July 3rd to be entered in the drawing.

Book Review: Break Through

Last month, I finished the book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility by Ted Nordhaus & Michael Shellenberger. It has taken me quite some time to write this review because (1) I don't particularly excel in book reviews and (2) I am not quite sure how I felt about the book.

The book opens with a look at Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. The authors point out that the speech was so inspiring because it focused on what we can achieve and overcome, after taking only a very brief sojourn into the "nightmare" of discrimination. Unlike King's speech, which was uplifting and motivating, the message of the environmental movement tends to fixate on the nightmare - pollution, species extinction, global warming, and ecosystem collapse. Certainly those fears are too real but the Break Through authors posit that the Civil Rights movement succeeded because people were inspired into action, rather than scared into it.

Nordhaus and Shellenberger then spend the middle chapters exploring where the environmental movement has failed - protecting the Amazon instead of relieving Brazil's debt, fighting environmental racism, which the authors claim does not exist, and resisting change, even when it is change for the better (e.g., the installation of Cape Wind within Robert Kennedy, Jr.'s home turf). These chapters, while interesting, seemed out of place - almost like separate essays. I suppose authors feel that they need to detail what is wrong in the first half of a book so that they can devote the second half to solutions.

And, thankfully, those solutions do come. Instead of dwelling on tragedies inflicted by humans, the authors shift the environmental lens to focus on the extraordinary achievements of our species. Humans were once prey. "That there are nearly seven billion of us alive today is a sign of our success, not failure." (151) We humans are capable of great miracles. If we come together, we can overcome anything. The old environmentalism centered on limits, sadness and fear. The new politics is a "politics of overcoming." It triggers feelings of joy, happiness and pride.

How to motivate the masses, though, to join such a positive political movement? The authors examine the rampant insecurity of Americans today. We have more money, resources, material than fifty years ago and, yet, we are less happy, more worried and less generous. Nordhaus and Shellenberger attempt to explain why and offer a means to security. They also look to the rise of the Evangelical church for clues on bringing people together to share a sense of belonging and fulfillment.

In many ways, Break Through is a tough read. To pick it up, one must be determined to finish it. To not meander too long on the tangential paths laid out by the authors. It is, however, a hugely important read written by people whom my husband would call "thought leaders." It challenged the way I think about the green movement and what I believe needs to be done politically. I am glad I read it.

*Robin left a comment when we launched The Blogging Bookworm, suggesting that reviews rate books on a scale of 1-5 (5 being best) and recommend the book for newly green, medium green or dark green readers. Great idea! So here goes:

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

READERS: Recommended for medium to dark green readers.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Reading Roundup for June

This month, I've left the real world for the garbage heap - also known as Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. I am only half finished which is a testament not to the writing style but to the busy-ness of my month.

Garbage Land is an easy, quick read that is both surprisingly entertaining and interesting. It is stocked with fascinating facts like: "packaging makes up 35 percent of household waste in the United States (by weight) . . . [and] yard waste and food scraps make up another twenty five percent."(124) and delves into every aspect of waste from compost to plastic to poop. While I don't think this book will shake my belief system or alter the green movement's path, it is a very worthwhile and informative read. You will never look at your garbage can the same way.

How was your June? Did you jump all over some great green reads? Share your thoughts on your June read here or leave a comment with a link to a review, if you posted one. If you've picked your next book and it's not on our sidebar, give us a shout. If you are new to The Blogging Bookworm, by all means, grab a book, leave a comment and join in the fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Have you read .....?

Last month Green Bean asked if anyone wanted to continue her Bookworm Challenge to read and review an ecologically relevant book for a second month. I had no idea that when I answered, I could do this every month, she would take me up on it.

I'm glad she did. I love talking about books but these days find my closest friends don't share the same enthusiasm to read about gmo seeds or the rapid depletion of the oceans. It's all I can do to not tap other bus passengers on the shoulder and read them a passage about salmon farming or the collapse of cod populations as we head home from work. I want to talk about what I'm reading, gather other viewpoints to expand my own. They want to sleep.

Green Bean's original challenge though, with every one's participation, has cultivated the space for all of us to tap our neighbors on the shoulder, to jump up and down about what we're reading or huddle up and cry and know that we aren't alone (check out that side bar). There are some hard reads in our library but they are balanced by inspiring and informative books too.

I've been reading through the reviews and found thoughtful, thought provoking and stunning reviews. People I would like to sit next to on the bus and have tap me on the shoulder.

How do you generally share the information you read?

Do you belong to a green book group?

Do you only talk about what you're reading if you are sure the other person is interested?

Do you stand on the book like a soap box and preach about it?

Do you hit people over the head with the book until they agree to read it?

Do you buy ten copies of your favorite book and gift it for every conceivable occasion?

Do you bring the subject of your latest ecological read up lightly and let it go if the other person isn't interested?

Do you tap strangers on the shoulder?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Book List & Reviews