Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Global Values 101

O.k., so it isn’t a book that I would strictly define as a “green read.” But I do think that it fits the fundamental spirit of what many of us are “going green” for. Recognition of our little cosmic part of our globe, and our impact of such. For many of us being green isn’t only about reducing our numbers, our impact, our footprint. It is recognizing our global responsibility and how our impact translates to another person we may very well never meet.

So thus said, I’d say READ THIS BOOK. I’d actually go so far as to say that I think I’ve found a book that should be given to every high-schooler or college freshman. Mandatory reading list my friends, I say right up there with the best of them.

Global Values 101 appealed to me greatly because I enjoy works of religion, philosophy, theology, history, etc. But I also like the translation of the ideas into everyday practicality and how they make a difference in our lives. How to these grand ideas move into our everyday perceptions of our culture, and how do they influence us to act and react. GV101 gave one of the most insightful looks at our cultural philosophy and how it translates into the state of the world and our national politics.

This book is divided up into sections, with essays from experts in a variety of fields responding to thought provoking student questions. The sections are:

-History and Investigations
-Labor and Economy (of particular interest to green readers)
-Diversity and Equality
-Brutality, Bloodshed, and Resolution
-Religion and Ethics
-Distance and Proximity

The experts include theologians, ethicists, physicians, literary scholars to diplomats and journalists. The questions and answers literally slammed me up against the wall with the insightful brilliance. Seriously. And it makes you want to dive deeper into each experts own unique published works.

In this one book I was pondering gender equality, our perceptions on “fighting for our country” vs. “fighting for our government,” consumerism and the infantilization of American voters. If you are looking for a multi-faceted read that makes you think, makes you question, and maybe even a little idealistic then grab a copy. Green read fans will find nuggets scattered throughout, especially on topics of economics and consumption.

The section of Q and A featuring Juliet Schor, economist and author several books including The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure grabbed my attention. She shoots it to us straight in that Americans are not clearly seeing the impact of shop, buy, work. Though we work longer hours now we still assess our level of happiness by a model of work and spend. It is a numbing pattern that creates waste, debt and an ultimate progressive life dissatisfaction. The discussion of New Consumerism will certainly interest fans of Affluenza.

As a librarian I rarely say “buy this book.” But this is one that I’m actually trotting off to the bookstore to purchase so that I can mark it up, mark my own references and use the highlighter on many a page. I’ve renewed my Library copy twice already and I haven’t had enough as I’m now reading passages for a second time. That speaks volumes in my world.

My one beef? Maybe this is trivial, but right smack on front is a quote from Susan Sarandon. Don’t get me wrong, I truly admire her acting works and political efforts, the lady has class! But it does bug me that lately everything does have to have some sort of celebrity endorsement on it in some form or fashion, even a book of profound relevant content from Harvard University.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Weekly Roundup

Hello everybody! Stay tuned for a review of Global Values 101 and Healthy Child, Healthy World this week as well as a few picks for kids. I'd like to do my Monday Roundup (gulp, on Tuesday) to see if we have any new reviews from our readers today.

Please post in the comments section if you have new titles or reviews to share. We would love to include them on the Blogging Bookworm. Stay tuned for further crunchy reads!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Unreasonable Woman, A True Story of Shrimpers Politicos Polluters and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas

I didn't intend to read An Unreasonable Woman a second time; in six months. But that's what's happening. I picked it up three nights ago to skim and refresh my memory to write a review. The mistake may have been starting on the first page although wherever I open this book I'm drawn in. I'm a third of the way into it now and there's no question I'll read it again to the end.

The first time I already knew how it ended. A high school educated, third generation shrimper, mother of five, Diane Wilson, takes on a multi-billion dollar chemical company polluting the environment of her home town, Seadrift, Texas. She has one friend on her side, Donna Sue, and get this - she wins. But all the way through the book it's impossible she could have an impact. That she could make a difference. I've read the book. I don't know how she did it.

If the book were only about environmental justice I wouldn't be reading it a second time. But Diane Wilson has one of the most original honest voices on the page I've come across. Her voice isn't schooled, you don't learn writing like this, it was born with her. There's no other explanation.

On the opening page she describes a man's face as, quiet as an onion peel. Later four white boots on the desk are likened to, snow geese in a rice field. And a few pages after that she writes, Like most conversations around a fish house, ours started nowhere and meandered like a lost, starving cat.

Diane's writing is like her activism, it moves forward quietly, steadily, without pretension or ego. The woman never has a plan. She sits quiet, listens. And then does what needs to be done from the inside out. She makes progress against insurmountable odds.

Several times while reading this book I wanted to give up. Not give up on reading the book, I never wanted to put the book down; but give up caring about anything. Caring seemed too lonely, too hard. One day, after reading for an hour, I walked home from the bus, up the stairs into bed, and fully dressed got under the covers. I felt like I'd been living in a cave and stepped outside to the glare of the sun. And it burned my vision. I don't know how Diane Wilson kept on at times but I'm glad she did.

Weeks later I saw Diane speak. She was exactly how I'd pictured her: dusty cowboy boots, a cup of coffee in her hands.

After her talk, the full house of which held their breath, shouted out, stood up, let tears fall; I knelt to the level of the table Diane sat at and asked a question. I don't remember her answer, but she looked me in the eye when she spoke, and calm as the descriptions in her book I knew she told me the truth. That she was incapable of anything else.

And I remember how desperately I didn't want that to be the case, that I wanted her to be an unbelieveable loon. Because living with the truth and politics of deadly pollution is harder than living with its lies, which Ms. Wilson so straight forwardly reveals.

As Molly Ivins said on the cover of the book, "A stunning achievement."

Rated: 18 out of 5 stars.

Recommended for every woman who knows she can make a difference, the women who aren't sure and all of us who live in the pollution of the every day silence of acquiescence.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lost Mountain - Multiple Reviews

Lost Mountain - A Year In the Vanishing Wilderness, Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia by Erik Reece, forward by Wendell Berry has been beautifully reviewed by Bookwormers before me. Lake Loop's review inspired me to order the book from the library. And she inspired Donna at Chocolate Crayons who wrote her review here. Green Bean at Green Bean Dreams wrote her review here.

Lost Mountain should be on bestseller lists across the country. I loved it; but it's not sexy. At all. Animal Vegetable Miracle had turkey sex, Omnivore's Dilemma must have had corn sex. I can't remember. Lost Mountain has heart.

Erik Reece cares about the mountain and the people that are being devastated by mountain top removal. He rides in their trucks and sits at their dinner tables between his monthly hikes up the mountain to journal it's demise. He listens to their stories, gives them a voice. He tells their history and it's impossible to not embrace them. They are good people. Even when they are also working at the mines.

There are no easy answers anywhere. The laws are too lax to help and they're ignored anyway. If there's too much noise the regulating agencies broaden the restrictions. Legal becomes criminal. It's eye opening stuff.

My favorite parts were when the communities came together to protect or reclaim the land. An 80 year old coffin maker took up his 22 rifle to protect his stepson's land (his stepson was a Marine serving in Iraq at the time). He was jailed and his neighbors surrounded the property for him; 22's in hand until he was released.

They came together again to pray on the top of a removed mountain top. They held hands, planted seeds of wildflowers. A couple journalists attended although strip mining is one of the most under reported environmental concerns of our time.

And young and old alike came together for a piece of performance art to reenact a visit forty years prior by Robert Kennedy four months before he was shot. The problems that existed then continue today.

I wish I could say the book ended happily. The author tried but his conclusion chapter was unnecessary. Coal mining is a problem however you spin it. And so is corruption, greed and our addiction to cheap energy. We're grown ups. We can take it.

Since reading Lost Mountain I turn out the lights more, I'm investigating carbon offsets through our energy provider. And I talk about coal mining and the good book I read about it. I believe the more people know what's going on the better chance we may have to finding solutions.

Check it out.

Rated: 5 out of 5

Recommended for everyone who has ever turned on a light.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Review: A Year Without MADE IN CHINA

I first heard of this book on an NPR radio interview and given my interest in all things local and therefore those things not local have been curious about it ever since. I raced to Megan's blog, Fix, when I saw she had reviewed it and asked if she was up for a guest post here. She was and here it is, in an extended version of her original review. Thank you, Megan! And per her review, just in time for some end of summer reading.

A Year Without "MADE IN CHINA," Sara Bongiorni's witty, very readable chronicle of her family's year boycotting goods from China, isn't exactly a green read, falling into the slightly outlying anti-consumerism category that interests eco-readers all the same. It's not clear why Bongiorni embarks on her experiment: she expresses exhaustion from all the plastic crap creeping into her home and a desire to see just how difficult it is to buy things from places other than China. She doesn't have any major revelations, just neurotic obsessing about China and funny anecdotes about her two kids and husband. It's a lot like 'Not Buying It', arranged by the months of the year but lacking Judith Levine's subtle pathos and pointed philosophic moments.

I was astonished by the amounts of crap (Chinese or not) Bongiorni and her husband declared they absolutely had to have, especially for their kids. Plastic Halloween decorations? Squirt guns? Either her freelance writing job and her husband's academic position are unlike any other in America, or they're in a mountain of plastic-induced debt - every time they go to Target, they walk away with a huge pile, seemingly everything in the store that's not from China.

Bongiorni is surprisingly un-self-aware about this fact and others, one of the major shortcomings of the book. She doesn't delve very deeply into the economic inequalities between the US and the rest of the world, nor does she often recognize her place in the equation. Once in a while, she expresses regret about inflicting some kind of punishment on a faceless Chinese worker, but the book completely lacks a discussion of the changing Chinese economy and what this means for China's citizens. To be fair, Bongiorni admits that every American replicating her experiment would seriously reverberate throughout the world she's not proposing it as a solution. She certainly succeeds at writing an entertaining book about her individual family's experience and probably edited out historical and philosophical background in order to keep it light.

But here's where the lack of clarity on the family's intentions for the experiment weaken its impact, in my opinion. Bongiorni's not not buying from China in order to protest the effects Chinese manufacturing have had on the environment. She's not not buying from China in order to discuss unfair labor conditions or human rights. She's not not buying from China in order to examine the effect exporting manufacturing and manufacturing jobs has had on the American economy. She's not even not buying from China in order to investigate the energy and resources that go into making and transporting plastic crap in general. She just not buying from China and laughing about it. And you will too.

Rating: 3 out 5 stars, owing to the book's lack of hard facts about making stuff in and exporting stuff from China. This probably made it much more fun to read. I literally couldn't put it down!

Recommended for newly green readers, though the book doesn't itself supply the connections between environmentalism and consumerism.

Also recommended for more experienced green readers, who can supply these connections and enjoy a breezy summer read for once.

Monday Roundup

As I write this to post while I'm away, I have a bag packed with more books than three people could read in a long weekend. And I can't imagine leaving the house without every one of them.

There's Lost Mountain, by Erik Reece, that I'm nearly done with. I'm not sure how to fit this book in my list of top five green reads except to squeeze it in there and hope no one counts too closely.

There's An Unreasonable Woman, by Diane Wilson because I want to write a review of it. I may even read it again.

There's a book by a Buddhist teacher that I can't remember the name of. He works with peacekeepers and peace is always good food on vacation, or not.

And then there's Mexican Days by Tony Cohan. I loved his first book, On Mexican Time, about making a home in San Miguel de Allende. He had a way of capturing the pace of time in the rhythm of his writing that I hadn't come across before or since. I'm not sure he can live up to that praise in a second book but I'm excited to read it all the same and more than willing to be surprised.

I am leaving an anthology of MFK Fisher's work at home although I've been thoroughly enjoying it in bits and bites the last month. The End of Food, by Paul Roberts is staying home on the table too. It just seems too heavy for the summer as were the first two chapters of Stuffed and Starved, by Raj Patel. I'll pick the two of them up another time.

So, what are you packing in your bag to take on vacation or the bus ride across town?

If it's green I'll list it in the sidebar but I'd love to know anything you are reading just because it's fun.

And by all means if you have a new review up, leave a comment and I'll add it to the sidebar.

Not yet a bookwormer but you have a green read you want to tell people about? Leave a comment and I'll add you to the list and link your review.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lost Mountain: A 2nd Opinion

Several weeks ago, berrybird wrote a review of "Lost Mountain" that was so good, I don't have much to add. Only that, in answer to my comment expressing reluctance to read the book because it's so much easier not knowing, berrybird replied that, if it helped, the book was beautifully written. I went ahead and read it and I'm really glad I did. So here's my second opinion...

"Lost Mountain" by Erik Reece is the story of, well, a mountain in Kentucky that has been lost. It would be one thing if the mountain went hiking one day and didn’t return when predicted, but no, Humpty Dumpty was pushed.

Seriously, "Lost Mountain" is the story of how Appalachian mountains are being summarily removed by blasting and bulldozer in the name of cheap coal. Author Erik Reece spent a year watching one mountain disappear. Each month he went back, chronicled the newest developments and photographed them. In between visits, he went out into the countryside and learned the stories of people who live there and the devastating effects that "mountaintop removal" has had on their lives and their communities. In short, the coal companies come to town, remove the mountain to extract the coal, fill the nearest valley and stream with toxic remains, and then leave town. Rules are ignored, regulations aren’t enforced, there’s bullying worthy of the mob and if someone actually tries to make the company pay, they just declare bankruptcy and move on to another mountain under another name. It’s corporate greed at its ugliest, and it’s tragic. The worst part is that it’s not even necessary to remove the mountains to get to the coal – it’s just cheaper.

I thought Reece did an incredible job as an investigative reporter and the book is well written and easy to read. The weakest part is the conclusion where he tries to end the book with hope. It’s going to take a lot more than pretty poetry to solve this problem. I think that as oil becomes more expensive, national attention is going to turn towards coal. I hear politicians talk about "clean coal technology," but it’s an illusion at the power plant because it doesn’t take into consideration the means of extraction. Coal may even be seen as a way to make more oil (did you know you can make oil from coal??) and we need to know the real cost. In the meantime, isn’t there somebody on Capitol Hill who can force the coal companies to obey the rules??!
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Readers: Light green to medium dark green.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday Roundup

Welcome to a new week at the Blogging Bookworm! I'm preparing to go on vacation, so I don’t know how much reading I’ll get to this week, but last week I did a bunch! I started with "See You in a Hundred Years" by Logan Ward. It’s the story of a family who decided to do their own version of PBS’s "1900 House" by moving to the country and living without anything that wasn’t invented by the year 1900. It's not terrible (green bean enjoyed it, so you might, too), but it just didn’t hold my interest and I gave up after reading the first section of the book. Awhile back I read "Better Off" by Eric Brende. It’s a similar story and I'd recommend it over this one.

I’ve had New York Times bestseller, "The Shack" by William P. Young recommended to me by people who said it changed their lives, so I decided it was time I read it and learned what the buzz was all about. The book is a fictional account of a man whose young daughter is murdered, and then several years later he gets a letter inviting him to spend a weekend with God (portrayed as a black woman who goes by the name of "Papa") in the shack in which the murder took place. They say that "The Shack" is like cilantro – either you love it or you hate it. I know a lot of people have found it very helpful, but I just found it weird. I’ve written a full review on my own blog for anyone who wants to know more, but I didn't give it very many stars.

On a brighter note, I got an email from the library telling me that it's finally my turn to read "Simple Prosperity" by David Wann. I read just enough pages the last time I borrowed it from the library (and had to return it before I had a chance to read more) that I am really looking forward to it!

Hope your reading this week was better than mine. We leave on our camping trip Saturday, so please add your new book reviews, etc. in the comments by Friday afternoon and I'll add them to the Bookworm before I leave. Thanks!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book Review: Deep Economy

I checked Deep Economy out of the library on two separate occasions but I really didn't want to read it. The first time, I got the book at the same time as Simple Prosperity: Finding Real Wealth in a Sustainable Lifestyle. The latter was on hold and therefore could not be renewed so I gobbled it up, reveled in its positive tone, and embraced my simpler lifestyle for the wealth it offers.

I renewed Deep Economy - the full two times allowed by the library. I couldn't make myself read it though. I had heard from several sources that it was dry, depressing, wrong even. I just couldn't let go of my Simple Prosperity high and so I let Deep Economy go back to the library.

Melinda and Burbanmom kept telling me, though, that Deep Economy was a great book. It was not depressing, they urged. It was important for our time. They convinced me that I at least needed to read the book. So again, I checked it out. And again, I renewed it the allotted two times. On the final due date, I decided I had postponed long enough. I'd suck up the fines (no judgment please) and try to get through it as quickly as possible. I needed to check this book off of my list.

And I'm so glad I did.

Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben was not, for me, earth-shattering or eye opening. But one's earth can only be shattered so many times. And frankly, I'm not sure I need my eyes opened any further right now. They're pretty darn open after a year of green reads. What I'm looking for now is solutions and of those, Deep Economy offers plenty.

McKibben offers anecdotal stories from all around the globe as evidence that local communities can flourish, that we can adapt to climate change and reduce our impact by thinking inventively. McKibben points to the bus system in Brazil as an example of making mass transit successful without expensive subways that take decades to build. He holds up "the special period" in Cuba, where the country converted to urban organic agriculture after losing access to Soviet oil. He spotlights the farmer in New York who produces offers milk, vegetables, eggs, honey and meat on his farm and who is not seeking to create an historical farm but to improve his own quality of life. McKibben also looks to the "Rabbit King" of China - a man who received rabbits from Heifer International, breed them very successfully, and ultimately set up programs in China to help poor families get free rabbits and learn to care and breed them. We see that, done right, local economies build vibrant communities strong enough to adapt to climate change and also reduce environmental impact, hopefully blunting climate change's force.

I agree with McKibben. I think local communities are the future. Not that we become less of a globalized society but that we learn to build support systems here, embrace our unique longitudinal differences, and thereby reduce our footprint. I am convinced that farmers' markets and CSAs are the answer to our food problems. In addition, to providing clean, safe food, they connect us with the source of our food and with others eating it. I do think that we need to help developing countries continue to improve their quality of life but, as McKibben, notes according to a different standard than ours. Ours is not sustainable and by changing the way we live, we will create a different standard to be embraced. McKibben urges other local endeavors - more locally owned radio stations (like that idea), more locally focused energy (like the idea, not sure how it can actually play out) and even local currency (mmm?).

Should you read Deep Economy? Yes. Will it rock your world? Maybe. I agree with Arduous in that I think a book's impact has a lot to do with when you read it, which books you've read before and where you are in your life. Will it depress you? I doubt it. Deep Economy is a positive, thoughtful book full of solutions for the future. Some may work, others may not but that is not the point of the book. The point is to start thinking smaller, more local, and start solving the problem of climate change instead of merely bemoaning it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Recommended for newly green and medium green readers, and for dark green readers who are looking for solutions and inspiration.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Book Review: Bad Land

Here is a special guest post from someone who is APLS-tastic. Melissa, who blogs at Better Living, picked up this book for a book club discussion and was surprised to find that it was ecologically relevant and eye opening. Melissa, thank you for sharing your thoughts on Bad Land.

Bad Land: An American Romance by Jonathan Raban is an intriguing look at the movement of large numbers of families to the Great American Desert – Eastern Montana – in the early twentieth century. It’s a look at a period in American history that I knew essentially nothing about prior to this green read.

What makes this a “green” book? It may not have been intended as such, but it’s basically a look at a human effort to force the earth in this region to sustain a larger population than it was capable of. The US Congress of the day teamed up with the railroad companies to use the promise of land ownership to lure families to the region. Plots of 320 acres were given to virtually anybody willing to undertake the adventure. Even this amount of land usually proved not enough to sustain a family(!). There wasn’t enough reliable rainfall, and the quality of the soil was not of a high enough quality to farm in the manner attempted. In the end, most of the families who settled here left within little more than two decades with a sense of profound failure and bitterness.

It was almost eerie how many parallels there are between the experience of these homesteaders and modern American society. The first was the heavy reliance on credit to buy things that one could not afford. Instead of flat screen televisions and fast cars, it was newer and fancier tractors and farming equipment, but the inability to repay bank loans proved a major downfall for many of these families. Farm machinery was heavily marketed to the homesteaders, and there was always a newer, prettier, shinier model to strive for – the homesteaders version of keeping up with the Jones’. Raban attributes this mentality to the idea that “Self-sufficiency is politically dangerous. Good citizens need to meet monthly payments…[there] was powerful government encouragement to farmers to get into as much debt as they could manage to service.” Sound familiar?

It was well known that the Great American Desert had never produced the amount of crops that were being promised to the homesteaders, but a new science of soil was touted as the wonder child that would allow man to overcome nature. (GMOs anybody?) In the end, this method proved to be not only unsuccessful but in fact ended up stripping what precious little topsoil did exist on the land, making farming after the first few years next to impossible.

Facing starvation and living in poverty during the Great Depression, the homesteaders left en masse for greener pastures. It was later realized that rather than the 320 acres given to each family, the amount of land realistically needed to sustain a family in this region was closer to 3,840 acres – meaning that the land could feed less than one tenth of the number of people that had originally been convinced to migrate there.

There were a few promising messages to be taken from the book, one of which was the importance of community to the survival of these farms. Shared labor, tools, and resources were all vital to these homesteaders. Many people aiming to live a more sustainable lifestyle in modern society have recognized the importance of community building as an effort to reduce the impact of our modern lifestyles.

There is also a discussion of how those few who did remain on the family homesteads live an especially frugal lifestyle, and avoided the consumerism that many of their former neighbors fell prey to. Raban writes that the current homesteaders he met were not “self-consciously reverencing the past. They simply disliked throwing things away and lived convivially with the past because it was still serviceable.”

Those who attempted to make a life in the Great American Desert “tried to shape it according to their imported ideas of science, progress, community, landscape.” In the end, they were forced to acknowledge that “The land would wear just so much architecture and society, and no more. In the platonic republic of the United States, the land of limitless imagining…nature was not supposed to dictate the terms on which mankind could live with it. Of course, nature often struck petulantly back at man, with earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and fires” – it was near starvation and poverty that forced the homesteaders to make this realization. For the sake of all of us, I hope that those of us living on this planet today come to this same realization before it is too late.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars. Recommended for: at least medium green readers, or history lovers.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Calling All Bookworms

I've finallllly finished Deep Economy and am now sprinting my way through See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward. So far it is a little bit like PBS's series, Frontier House. It is a quick read and, while green, fairly mindless. Just what I need right now.

What's up, bookworms? Anyone got a new book they're chomping through? A new review they've posted? Wondering what to read next? Take a peek at the sidebar or throw around some ideas here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Book Review: Garbage Land

When I buy ice cream from an ice cream shop, I always order the cone. Except for the tiny piece of paper they wrap the tip in, I eat the entire thing. Zero waste, baby! Unfortunately, a three and five year old make messy work out of eating with a cone. It often devolves into the use of a plastic spoon (those I usually remember to carry in my purse) and a paper or Styrofoam cup (those, unlike Burbanmom, I usually don't remember to bring).

Being a good little environmentalist, if reusable is not an option, I always opt for paper over Styrofoam. Everyone knows paper is better. It is biodegradable. Heck, it can even be composted. It's ecological footprint seems downright diminutive compared to the hefty weight of Styrofoam which cannot be composted, does not biodegrade and can only end up in a landfill.

A few months ago, we visited an ice cream shop near my parents' home. I was disappointed that the owner stocked only Styrofoam cups rather than reusable or at least paper. A la Fake Plastic Fish, I wrote an email expressing both our enjoyment of the ice cream and our disappointment in the cup choice. I expected either no reply or one acknowledging that paper would be more eco-friendly and that the store would look into it. What I got surprised me. The owner wrote back, vigorously defending his choice of Styrofoam. He stated that he had grown up near a paper plant and the idea that such an industry had less impact on the environment was, in his opinion, laughable.

Chalking his response up to lack of environmental awareness, I let it go. Until I read Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. After romping with Elizabeth Royte in landfills, tiptoeing through recycling plants and burrowing into compost, I know the truth about trash. And, it turns out the store owner's assessment of paper plants was not too far off.

Virgin papermaking is one of the most environmentally harmful industries on
earth. It depletes forests and their biodiversity, it uses more water than
any other industrial process in the nation (more than double the amount of
recycled papermaking), and it dumps billions of gallons of water contaminated
with chlorinated dioxin and a host of other hazardous and conventional
pollutants into rivers, lakes and harbors. According to the Natural
Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the paper industry is, after chemical and
steel manufacturing, the third-largest source of greenhouse gases in the United
States. Each year, paper factories send 420 million metric tons of carbon
dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrogen oxides, and other heat-trapping gases up
their smokestacks (and emissions are expected to double by 2020). Along
with the gases come 38,617 pounds of lead and 2,277 pounds of mercy and mercury
compounds. The mercury, released by plants’ coal-fired boilers, settles in
water, where bacteria transform it into a highly toxic form called
methylmercury. Small organisms, like plankton, consume the methylmercury
and are in turn consumed by small fish. The small fish are eaten by larger
fish, which are in turn consumed by other animals, like us. . . . . (136)
Hmmm. Perhaps, paper is not so eco-friendly after all.

Garbage Land is full of disturbing discoveries such as this one. Royte delves into everything we toss out and follows it to its final resting place - be it compost bin, landfill, sewage treatment system (Crunchy Chicken's pee party wasn't as out there as I originally thought), recycling plant, or barge to Asia. After 294 pages of trash, she ends up somewhere other than where you'd expect. Or perhaps it is exactly where you would expect someone who lived "garbage" for a year to end up.

I found Garbage Land to be a surprisingly enjoyable, highly educational book. After trimming my own waste line for a year, I learned that I still had a lot to learn about the dirty business of waste.

I give Garbage Land a 4 out of 5 rating and recommend it for all green readers.