Reading is an important part of My Natural Education. It provides new perspectives on nature and sustainability. So, let’s take a quick look at the four books I’ve read (or listened to) since January.
First up: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Ironically, I listened to this one while driving my new, longer commute. And, it kind of made me pessimistic about what this commute symbolized, but it also reassured my reasons for moving further away from work. I moved to the ‘burbs after living in Cincinnati proper to be closer to nature. My backyard borders some woods that are part of a small, wooded city park that is complete with a wee creek. I traded neighborhood bars for parks and it doesn’t get much better than that.
This book opened my eyes to how much nature has been villainized in our culture. And, just how much you can find to do outside. While I’m sure this book is written for parents, it’s relevant to all of us. It articulates the impact of nature on the development of kids (and us when we were kids)—they need the ability to roam free in woods, build tree houses and play in creeks.
Next: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by William McDonough & Michael Braungart
Revolutionary. McDonough makes the case for rethinking our whole damn manufacturing process. Even the book is printed on funny paper that is easily reused and repurposed. My only complaint is that he just looks at how to make things in our consumerist culture. Instead of making a carpet that is easily and sustainably replaced when one gets tired of the color, how about we make flooring that’ll last, but is just as sustainable and learn to be happy with what we have? We need to learn to not constantly consume.
I should mention that there is now a Cradle to Cradle Certification. I’d buy a product with this certification with confidence.
“…the Western view saw nature as a dangerous, brutish force to be civilized and subdued.”
“Even the idea of ‘natural capital’ characterizes nature as a tool to be used for our benefit.”
(I am reassured that we need to change the way we define and view nature.)
Third: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
I’ve never been a dieter. So I have never read diet books, but this is the best damn diet book out there. It’s just common sense none of us knows. I love how he mentions “food-like products” and discusses food culture. All of this falls right into the “home farming”/farmers market trend. This book will definitely make you think about all the crap-food you buy. I can’t say I’ve made a huge switch in my eating habits, but I’m definitely more conscious about what I eat and how I eat it. My food aspirations are pretty lofty now.
Finally: Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything by Daniel Goleman
I wasn’t expecting too much from this book since Daniel Goleman has a few “_________ Intelligence” books out on the shelves. But, he makes a good case for radical transparency, which means “…tracking every substantial impact of an item from manufacture to disposal—not just its carbon footprint and other environmental costs, but its biological risks, as well as its consequences for those who labored to make it—and summarizing those impacts for shoppers as they are deciding what to purchase.” Think it’s crazy? Look at nutrition labeling and also just calling out bad ingredients (Oh, trans fats, you devil!). All-out information has worked before, as Goleman makes the case, and we need more information about everything we purchase and consume.
“…we need to get beyond the thinking that puts mankind outside nature; the fact is we live enmeshed in ecological systems and impact them for better or worse—and they us.” (A running theme, it seems.)
“We settle for what’s adequate rather than search for what’s optimal: once we’ve ‘satisficed’ a product choice, we stop looking. In other words, much of what is known in marketing circles as ‘brand loyalty’ is really just a peculiarity of cognitive inertia.” (Ouch, branding!)
“We go through our daily life awash in a sea of things we buy, use, and throw away, waste or save. Each of those things has its own history and its own future, backstories and endings largely hidden from our eyes, a web of impacts left along the way from the initial extraction or concoction of its ingredients, during its manufacture and transport, through the subtle consequences of its use in our homes and workplaces, to the day we dispose of it. And yet these unseen impacts of all that stuff may be their most important aspect.” (What if branding went beyond telling the story of its personality and its products’ benefits and told the complete story, from start to finish?)
I’ve updated the My Natural Education book list on amazon.com so you can get the details on each book. (I’m not pushing amazon.com, either. Check ‘em out from your library if you can!)
Let me know what green reads you think need to be on my list. I’d love any and all recommendations.