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Book Review: The Consumerís Guide toEffective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union ofConcerned ScientistsEffective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists

  • To: community_garden@mallorn.com, nefood-l@listproc.tufts.edu
  • Subject: [cg] Book Review: The Consumerís Guide toEffective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union ofConcerned ScientistsEffective Environmental Choices: Practical Advice from The Union of Concerned Scientists
  • From: Tetrad <garlicgr@pond.com>
  • Date: Sun, 08 Aug 1999 19:14:10 -0400

Hi, Folks!

Here's my latest book review!  Enjoy! :-)

The  Consumerís Guide to Effective Environmental Choices:  Practical Advice
from The Union of Concerned Scientists by Michael Brower and Warren Leon,
Three Rivers Press, 1999.  ISBN:  0-609-80281-X, $15.00.

Youíve probably heard of this book.  Within days after its publication,
reviews and interviews with the authors poured forth, in a slightly shocked
stream, from both local and national media. Even the Philadelphia Inquirer
broke precedent and published its review on the front page of a weekday
edition instead of waiting for the usual Sunday "Books" Section.

Live in a place that reduces your need to drive.  Eat less meat.  Install
efficient lighting and appliances.  Bother "50 Simple Things You Can Do to
Save the Earth" Ė the Union of Concerned Scientists has reduced the list of
"essential" environmental activities that save the environment to 11!

Well, yes.  And, of course, no.  Life, like a Shaker chair, is always
startling us with a surface simplicity which upon reflection, becomes
dizzying in its complexity, yet remains a unified and complete whole. Sure,
the book contains lists such as The Four Most Significant Consumer-Related
Environmental Problems  and The Seven Rules for Responsible Consumption that
are short, pithy and to the point.  You can type them up for the sound-bite
outlet of your choice and be fairly certain that if your audience follows
them, the day after tomorrow, the planet really will be in a better state
than when you started.  This is comforting for media folks, but the
attending hype and seemingly oversimplification of yet another environmental
issue tends to induce nausea in those of us who have followed planetary
health over the years. So we decide to pass on the book.

Ignore the hype.  Read the book, regardless of snide comments from the
national media (we all know how much THEY want us to drive less and eat less
meat!).  Brower and Leon know how to package a sound-bite, but theyíve done
their homework and itís all right there in the book:  charts, graphs,
methodology, endnotes and an excellent list of resources for further action.
Not only is the book about effective choices, but itís laid out so
effectively that you can either jump right into the chapters on "Priorities
for Personal Action" or "Avoiding High-Impact Activities" (where all nice
lists ready for media transcription reside, along with excellent
explanations of how the authors came to these conclusions and why taking
these actions really will help the planet) or take a leisurely stroll
through histories of American consumerism and garbage. (As a resident of
Southeastern Pennsylvania, I wish the authors had profiled the Khian Sea,
Philadelphiaís infamous garbage ship, rather than New York Cityís Mobro, but
that really is quibbling.  The section on the pros and cons of recycling
should banish any lingering doubts that it really is a beneficial activity.)

Yes, this book takes a few swipes at some cherished activities of the
environmental movement (the paper vs plastic bag debate and the utility of
cloth diapers over disposal ones), but they are well-thought-out swipes
based on data, rather than hope or conjecture.  Brower and Leon really want
you to spent your time, money and effort where it COUNTS for the planet, not
on what be trendy or "popular" and it shows throughout the book.  The most
effective use of your time, and the most effective choice for the planet, is
for you to read this book and put as much of its advice into practice in
your own life, as soon as possible.

Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. Johnís Organic Community Garden
Phoenixville, PA


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