If you're already environmentally conscious, there isn't going to be a lot of new information for you in this book. But I think it does a good job cov...moreIf you're already environmentally conscious, there isn't going to be a lot of new information for you in this book. But I think it does a good job covering the basics and giving parents easy ways to go green, ranging from small changes to much larger ones.
Like many books of its type, it suffers from the potential of being overwhelming. It's very easy to see this 300+ page book and think, "This is too much. It's not possible for me to do all this." The authors are quick to point out that you don't have to do everything in the book, and certainly not all at once.(less)
I want to preface my scathing review by mentioning that I am a vegetarian, and toying with the idea of veganism, so it is definitely not the book's su...moreI want to preface my scathing review by mentioning that I am a vegetarian, and toying with the idea of veganism, so it is definitely not the book's subject matter that garnered my wrath.
There were so many things that bothered me about this book, that even though I finished it two weeks ago, I'm still talking about it to my husband. Alicia Silverstone has gone the route of many famous people these days, writing bad books that get published mainly because the author is, well, famous. Call me crazy, but I'd like to read well-written books by an unknown author than this drivel any day.
Where to start? How about the pseudo-science Silverstone throws around at every turn? Someone needs to sit her down and explain how science works, because she clearly doesn't get it. If a study produces a certain result, but no other study can reproduce those results, it is not considered valid. In order to be substantiated, those studies need to be capable of being reproduced multiple times by different scientists under different conditions. Many of the "studies" Silverstone references don't meet that standard. For example, there's apparently a resurgence of the Victorian-era thinking that chewing your food excessively releases more of the nutrients. This hasn't been proved through any legitimate scientific studies, but that doesn't stop Silverstone from discussing it at length.
She advises against using a lot of spices in cooking because of some vague argument about the spices hiding the true flavors of the foods you're eating. Except that spices enhance many foods' flavors, and have health properties of their own, something that a person as heath-conscious as she claims to be should be aware of.
She says people shouldn't eat eggs because it's something else's genetic material, while encouraging people to eat seeds which are, you know, a plant's genetic material. (I only eat eggs from my local farm because of the horrible way hens in industrial operations are treated. I'm a huge proponent of buying only locally-sourced eggs from humanely treated hens. But Silverstone throwing out these ridiculous claims that we should avoid eating genetic material only makes the rest of us look ridiculous, too.)
She also latches onto other "quaint" arguments that did nothing but make me laugh. How about this: "Humans are the only species to drink milk from other animals." Uh, OK. So what? We're also the only ones to read, wear clothes, and cut our hair. I don't understand how that argument is logical or reasonable.
Then she goes off an a tangent about how many people, if they omit all animal products from their diets, will start having putrid sweat while their bodies get rid of the toxins that built-up over time from eating animal materials. Really? Putrid sweat? I'd like to see more than anecdotal evidence on that one.
The recipes, which I had hoped would be this book's saving grace, were horrible. Silverstone does my least favorite vegan-cooking technique: relying (sometimes heavily) on animal-product substitutes. This bothers me for three reasons...
1. Most substitute (like veggie burgers and cheese made from tofu) are horrible. Nothing will drive a carnivore back to meat faster than meat substitutes.
2. She claims to be so worried about her health, but I'm sure that the fillers in her fake mayo and tofurkey wouldn't meet the "whole foods" mantra she says she lives by.
3. Having substitutes is like a flashing sign that says, "Hey look at this meal! No meat!" Why not cook a meal that puts the focus on fruits, veggies, and grains, rather than dragging the eater's attention back to what's not there?
I'll stop here, although I have more complaints still swirling around in my head. The point is, this book will not be the one that will convince you to go vegan.
If you want to check out some great books that discuss our relationship with meat, try...
Eating Animals This book gives such a horrific look at the meat industry that I cried through parts of it.
This is a tough book for me to rate, because I like the premise and ideas, but there were things that just didn't work for me.
Some of the scenarios we...moreThis is a tough book for me to rate, because I like the premise and ideas, but there were things that just didn't work for me.
Some of the scenarios were so overdone it seemed like I was watching one of those after-school specials that have the big moral lesson at the end. I think the author could have gotten her point across just as well (or perhaps better) if she hadn't been so heavy-handed at points.
My favorite thing about the book was her theme throughout of, "My life is my message," (a quote from Ghandi that she borrows). This is what really touched home with me. So often parents spend their time telling their kids what to do and what not to do, what's appropriate and what's not - while acting in ways that don't reflect those values. The author stresses the importance of making sure that your actions and words are the same. You can't tell your child to treat animals with respect, then hit the dog if he barks. I'm always thinking about this now, and wondering what message my actions are sending, and if it's the message I want others to get from me.
I always liked how broadly the other defines kindness. I had assumed it was about kindness to animals (a cause near and dear to my heart). And while that is certainly a part of it, the author also incorporates kindness to others and to the planet, and ties them all together nicely.
So overall it was a good read for me. I don't think it's one I'll return to in the future, because I think I've gotten out of it all that I can. But I certainly enjoyed it and have some great take-aways.
(One minor annoyance is the author's opinion of not having more than one child, because of the worry of overpopulation. I don't necessarily disagree with having a small family, it's just not for everyone, and I don't think choosing to have a large family means that you're not acting with kindness.)(less)
I liked this book overall, although at times it made me feel hopeless, as in: What ISN'T bad for pregnancy/babies in the modern world?! (Ex: carpeting...moreI liked this book overall, although at times it made me feel hopeless, as in: What ISN'T bad for pregnancy/babies in the modern world?! (Ex: carpeting, air fresheners, most mattresses, etc.) The lists of things to avoid are mind-boggling, and while I was at least marginally aware of many of the items discussed in the book, seeing them all together, and examined more thoroughly, was unsettling. There were so many times throughout the book that I put it down and said to my husband, "We have to stop using _____ because of _____," that I'm pretty sure he wanted to throw the book out the window. (Or at least return it to the library.)
Another reviewer complained that the author seemed to have a "Buy, buy, buy!" mentality, encouraging new parents to run out and replace everything in their households with eco-friendly alternatives. However, I didn't get that vibe at all from this book. The author mentions numerous times that the greenest thing you can often do is reuse what's already available rather than buying something new. Still, many new parents and parents-to-be are buying a lot of new things for their babies, so it makes sense that the author would include information about what those parents should be looking for (and avoiding) as they shop.
I don't think it would be possible to follow every single rule in this book, and the author points that out right up front in the introduction. But what the book does is raise awareness about different issues/substances/toxins/etc, and give parents the information they need to make the changes that are suitable for their lives.
There are many helpful ideas I hope to be incorporating in my life, and I'm not looking forward to returning this book to the library.
(One small annoyance was the author's support of some types of bottled water. Ugh!)(less)
There's a quote I've always loved, that has a few different incarnations. The one I've always gravitated to (and is credited to Gandhi) is as follows:...moreThere's a quote I've always loved, that has a few different incarnations. The one I've always gravitated to (and is credited to Gandhi) is as follows: You can judge a society by how it treats its animals. After reading this book, I'm sad to say that the society we live in (the U.S. was Foer's main focus, but many of the issues raised are applicable to the world as a whole) should be judged very harshly.
This was a powerful book. There were numerous points where I had to stop reading, because the atrocities described were too painful. But I kept reminding myself, "If you can partake in the factory farm system by eating meat, you can certainly suck it up and become more aware of how those animals suffer before they get to your plate."
I wasn't ignorant of what went on in factory farms, but I don't think I realized the depth and breadth of it until reading this book. The living conditions are appalling - animals living their entire lives in cages so small they are unable to turn around; beaks and nails removed to prevent them from harming one another (because they're wedged in so close to one another that they're understandably stressed); chickens stacked multiple cages high, their feces falling down onto the chickens in the cages beneath; farm buildings that require ventilation systems to filter out a stench so overwhelming it could kill the animals. That is enough to horrify most people, but the situation is made worse when animals are fed unnatural diets their bodies weren't made to digest, genetically altered to grow very big very quickly, and brutally slaughtered. Had enough? Well don't forget about the sadistic farm workers who have been documented time and again beating, maiming, and essentially torturing the animals in their care.
The book is as gruesome as it is necessary. We have created a world where inexpensive meat has become more important than the basic human value of compassion for our fellow creatures. The most frightening thing to me is that there are people out there who simply don't care. The U.S. government's complicity and support of factory farming are alarming and fury-inducing.
I will say this: I'm not a vegetarian, although I'm slowly working toward that goal. Most of the animal products consumed in my household come from local farmers, which makes me feel better. But as Foer points out in his book, the majority of the time even small farms (which may treat their animals humanely) are forced to use an independent slaughterhouse that will most likely not abide by those same ethical standards. In order to eat animals with a clean conscience, I would need to know that they had a good life and a clean death. I'm doing my best to ensure that the meat I serve my family meets those requirements, although the slaughtering aspect is difficult to determine. (This makes for a lot of pestering of the local farmers at our weekly farmers' market.)
The book has given me much to think about, and prompted many discussions with my husband as we discuss the realities of going vegetarian. (I am more prepared to do so than he is.) Is a pleasant life, with food, water, fresh air, and the opportunity to move too much to ask for? The factory farm industry appears to think so. I disagree, and will be changing my food choices accordingly. (less)
This book didn't work for me for a number of reasons...
1. This book tries to do the old "everything for everyone" feat, and fails. Too many topics are...moreThis book didn't work for me for a number of reasons...
1. This book tries to do the old "everything for everyone" feat, and fails. Too many topics are (attempted to be) covered in the single volume, so that each is dealt with only superficially.
2. Related to the first issue, topics are given uneven consideration. Container gardening was given 1.5 pages. Choosing the right breed for laying/meat chickens was given 5. I'd bet good money that the number of people who would be interested in (and able to utilize) information on container gardening greatly outweighs those considering adding poultry to their homes. Yes, there are books specifically geared toward container gardening (I happen to own a great one), and no, I don't expect this book to have everything I need (see #1). However, I think the book should have given weight to those topics most likely to appeal - and be applicable - to the reader base.
3. The book assumes the reader is familiar with basic gardening techniques. I'm sure there are many garden-savvy readers out there. I'm not one of them.
4. The book assumes that I own a lot of specific equipment, and gives no alternate ways of achieving results if I don't. How many readers have a scythe laying around for harvesting grain? Or a grinder to make apple cider? Or a dedicated ice-cream machine?
5. I really wanted there to be a "Problems" or FAQ section that dealt with common difficulties that can arise during homesteading, such as how to deal with pests, and what irrigation systems would be best.
I'm disappointed with this book. I expected much more from it, and I'm glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it.(less)
Another great novel from Carl Hiaasen that tackles some tough environmental issues and makes sure that the bad guys get what they deserve in the end (...moreAnother great novel from Carl Hiaasen that tackles some tough environmental issues and makes sure that the bad guys get what they deserve in the end (if only things worked out that way in real life!). The book got off to a bit of a slow start, but overall it was a very enjoyable read.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. It was cute, quirky, and funny while still dealing with a serious environmental concern. Hiaasen creates likable, realisti...moreI really enjoyed this book. It was cute, quirky, and funny while still dealing with a serious environmental concern. Hiaasen creates likable, realistic characters that I was rooting for throughout the story. Hiaasen is one of my favorite writers because he doesn't shy away from issues of social responsibility, even in his YA novels.
One caveat - as a teacher, I wish he had refrained from incorporating swear words and beer references. I will have it on my classroom shelf, but I am not sure I would want to read it aloud to my students.(less)
Pair McDonnell's shelter comics with adorable photos of rescued animals, and you have the makings of a wonderful, touching book. I will definitely be...morePair McDonnell's shelter comics with adorable photos of rescued animals, and you have the makings of a wonderful, touching book. I will definitely be re-reading this book.(less)