Recently I attended a talk and book signing at Tattered Cover Bookstore given by Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and bestselling author. His new book is Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation ($15.95 New World Library). He spoke for an hour on a variety of topics, including animal intelligence, human/animal relationships, and how we humans often depreciate the skills and capabilities of non-human animals. An example of the latter is that when people misbehave, we sometimes say they are “acting like animals.” Or perhaps we might consider sounds made by another species as primitive, when actually what we are hearing is a complex language.
As an activist encouraging people to cut back or eliminate the consumption of meat and other animal products, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about animals used for food. Continue reading
Yet another sign of veganism’s increasing acceptance among the general public: the interview with Bill Clinton in the Aug/Sept. issue of AARP The Magazine. Titled “My Lunch with Bill,” it’s all about his vegan diet, and filled with superlatives. “I’m struck with a dazzling kaleidoscope of a dozen delicious dishes,” described with obvious delight by author Joe Conason. “We sit down and with great relish start passing plates back and forth.” And from Clinton: “I have so much more energy now! I feel great,” adding later, “I decided to pick the diet that I thought would maximize my chances of long-term survival.” Continue reading
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan. Simon & Schuster, 2013.
I visit Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the “Atomic City” of the title, every year because my husband grew up there and we visit his siblings who still live in the area. I knew something of its history, but learned a lot more by reading this. I’d thought the first residents were just a few thousand scientists and their assistants, but in fact the scale of this secret city was huge: 78,000 residents at its peak, including tens of thousands of non-technical support staff; extensive construction, including the largest building on earth; a major bus system; and much more. When the government decided to build a city there, many hundreds of people who had lived on the land, sometimes for generations, lost it in a matter of a few weeks. The amount of money, workers, and resources it took for the single project of enriching uranium for bomb fuel was astonishing. Continue reading
My Beef with Meat: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet–Plus 140 New Engine 2 Recipes, by Rip Esselstyn. Grand Central Life & Style, 2013.
Rip Esselstyn’s second book–following The Engine 2 Diet–is clear, concise, down-to-earth, at times humorous, and will surely answer most questions people have about why we should be eating whole plants instead of animal products and processed food. This is a quick, go-to guide for such topics as protein, calcium, iron, what’s wrong with paleo, why grass-fed is no better than grain-fed, why oils should be avoided, and numerous other topics. Although mostly about health, the book also comments on animal suffering and the environment. And the recipe section!! I can hardly wait to try some of them. I was fortunate to hear the author live earlier this month at a local bookstore, and was impressed with his command of issues and facts, his friendly style, and the enthusiasm he conveyed. He’s an excellent ambassador for a healthier America.
The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture, by Mary Pipher. Riverhead Books, 2013.
For anyone struggling to stay hopeful in a society in which corporate power rules and serious action on climate change by our government has not even begun, this timely little book provides strong support. As in her previous books, Mary Pipher writes simply, powerfully, humbly, and with a great heart. Instead of giving some intellectual treatise about how to sustain hope, she movingly describes her own experience, along with similarly motivated friends, in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline in her home state of Nebraska (which is on the proposed route of the pipeline). Continue reading
Organizers of the Green Book Festival, to be held later this month in San Francisco, have announced the winners of book awards in over a dozen categories.* I learned of this because a book to which I contributed a chapter was the winner of the Business category. The book, Greening Libraries, published by Library Juice Press in 2012, showcases librarians who have pioneered ways to educate their patrons about environmental and sustainability issues.
My chapter, “Library-Sponsored Sustainable Living Outreach in Denver,” describes programs I and a few other librarians working for the Denver Public Library have implemented toward that goal. [I am now retired, but worked as a DPL librarian for 14 years.] These programs included successfully urging a large library fundraising event to “go green” with recyclable table service, locally produced foods, and website information about libraries’ environmentally beneficial aspects. Continue reading
The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason. Rodale, 2006.
At least three times a day, we all make choices that have profound ethical consequences: what we eat. After interviewing three actual families about the foods they choose and why, authors Singer and Mason track down producers of these commonly-eaten foods and examine the means of production. Noting that “no other human activity has had as great an impact on our planet as agriculture,” they show how animals, our land, and oceans are treated in that process. The book is not a vegetarian polemic, although both authors are vegetarians. Rather it provides a balanced investigation of hidden factors in food production, and asks readers to make the kindest choices they possibly can. It is, however, strong in its condemnation of factory-farmed meat, eggs, and dairy products: “Since factory farming inflicts a vast quantity of unjustifiable suffering on animals, persuading others to boycott it should be a high priority of anyone concerned about animals.” Continue reading
Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Random House, 1955.
This heartfelt little book was a big bestseller when it was published in 1955 and still resonates today. Who doesn’t need a reminder of the sanity of simple living and occasional solitude? She writes: “We seem so frightened today of being alone that we never let it happen. Even if family, friends, and movies should fail, there is still the radio or television to fill up the void … Even day-dreaming was more creative than this; it demanded something from oneself and it fed the inner life . . . We choke the space with continuous music, chatter, and companionship to which we do not even listen.” In these days of Facebook, Twitter, and other means of constant connectivity which Lindbergh could not have imagined, her words mean even more. And this: “Modern communication loads us with more problems than the human frame can carry.”
She also has thoughtful insights on accepting change, and on women emerging from what we look back on as a very sexist time period.