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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Environment, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 130
1. Environmental Book Club

I've written here about liking an immersion-type thing with environmental books, books that don't wear a sign saying "It's eco-time" but just make readers part of a natural world or lifestyle. Maybe what I'm thinking of is some kind of wholistic experience.

That's what I think happens with Mouse and Mole: Fine Feathered Friends by Wong Herbert Yee. The book has a Frog and Toad vibe, which is good, though wordier. Fine Feathered Friends is all about Mouse and Mole watching birds. And drawing them. And writing poetry about them. The whole thing.

Over the course of a story about the two friends having to find a way to get close to the birds they want to draw, Mouse and Mole pass off a small amount of avian info. But what really makes this book at all environmental is that Mouse and Mole want to do this bird stuff. They want to draw them and write about them. They want to have a life that involves birds.

Listen, when I had little kids, I would have read them this book, got out their artists' journals (yeah, we all had artists' journals), and gone out with them to find us some birds. It would have worked as an environmental book for me.

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2. Environmental Book Club

Suzy Kline wrote an interesting post for the Authors for Earth Day blog. In Love Every Living Thing, she writes about Horrible Harry's love of nature.

It's been years since I've read a Horrible Harry book, so I can't address the issue of just how great his interest in environmentalism is. But I like the idea of appreciation of nature/environmentalism being a thread within a story, as Kline describes.

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3. Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root

Plant a Pocket of Prairie Written by Phyllis Root; Illustrated by Betsy Bowen University of Minnesota Press. 2014 ISBN: 9780816679805 Preschool and up I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library. When Laura Ingalls and her family were traveling from the Big Woods in Wisconsin to their Little House on the Prairie, over 40 percent of the United States was covered in native

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4. The Environmental Book Club

Now that this year's Earth Day is behind us, I'm not stumbling over children's books obviously related to the environment/ecology all over the Internet. Which leads me, again, to be thinking about what kinds of books I should be considering for encouraging an appreciation of the world in children. I still like the idea of providing experience, rather than a lesson.

I'm also still loving the interview I heard a few weeks ago about Thoreau recording all kinds of information about Concord's flora and fauna. This weekend I'm hoping to get a very young family member started on a Thoreau-like experience, maintaining a nature journal filled with dried leaves and flowers and maybe pictures of that creepy flock of turkeys in his backyard. (Recognizing that turkeys are disturbing is a sort of appreciation.) While I know a wild turkey when I see one, I'm only familiar with a few trees.

Fortunately, there are books to help with that sort of thing. Scholastic has a whole list of Books for Teaching About Plants and Trees. I'm particularly interested in that apple pie book. When we do our apple tree thing, we can finish with pie.





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5.

Park Scientists: gila monsters, geysers, and grizzly bears in American’s own backyard Scientists in the Field series Written by Mary Kay Carson; Photographs by Tom Uhlman Houghton Mifflin. 2014 ISBN: 9780547792682 The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review Grades 5 to 12 Take a road trip across American with husband and wife team, Carson and Uhlman to learn more about our

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6. Happy Earth Day from Lee & Low Books!

In an era of great global change, it’s more important than ever to take a moment today to think about how the Earth sustains us and how we can help to sustain it in return.

We asked author Jan Reynolds, whose work we have been showcasing throughout April here on the blog and whose travels have taken her from a hot air balloon over Mount Everest to the Sahara Desert, to share a few of her favorite photos and some thoughts on celebrating Earth Day:

I chose photos for Earth Day that aren’t big landscapes on purpose. We think of Earth Day as the Earth, pristine, something separate, while in reality…

Jan Reynolds with giraffe…the Earth is one big party with all kids of life on it, not just plant life and oceans. 

Jan Reynolds with monkeysWe are all a part of it, including man. 

BaboonsSo therefore, the baboon pics. Hoping we can see ourselves in the baboons, and vice versa.

Further Reading and Resources:

Don’t miss our Pinterest board of recommended books about Earth, the Environment, and Human Impact:

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.04.16 PM

Raising Global Citizens: Jan Reynolds Author Study

Teaching Geo-Literacy Using the Vanishing Cultures series

Where in the World? Using Google Maps to explore the Vanishing Cultures series


Filed under: Curriculum Corner, Holidays Tagged: common core, Earth Day, environment, environmentalism, informational text, nonfiction, photos

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7. Celebrating Earth Day 2014

Ecologists and entomologists. Natural history buffs. Bloggers with green thumbs. We're among many WordPress.com users focused on nature and the environment. Today, let's celebrate the work of some of these bloggers.

12 Comments on Celebrating Earth Day 2014, last added: 4/22/2014
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8. Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery

Chasing Cheetahs: the race to save Africa's fastest cats Scientists in the Field Series Text by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Nic Bishop Houghton Mifflin. 2014 ISBN: 9780547815497 Grades 5 thru 12 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library The decision as to who reviews what goes fairly smoothly between Cathy and I until there is a new Scientists in the Field book, then,

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9. CT GreenScene Hosts A Gauthier Q&A

Saving the Planet & Stuff is featured today at CT GreenScene. As you might suspect from the blog's name, the questions I was asked there relate to  environmentalism. Or Connecticut.

Be sure to check out Question 3. Seriously, I obsess over that stuff.

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10. Doodles and Drafts – Dreaming and scheming with Andrew King

A week or so ago I rubbed shoulders with some of Kids’ Lit most illuminating talents at the Book Links’ QLD (The Centre for Children’s Literature) third Romancing the Stars event. The objective of these evenings is to meet and listen to as many authors and illustrators wax lyrical about their latest publication as possible in a frenzy of succinct deliveries and rotations – rather like speed dating, but with books and ultimately more satisfying.

Amongst them was, rising star, Andrew King. I first met Andrew and Engibear, both instantly likeable fellows, last year when Andrew and I were amongst the ‘daters’. I confess the first time I laid eyes on his non-typical picture book, I baulked at the complexity of its design and presentation. Perhaps it is the poor mathematician in me, but there seemed too many labels and numbers and graph grids! The detail overwhelmed me and the thought, ‘too much’ flickered through my mind like an wavering light bulb.

Cover_Engibears_DreamBut Andrew’s compelling fervour for his work convinced me to look more closely. So I did, and fell in love with what I saw. Engibear’s Dream is neither too busy nor over-detailed, but rather a masterfully thought out and delivered tale of simplicity and perseverance. Engibear’s life is too full to pursue both his dreams and work. He needs help and being a clever engineer like his creator, sets out to design a Bearbot to help him achieve more. But grand schemes are rarely realised first time round. It takes Engibear several attempts to ‘get it right’ but he never gives up on himself or his Bearbot.

Engibear illos BBT09More than just a cute rhyming counting book about the rigours of planning and design, Engibear’s Dream covers the themes of sustainable living, finding balance in a world of progress and change and being innovative and tenacious in the face of failure. Mighty issues for small minds, but ones they will assimilate as they follow Engibear’s attempts to succeed, all superbly illustrated both schematically and in explosive colour, by qualified architect Benjamin Johnston.

I needed to find out more about the man behind the bear, behind the robot. So this week I have a bona fide, qualified engineer behind the draft table. Here’s what he had to say…

Andrew Engibear Launch AssemblyQ Who is Dr Andrew King? How would you best describe present self?

A 48 year old mixed bag: self, husband, dad, son, brother, relative, friend, engineer, co-worker, band member, aspiring author, committee member, community member, etc…

Fortunately, from my perspective, I have been very lucky and the mix has been good to me – I am trying to be good back.

Q Describe your 10 year old self. Did you have any concept then of what you wanted to do or be when you grew up? If so, what?

A 10 year old mixed bag – just a bit less in the mix – son, brother, relative, friend, school student, footballer, etc…

Fortunately (again) I had a very pleasant and carefree childhood. So carefree that I don’t think I had any real idea of what I wanted to do when I grew up. Interestingly though, I remember that a friend and I were writing and illustrating small books of jokes back in grade 6 and trying to sell them (for about 2 cents each). It has been more than 30 years since I last tried but I am now trying to write and sell books again.

Q Writing for children is not your first chosen occupation. Why take up the challenge now?

Kelly and I have been writing and drawing with our kids for years. We ended up developing characters like Engibear and the Bearbot and writing about their adventures in Munnagong. A few years ago my daughter, Marie-Louise, suggested that we should write a book.

Q Engibear’s Dream is your first picture book for children. What are you trying to impart with this book and why choose the picture book format?

The book started as a way of making engineering more accessible to young children. However, we wanted to make the book something more than an instruction manual. Therefore, we included a storyline (in this case a story about perseverance) and tried to include humour. We have also added numbers so that it can be used as a counting book.

To me drawing is a very powerful communication tool. The combination of words and pictures used in engineering drawings is a particularly useful way to communicate design ideas. The opportunity to include these types of diagrams and images of Engibear and the Bearbot meant that the book had to include pictures.

Q What sets Engibear’s Dream apart from other picture books currently on the shelves?

Engineering – in two ways.

Firstly, having a character that is an engineer, there are very few engineers in children’s literature. To me this is surprising as children seem to be very interested in the things that engineers do. Engibear provides a “friendly face” of engineering and therefore a way to introduce engineering to young children at the right level.

Secondly, including detailed engineering drawings. Ben Johnston is an architect who is used to working with engineers. Ben has created loveable characters and has also been able to contrast them with fantastically detailed design drawings of Munnagong, Engibear’s house and workshop, the Bearbot and its working parts. I think this combination of drawing styles allows children to enjoy the characters and the story and then also spend time thinking about how things work and making things (engineering).

Building Bearbots - CoverQ How long from conception to publication did it take to realise Engibear’s Dream?

Building Bearbot was an early family story that is about 10 years old and was the basis for Engibear’s Dream. It sat in the cupboard for a long time. However, once we decided to write a book and chose this story it took about three years to get to publication.

Q It takes Engibear up to 10 types from prototype to final version before he engineers the perfect Bearbot. Does it take engineer Andrew the same number of attempts to design something new before getting it right?

If it is a book, yes – easily!

Building Bearbots - Page 1Depending on the complexity of the project I think engineering design can also take a lot of work. However, engineers have developed systems such as standards, computer modelling and design reviews to help make the design process robust.

Q Engibear’s dream is to have a life less strenuous with more time for enjoying the simple pleasures. What’s the one thing on your non-writing wish-list you’d like to tick off /achieve / produce?

I would like to read more fiction.

Q Do you have other writing dreams you’d like to fulfil?

I have a series of Engibear books planned. Munnagong is a busy place; there is a lot of engineering going on and a lot to write about.

Q Engibear is written in quatrain rhyming verse. As a first time author, did you find this difficult to pull off? Why did you choose to tell the story in this way?

We wrote the book in quatrain rhyming verse because this is how we made up verses when my children were younger – it just seemed to be a natural way to rhyme. However, while this worked for family stories, it was very difficult to do it properly. As an engineer I have some technical writing skills but I had to learn a lot about writing verse. Therefore, I did a course with Dr Virginia Lowe at Create a Kids Book and Virginia then mentored me.

Q You chose to publish your book via a partnership publishing company (Little Steps Publishing). Why? What other publication avenues did you explore if any?

I did contact some traditional publishers and received very polite rejections. I thought that rather than keep going down that route it would be better just to get on with it – self publishing seemed to be the answer.

Q What is on the design board for Andrew? What’s your next ‘writing’ project?

We have been making models of the characters in Engibear’s Dream and we have created a rsk based engineering game. I am also working on the next planned Engibear book “Engibear’s Bridge”. This book is about construction of an iconic “green bridge” near Munnagong State School which will be opened as part of the Munnagong Festival.

Engibear BGT09 specsBrilliant Andrew! You know I can’t wait to meet your new characters and see their designs.

Like the most enthralling kids’ movies, Engibear’s story doesn’t just end with a ‘happily ever after’ moment. Keep page turning and be fascinated by full page project drawings of BBT-10, the Final Version, resplendent with some side-splitting specifications. My young miss could not go past the line drawn end pages detailing Munnagong, home of Engibear either. A fascinating read.

Designed for 3 – 8 year olds. Also riveting for boys, those with inquisitive minds, budding designers and anyone who likes to dream big.

Little Steps Publishing 2012

 

 

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11. Water-based Ink Does Not Equal Earth-friendly: A Busted Myth

ink-bucketsSometimes you’ll find a screen printer who touts their enviro-friendliness by advertising, “We only use water-based inks!”

Maybe you care about chemicals that go into our water supply, and maybe you don’t. For people who do care, this kind of claim really shouts out to you. “These are my people! They care about the Earth like I do!”

That may be true. I give a lot of credit to intention. Before we wave our hands in the air like we just don’t care… I also give a lot of credence to the Buddhist saying about the finger pointing to the moon, which is about looking beyond the finger to find the truth. Sometimes the truth is that the printer intends to do the right thing for the environment by using water-based inks. They are moving in the right direction by being conscious about their screen printing practices. That’s very mindful of them and I applaud it. But to be truly “earth-friendly,” we need to look deeper and understand what’s behind the curtain of water.

People sometimes assume that because it’s water-based, it’s automatically earth-friendly. It definitely sounds friendly, like we could drink a tall, cold glass of screen printing ink and not die. Or, we could just wash it all down the sink with the moldy salsa. The problem is that water-based ink is not just water. There are pigments, binders, thickeners, and sometimes, even co-solvents in the ink residue (source:Ryonet).

So even though it sounds enviro-friendly, water-based ink can still be toxic and not good for municipal sewage systems – or the oceans and rivers where the water eventually winds up.

If the ink itself weren’t enough, we have to consider how the screens are cleaned. Water-based inks can be cleaned with water… unless they dry out. Then we need to use much stronger solvents. While they do make solvents that are more enviro-happy, we can’t assume every shop who says they use water-based ink is using them. Or that they’re following other earth-happy shop practices.

Plastic… Phantastic?

In our shop, we use plastisol inks for most of our printing. They are PVC-based, Phthalide-free inks that when cured with heat turn to a solid. We clean our screens with a soy-based cleaner and cotton rags. There’s no water involved, so no ink goes down any drains.

Is that better than water-based? It’s not a death match between water-based and plastisol. There are good reasons for using both, depending on the situation. For example, we need to print on spandex with plastisol ink (it’s stretchy). We print posters with water-based ink (you can’t heat cure paper).

Good shops are never perfect, but they are open about their methods (truth) and always improving (intention). Those shops that tout their use of water-based inks should be just as knowledgable and open about their ink’s content and cleaning methods.

Do you care? Then do this!

If you care about the environment, ask lots of questions of your printer before you assume they’re more earth-friendly than others. Try these:

What type of ink do you use? Can you point me to the manufacturer’s web site?

What solvents do you use to clean your screens?

Where does the water go when you clean screens? Is it municipal drainage or you have a different disposal solution?

What are the right answers? They’re the answers that make you feel comfortable about getting your printing done. It’s that simple. But I will say that if a printer refuses to answer them, you should keep looking.

If this sounds like a lot of work just to get some frikkin’ t-shirts printed, you’re right. If you care, you care. If not, you probably stopped paying attention a few paragraphs ago.

The point is, you can never assume that something is environmentally friendly by reading an advertisement. Do a little homework. If you really do care about the environment, it won’t hurt a bit.

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12. Coastal Cleanup with Heal the Bay

Here’s a quick visual recap of our Saturday, cleaning Topanga State Beach with Heal the Bay. Our Keep our water clean t-shirts were a hit and we promise they’ll be available for purchase very soon! From the Heal the Bay website, it sounds like people from all over cleaned up 24,000 lbs of trash on Saturday. I’ll remind our teen of this fact every time he has to haul our own garbage to the curb.

For even more photos (of people besides us), check out Heal the Bay’s Flickr page: https://secure.flickr.com/photos/healthebay/sets/72157635737501184/

Jenni-Henri-Topanga-Beach-cleanup David-Topanga-Beach-cleanup Trash--Topanga-Beach-cleanup

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13. My Personal Litter Crusade

The horror!

For me, a nightmare.

I admit it. I’m one of those anti-litter freaks. My intolerance of litter goes way back. It wasn’t instinctual and, like many people, I had to learn it. Thankfully I had someone there to teach me.

When I was 11, I visited my uncle in Missoula. He lived near the University of Montana. I would go exploring the foothills by myself and sometimes he would join me. On one hike, we kept passing bits of trash along the trail. A beer can here, a McDonald’s wrapper there. I would hike past them but my uncle kept stopping and going out of his way to pick the stuff up. I sighed, impatient. Then he handed me some. “Why are we doing this?” I asked. “Do we really have to carry all this trash around all day?”

He was not exactly amused and probably surprised by my bratty whine. He didn’t shed a tear like the Indian in the commercial, but he did sternly explain that if everyone littered and nobody cared enough to pick it up, the whole mountain would look like a dump. Then he took the trash away from me to carry it himself and didn’t say much for the rest of the hike.

I was embarrassed and felt like a complete loser, but the message was driven home. Ever since that day I have made it my mission to pick up any litter I find. Even if it’s out of my way.

Yup, I’m that guy.

Imagine how hard it was for me to live in NYC. Manhattan is like litterZILLA, so what would otherwise be a pleasant walk on the Upper West side was an exercise in restraint. Must… keep… enjoying… too much… garbage…can’t… ignore…

Still, litter irritates me to no end. I just don’t get it. I see an empty Big Gulp cup lying on its side, not three feet away from a trash can and my skin starts to turn green. I grunt and burst out of my shirt, leaving only knee-length cutoffs. That cup is now in mortal danger.

So yeah, I have this thing about litter. And when I can, I do something about it. So for my birthday on Saturday, I’ll be in litter cleanup heaven. Yup, I’m that guy.

Join us this Saturday, September 21st for Heal the Bay‘s Coastal Cleanup Day! We’ll be there with our buckets collecting old water bottles, cigarette butts, wrappers, and other trash that makes our beaches and creeks nasty.

CLEAN-ME-CCD2013-Final-web

 

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14. From the Backlist: The Race to Save the Lord God Bird

The Race to Save the Lord God Bird   by Phillip Hoose Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004 ISBN: 0374361738 Grades 6 and up The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from the public library. Louise and I read a lot of nonfiction, but we both enjoy fiction as well. Last week I read The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker plays an important role in this

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15. Seahorses and Coral Reefs

Seahorses  by Jennifer Keats Curtis; illustrated by Chad Wallace  Henry Holt and Company. 2013  ISBN: 9780805092394  Preschool to Grade 2  I borrowed this book from my local public library.  Two new books about what lives in our oceans.  In Seahorses, Jennifer Keats Curtis uses rich language to give a brief overview of the life of this fascinating sea creature.   In the warm, salty water, a

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16. Potatoes on Rooftops by Hadley Dyer

Potatoes on Rooftops: farming in the CityHadley DyerAnnick Press. 2012ISBN: 9781554514250Grades 3 and upI borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library.Did you know that city dwellers can grow food too? In Potatoes on Rooftops: Farming in the City author Hadley Dyer will show you there are a myriad of doable possibilities to having your own garden; anything is possible.Using a

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17. The Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery

The Tapir Scientist: Saving South America’s Largest Mammal Text by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Nic Bishop (Scientists in the Field) Houghton Mifflin. 2013 ISBN: 9780547815480 Grades 6 to 12 My review copy was sent to me by the publisher Stop tweeting!  Put that video game on pause! Grab a cuppa and...settle in with the newest title in the Scientists in the Field series. The Tapir Scientist

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18. ERUPTION! by Elizabeth Rusch

ERUPTION!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives (Scientists in the Field series) by Elizabeth Rusch; Photographs by Tom Ullman Houghton Mifflin. 2013 ISBN: 9780547503509 Grades 6 and up To review this title, I checked the book out of my local public library. Me: Aiden, what do you want to be when you grow up? Aiden: A VUL-CAN-OLOGIST! ME: A what? Aiden: I want to study volcanoes and

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19. Will The "Saving The Planet" eBook Save The Planet?

No trees are destroyed in the making of an eBook. Sounds like a good thing, n'est-ce pas? You take a living tree, kill it, mash it into pulp, squish it into paper, print a book on it, read it, and, some day, it's going to end up in book heaven. A book, it could be argued, is pre-trash.

So shouldn't an eBook, which is kind of nothing, a lot better environmentally speaking?

Some would say that it depends on how many books you read. Producing devices for reading eBooks  requires resources, as does producing traditional books. How many traditional books do you have to replace with eBooks to offset the environmental impact of the creation of the reading device? As few as fourteen? As  many as a hundred? Estimates vary.

Some would say that it depends on what kinds of devices the eBooks end up being read on.  If readers move to some kind of tablet that they use not only for reading but for accessing the Internet so that they no longer need a desktop or laptop, they'll be using a lot less equipment and the resources required to make them.

Some would say that it really just depends.

5 Comments on Will The "Saving The Planet" eBook Save The Planet?, last added: 4/18/2013
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20. It's Our Garden by George Ancona

It's Our Garden: from seeds to harvest in a school garden George Ancona Candlewick Press. 2013 ISBN: 9780763653927 Grades 1-3 I borrowed a copy of this book from my local public library Recently, at the day care center where my husband works as cook (Cooker John) they were awarded funds to purchase supplies to create a garden. Maine has adopted the 5210 Let’s Go! Childhood Obesity Prevent

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21. OC's Earth Day Post: Cli-fi

I usually do an environmental post on Thursdays, but today is Earth Day, and, hey, I can adapt. So I'm getting all environmentalish with a climate fiction post on Monday this week.

Climate fiction? you say. Yeah, I just heard about it a couple of days ago, too. Climate fiction, according to NPR is a genre, well, an "emerging" one, anyway, in which writers "set their novels and short stories in worlds, not unlike our own, where the Earth's systems are noticeably off-kilter." That's how it differs from dystopian or apocalyptic novels in which a futuristic world is suffering because of (usually) human-made environmental disaster or just a human-made "oops." Climate fiction is set in a contemporary world.

This article at Grist  looks like a review of a couple of cli-fi novels, though one seems a little futuristic/apocalyptic.

I suspect that NPR's definition of cli-fi as being something separate from the dystopian/apocalyptic stuff isn't generally known. Here someone uses the term "cli-fi thriller" to describe the same book set 75 years in the future with climate disaster that Grist included in its review column.

Climate Change and Contemporary Fiction appears to be a blog that deals with this very subject.

I'm going to admit that though I have an interest in environmentalism, as a reader I find environmental/climate change disaster stories cliched. The first few were interesting, sure, but now they leave me with a feeling of, "Oh. I've read this. Several times." Or, "Of course. The tech people/scientists are the bad guys. Again." It's not that the problems aren't real or serious, but they've become formulaic as far as literature is concerned. I also wonder if there isn't a message quality to some of these books, a lesson that readers are supposed to be learning. There's sometimes a propaganda quality to some of these stories. This preaching issue is discussed in Few A-List Novelists Tackling Climate Change in Their Plots at Climate Central.

Novelists Try Climate Change Story Telling: A Critical Review of Two Recent Entries published at The Yale forum on Climate Change & The Media  ends with "Are there other ways that climate change can make for good reading? It’s a question more than a few hope to see answered in the affirmative. As Bill McKibben wrote in 2005, climate change still lacks resonance in American culture. “Where are the books? The poems? The plays? The goddamn operas?” he asked. “Compare it to, say, the horror of AIDS in the last two decades, which has produced a staggering outpouring of art that, in turn, has had real political effect.”"

I am not knowledgeable about AIDS literature, but I think the question being raised here is is climate change being used in literature other than in novels? Certainly a different form--poetry or opera, for instance--might help to break the formula of human-made disaster leading to woe.

Happy Earth Day.

5 Comments on OC's Earth Day Post: Cli-fi, last added: 4/29/2013
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22. Seriously, You Can Make Things Out Of Your Trash

In Saving the Planet & Stuff there is a recurring storyline about all the things Walt and Nora have been saving in their spare bedroom because they were dead certain that it was all useful. (Like hoarding, but different.) Michael is set to work finding useful and attractive projects to turn what he believes to be trash into...something else.

This isn't some far-fetched idea or an old one from back in my wish-I-were-a-hippy days. This kind of thing is going on right now. As I right these words, someone is making something out of plastic bags.

Check out Danny Seo turns trash into treasures in "Upcycling Celebrations" in the Los Angeles Times.

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23. Is it wrong to laugh while you’re saving humanity?

Vegan Zombie tee ©2013 Sparky FirepantsHere’s something to muddle over this week:

Is it possible to be passionate about a cause and keep a sense of humor about it?

While you ponder that with your own passionate beliefs, here’s our story. Jenni and I are both vegan. We care about things like animals being tortured and our water being polluted. While we’re at it, we’d love to see every person in the world have enough to eat.

Our efforts toward these causes are serious and dedicated. For example, here are just a few things we do:

  • We eat a plant-based diet.
  • We use environmentally-friendly products and practices in our screen print shop.
  • We buy from companies that support our values and ideals
  • We get involved with events and organizations that support the causes we believe in

In all of these activities, we interact with people who care about the same things we do. Some of these people are serious, too. Very serious. Very… very serious.

Here’s a quick self-check guide to see if you’re getting a little too serious about your cause:

  • Have you ever thrown red paint on anyone (frat parties don’t count)?
  • Have you ever crawled into a grocery store meat case and snuggled the packages, whispering, “You didn’t have to die for us?”
  • Do you have any tattoos of Al Gore’s face? Anywhere?
  • Have you angrily shouted the words “bone char” or “fracking” more than once this week?
  • Do you get tweets from Alec Baldwin telling you to lighten up?

If you said “yes” to more than one of these, you may be too serious. And, you may actually be hurting the causes you’re trying to promote. For example, there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about rescuing animals from slaughter. If your end goal is to convince someone that slaughtering animals is wrong, getting up in their business with a few choice accusations probably isn’t going to do it. And they’ll go away convinced of only one thing: Those damn animal lovers are freaks, man. Message lost, mission unaccomplished.

I read somewhere that if you can get people to laugh, you have their attention. I read a lot of things “somewhere” and then forget the source.  It sure sounds like somebody said it. Lucille Ball? Dale Carnegie? Hannibal Lecter? Let’s say I made this up and move along.

Sometimes when people find out I’m vegan, I instantly become a target for teasing and animal rights jokes – not to mention dissecting my whole way of eating and thinking. I get it, I’m weird. If people realized truly how weird, they would forget about my diet. So it’s good that I have that to distract them.

In those situations where people are testing me, it would be easy to get angry and put up my dukes to defend myself and my cause. I could get all huffy (or Schwinn) and whine, “You just don’t understand the kind of evil the meat industry perpetrates! Your food is shit! You are gonna die! You’re assisting in the mass slaughter of cuddly critters and the careless destruction of the Earth, you non-caring animal-wearing meat whore!”

Instead, I answer questions and deflect “testing me” questions with humor. Then I let it go. It’s not that I’ve changed my beliefs or even hinted at agreeing with them. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And yes, I just advocated the use of honey for catching flies. Double-bad vegan-whammy to me on that one.

Surprisingly, what typically happens is that those testing people approach me when I’m alone and start asking more earnest questions about how to make vegan meals (which I then hand over to Jenni because I never remember how to cook anything).

When we decided to launch a line of vegan t-shirts and totes, it took a few months to sort out what the designs would be. My initial sketches all had some sort of serious “We are all one world” kind of message. Which is fine. I’m not knocking the sentiment. But jeez looweez, don’t we see that everywhere? After a while we get desensitized to the ubiquitous messages of love all, serve all. We start branding people who sport those messages by saying, “Those damn hippies again.” I’m guilty of this myself.

So we went the other way. We went the weird cartoon humor route by creating some goofy t-shirts. In fact, we even have a bacon shirt (a bacon-destroying video game). Plus, we’ve got more vegan and non-cause-related t-shirt designs on the drawing board. See? We’re so serious about our health, animals, and the Earth that we can’t help smiling about it.

 

Vegan Zombie tee ©2013 Sparky Firepants  Tofu Strongman ©2013 Sparky Firepants     Bacon Bits ©Sparky Firepants

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24. Meet us at WorldFest!

Woop-dee-do and yippy-kay-ayy, we’ll be at WorldFest this coming weekend!

So if you’re in the Los Angeles area, come out and join us on Sunday, May 19th. This is us officially inviting you to hang out in a beautiful park for a day listening to live music, sampling tons of vegan food, plus a beer and wine garden hosted by Lagunitas Brewing Company. Um, beer. Yes? Beer. Yes. The event is all about promoting health, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare issues. No reason we can’t have some fun doing it!

Since we run an environmentally sustainable screen print shop – not to mention being vegan – we couldn’t think of a better way to participate than with our goofy vegan t-shirt designs. Naturally, we’ll be exhibiting our super soft vegan t-shirts at our booth. We’ll also have stickers, window decals, tote bags, and prizes to give away. So aside from the beer, food, and Ed Begley, Jr., you can score some very cool stuff from us!

We’ll also be educating people on what it means to run an environmentally-conscious business. Especially in the screen printing industry, there are a lot of chemicals that are used for preparing and cleaning screens. We only use drain safe, biodegradable, citrus and soy-based cleaners in our tiny little shop. There are a lot of things we plan to do as we grow (we’d love to be 100% solar-powered), and we’ll be learning about some options at WorldFest.

We hope to see you there!

David & Jenni

WorldFest eflyer

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25. Environmental Book Club

A few years ago, the Nature Conservancy ran an article at its website on a "green book club" that had been meeting for ten years. As a former member of a book club (I was one of the two people who started it), I can say that the ten years part is pretty remarkable, particularly since the group read "nonfiction with a conservation focus." I am a little bit crunchy, but I would be hard put to make my way through 110 books of that type, as the woman representing the club said they have.

A green book club for kids seems a little on the improving side, but if you want to try it, or just bring a few greenish books into your home, The Nature Generation's Green Earth Book Award winners and honor books seem to offer a variety of titles over a range of ages. However, the website doesn't appear to maintain a list of former winners. Here's some help:

2007 winners

2008 winners

2009 winners

2010 winners

2011 winners

2012 winners

2013 winners






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