How to be a bleeding-heart pinko commie treehugger

Because really, who doesn't want that? Y'all remember how much I loved Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. My book group is reading it this month and I can't wait to chat about it--seems like at least one other member is liking it too.

A few weeks ago on the PUBLIB listserv (for public libraries & librarians) one member asked for ideas about consumerism-type books, as her library's book club wanted to read one. And oh, did people respond. We're librarians, remember? Asking us for book recommendations is pretty much like throwing prime chum in the water next to both seals and surfers.

I figured I would get the list up here so that anyone who may want to be considered for membership at our future hippie compound in Montana (other members: Daltongirl and Sakhmet, who is pushing for a milder climate, which I can get behind). can get caught up on the syllabus. And possibly also so that I don't lose the list.

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power and Politics of World Trade, Pietra Rivoli.

Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, Judith Levine

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, John de Graffe, et al

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, Paco Underhill

Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreicht

No Logo: Taking Aim at Brand Bullies, Naomi Klein

Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein

A Year Without “Made In China”: One Family’s Adventures in the Global Economy, Sara Bongiorni

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else, Michael Gates Gill

Bittersweet : the story of sugar, Peter Macinnis

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, Michael Norton

Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan.

Crunchy cons: the new conservative counterculture and its return to roots, Dreher 2006 (psst! This one is about conservatives who eat organic vegetables without shame!)

American Mania: When More is Not Enough, Whybrow 2005

Consuming religion: Christian faith and practice in a consumer culture, Miller 2005

Don't get too comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems, Rakoff 2005

Exporting America: Why Corporate Greed is Shipping American Jobs Overseas, Dobbs 2004

I want that! : how we all became shoppers, Thomas Hine

The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, Chris Anderson

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcom Gladwell

The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki

Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash, Susan Strasser

And really, this is a whole nuther blog post in the making (so, you know, gird up your loins for that one) but I really do not understand what the deal is with conservatives and the environment--or, I should say more specifically, with Mormons (who tend to be politically conservative) and the environment.

Is it because we believe in the Last Days and so there's really no need to bother preserving the earth because it's just going to get all burned up anyway?

Does living in Utah and other wide-open spaces make us feel like there's always going to be more of everything and if there isn't then that's not our problem?

Is it because conservation and the environment are frequently supported by the politically liberal, and we should never believe anything the liberals say about anything, including things like "Hi, my name is Bob" and "My, the sky looks hazy today." Probably this whole environmentalism thing is just a trick to get us running abortion clinics out of our garages.

And guess what else? I don't care if global warming turns out to be fake. Seriously. I absolutely do not care. It will not change the way I feel about my responsibilities and my feeling that I should be trying to make the world a better place rather than squeezing every last bit of use from it and leaving nothing for the people who come after me. And it's funny that more LDS people (and Christians in general) don't talk about this, considering what we are taught about exactly those ideas: stewardship, responsibility, moderation, unselfishness, preparation, priorities. If you need scriptural evidence, look at what God told Adam when he gave him stewardship over the earth. Look at the parable of the talents. It's right there.

Aaaand possibly I won't be needing that second blog post now. Woops.


Janssen said... [reply]

DUUUUUUUUUUUDE. . .I so feel the same way. (Also, did I just sound like a fifteen year old boy? Why yes, yes I did).

It blows my mind that everyone feels just fine about carting around their kids in massive pollution mobiles or throwing out six gazillion water bottles every ten seconds or wasting things all over the place. What happened to "The prophet said to plant a garden, so that's what I'll do. . ." (I know you'll have this stuck in your head all day long. You're welcome).

Umm, Amen.

Azúcar said... [reply]

I'm a BIG one for pulling out the stewardship trump card.

You are so right (little 'r') thinking.

'sposita said... [reply]

it's unfortunate that the environment doesn't seem to be a priority in the conservative movement - but i guess (most) people figure social issues are more important to the good of society than The Environment.

if you haven't seen this:
you might like it.

MBC said... [reply]

I would like to join your compound, but I don't think I can live in Montana.

Just in case you're planning to read Not Buying It, the premise of the book is good, but the author is annoying and a cheater.

A FABULOUS, but older book, with detailed instructions on how to be a bleeding-heart pinko commie treehugger (disguised as just saving lots of money) is Amy Dacyzn's Tightwad Gazette.

Jenny said... [reply]

Me and Heather were going to start our own, but I guess we can all live together. She says she'll be in charge of the garden.

Also, I just started reading a book not on consumerism so much as it is about getting outside. It's good.

'Last child in the woods: saving our children from nature-deficit disorder'
Danalee the genius/child expert recommended it.

Lady Steed said... [reply]

I wrote a paper about this exact topic for one of my religion classes when I was a freshmen at BYU--because it really really bugged me that Mormons just couldn't seem to really get behind ideas like recycling. Maybe I'll dig the paper up and send it to you. It has all sorts of scriptural evidence regarding our responsibility to take care of the Earth. Not to mention quotes from modern day prophets and apostles, on this subject.

ps it seriously warms my heart to see you getting all worked up about the environment. I love posts like this.

pps Montana!?

Nemesis said... [reply]

Janssen, no worries. I love 15-yr-old boys. Um. I mean . . . But yes, I agree with you. Take my parents. They finally decided to trade in their Suburban (which only my mom drives) for something smaller. I applauded this choice, but I imagine I'll regret it the next time more than 2 of us fly up to them and have to rent a car for the duration . . .

Azucar, I know! I am so glad we are melded.

'sposita, will check your link out posthaste.

MBC, I don't think the compound will actually be in Montana. It was just in our minds as fertile compound-ground. As is Alaska, only we're SO not going there. And thanks for the book recommendation!

Jen, that's a good idea. After tasting her tomatoes (which, wow, does that sound dirty to anyone else?) I can definitely support Heather for Chief Gardener.

Lady Steed, I'll have to tell the story about the time you and I almost came to blows over the garbage disposal and how you told me I was going to hell for putting green pepper scraps down it. Cuz those were good times.

miranda said... [reply]

Heh. I wrote a rant on Oct. 15 (Blog Action Day) about Mormons and the whole "Jesus will fix it when it when He comes" deal.

I personally think Jesus will have US fix it when He comes, since the gospel is pretty much about Jesus making up for what we CAN'T do. And we certainly CAN get a good start on taking care of the planet He was so kind as to create for us. Not sure why He would want to clean up OUR mess, especially when we can do it ourselves...

I've read a good many of the books you mentioned. Many of them are, I think, Important Books.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Miranda, I absolutely slacked on October 15th. It was one of Those Days. But woot for your blog post, and for the fab list you included of church magazine talks about consumerism and why we shouldn't trash the planet. I wonder how many people noticed those articles, muttered about how the Magazines Department must have had to hire a Democrat, and then went back to eating an entire cow for Sunday dinner. :-)

Cicada said... [reply]

I was really proud this week when my mom said that she and my dad are buying canvas grocery bags. So proud in fact that I thought maybe I should do that, too.

Audrey said... [reply]


Lady Steed said... [reply]

Nem: I vaguely recall this disposal incident you refer to. I'll have you know that we have no garbage disposal at all right now, and it's no big deal to me. But for those living in the student housing for CAL it is a big deal.Speaking to someone who lives there they said this: "There are no disposals!? What are you supposed to do!? I can't just throw mushy cereal in the trash!" Somehow I held back my rant, because, um, yes. Yes you can just throw it in the trash.Cut out the middle man that is the waste water treatment center and put it in the trash.

Desmama said... [reply]

Earlier this year when the inversion was so so so bad here in CV, the Bear River Health Department asked all the stake presidents in the area to politely ask their congregations to try to drive less and carpool more, etc. They knew that on Sundays, pollution levels went down because people weren't driving as much--why not try that every day?

So, dad asked all the bishops in our stake to talk to their congregants about it. I don't know if he gave them a letter or just talked to them. Anyway, so one of the bishops got all bothered that my dad was "pushing his politics" (yes, he's a Democrat--and a stake president!). I was appalled. I mean, the air looks like pea soup around here on the really bad days. Perhaps conservatives breathe different air than the rest of us? That'd explain a lot, actually . . .

Anyway. Hmph. I had a goal to not get all political and now you got me doing it.

Squirrel Boy said... [reply]

I think Mormons have a hard time with environmentalism for all the reasons stated and more. I've heard this scripture cited to support the idea that we don't need to worry about depleting natural resources. I guess the assumption is that if there's enough to spare, we can be afford to be wasteful. And then the earth will be purified with fire, so why worry about pollution?

But maybe the biggest reason, in my opinion, is that most Mormons are Republican for moral reasons and don't stop to think that you don't have to accept the whole party platform just because of those moral issues.

And I say all this as someone who was formerly staunchly Republican and has moved considerably to the left in recent years.

kristen said... [reply]

I think there's a fine line between the two extremes: being an OCD tree-hugger and trashing the planet. God gave us this earth to use, and be stewards over. Yes we're supposed to care for it and take care of it, but there are resources for us to use (plenty of them, according to a talk I read not to long ago).

I find it amusing that people think conservatives don't care about the environment (the very word 'conserve' says something). It was in fact a 'conservative' who created the EPA, one who established the Clean Air Act, and one now who is establishing more wetlands. The quality of air now is actually substantially better than it was on the very first Earth Day in 1970. So much progress has been made (in fact my SUV today gets way better gas mileage than my first car in high school--a non SUV made in 1980).

So-called celebrity environmentalists (who are liberal) are hypocrites....with their multiple ginormous mansions, private jets, fleet of vehicles, and extravagant lifestyles. Maybe we should point some fingers at them.

I'm very much a conservative: politically and with life in general. I reuse water bottles, I recycle paper, I don't buy things I don't need, and I don't even keep the sink running when I brush my teeth. We too care about the environment; but we also believe in a free market and enhanced quality of living.

(alright, the 'conservative' has spoken; please don't throw rocks).

Rynell said... [reply]

I second your words--or rather I3th your words. Does that even make sense?

Anyway, as so many others have eloquently stated, you are right. As in correct.

thank you.

PS I kind of like Montana; however lest you be shocked: it is even colder than Utah. And deer eat your garden plants there. And snow sticks around all winter and turns gray/black.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Cicada, I am proud of your parents too. And of you, but only when you have a grocery bag of your own.

Thanks, Audrey!

Desmama, I love that story. I hoped you would bring it up! C'mon, a rant every now and then can be fun.

Squirrel boy, great points, especially about choosing a party for one or two of the "big" issues.

Which brings us to Kristen's excellent point about how "conservative" and "conservation" should reasonably be seen as going hand in hand. I just don't see very much of that. Although there are individuals who do what they can, environmental issues don't get much buy-in (especially in terms of tax dollars) when you're looking at largely conservative communities.

Take Utah County: In Provo if you want curbside recycling you have to opt in and pay a monthly fee. MBC's report on a recent political forum in the area showed just how much real consideration the candidates were giving to environmental issues (read: none).

cooldad said... [reply]

Trade in my Suburban? NEVER!

Nemesis said... [reply]

Wait, you guys KEPT the Suburban??

daltongirl said... [reply]

I have no memory of Montana being part of the discussion. I remember Idaho, but that's probably not an improvement over Montana. I'm willing to look at other more moderate locations. Oregon? Free wild blackberries = cottage industry.

Am currently crocheting my own grocery bags out of hemp. I need to make it clear that I did not grow my own hemp, although I kind of wish I had. Turns out the project is costly. I may only end up with one bag. Fortunately, the new health food store opened around the corner from my house, so I can walk there every day. No driving required, because I will only be carrying one bag home. Win-win.

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

You go girl! We need to replace "environmentalist freak" with "wise steward." My hubby and are are both complete anomolies in our highly conservative families, because we tend to vote in favor of public education and the environment. Yep. That makes us liberal commie pinkos too. You are in good company, my friend. And I agree with Miranda. If we screwed it up, we are definitely going to have to fix it. Why should it be done for us when we have the technology and the brains to make a difference NOW, if we have the willpower to live according to our touted philosophy of humility and sharing.

Oh, and for a GREAT cosumerism laugh, you have got to read "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

Science Teacher Mommy said... [reply]

PS If you want to find THE place for the compound. It has got to be in Oregon. I know the Saints stopped in Utah to move someplace where NOBODY would bug them, but I sometimes think taking the Oregon Trail wouldn't have been too bad an idea.

coolmom said... [reply]

So, you'd feel better of I just give all the stuff I bought you in New York to your sisters?

chosha said... [reply]

Speaking of posts in the making, I'm in the midst of writing about exactly why I don't care if global warming is not caused by people.

I appreciate when people recycle, but I do get a little irritated by people who think that flagrantly over-consuming non-necessities and over-using finite resources as if they were not finite is okay because, you know, they RECYCLE. Of the three, 'reduce, reuse, recycle' recycling is actually the least important.

Great list, by the way. Everything I've read that's on it was interesting and thought-provoking, so it makes me think I should check out the rest. Though I do think the list is incomplete with at least one of the 'what evils you contribute to when you shop at Walmart' books and if I had been adding to the list I would have suggested David Korten's fine works on corporations and consumer culture.

coolmom said... [reply]

I was just joking.....

Lady Steed said... [reply]

Just wanted to let you know that out here in the Bay Area (where we are supposedly very earth friendly) you have to pay for curbside recycling too. So what you said here: "Take Utah County: In Provo if you want curbside recycling you have to opt in and pay a monthly fee." isn't really a great argument. And generally you always have to pay someone to come pickup your trash and recycling. I could run my trash and recycling out to the appropriate places each month myself, but frankly it's easier to just pay the 40 dollars a month and have someone else pick it up and take it away.

Also,Nem, I did some research on the garbage disposal thing and now have no idea which truly is better for the environment. Fortunately I have no disposal now, so it's a non issue. My food scraps go to my compost worms, which is the very best way to deal with that sort of waste.

Nectar said... [reply]

I realize I'm late, perhaps too late, to join the discussion, but I just have to say a few words in defense of conservative Mormons.

The good news is that conservative Mormons also believe in good stewardship of the land. They don't believe in polluting, they believe in making the best use of our resources that we can. So, there is a potential to work together on this, as I see our goals are very similar.

I think it is unfair to claim that conservatives don't care about the environment. Allow me to outline what I believe are the real differences between conservative Mormons and radical environmentalists.

1. Conservatives are cautious. Yes, they sometimes fear change, and sometimes that is bad. But sometimes people (like radical environmentalists) rush out to change things and only make things worse. The extreme environmentalists are so sure that they know better than anyone else, or that they are more virtuous than others, than they tend to try to run roughshod over everybody else. And they feel smug about it. That's bad.

Statements like "I don't care if global warming turns out to be fake" are a red flag to conservatives. It says that you don't care about the facts. You are so sure about some cause you believe in that you will go along with a lie in order to get people to do what you want them to do. That's dangerous.

If we are to work together to find solutions to environmental problems we can't cover up inconvenient facts. We can't scare people with things they need to do that won't actually help remove the danger they are afraid of. That's dishonest.

2. The biggest difference between conservatives and radicals is that the radicals want to use the police powers of the state to force everyone to do what they think is best for the world. Radical environments do talk about the environment more than conservatives, and to listen to radical rhetoric it would appear that they care more, but what they are trying to do is rally support to pass laws to make people behave as the environmentalists think they should. They want to punish those they suspect of bad behavior. They want larger and more powerful and intrusive government in our lives.

I have found that in practice I’m more of an environmentalist that many an outspoken person who thinks conservative Mormons don’t care about the environment. I ride a bicycle to work everyday, and I’ve done that for the last thirty years. I recycle what I can. I am careful to buy only what I need. I plant trees and flowers and grow a large garden, and I compost all the waste products.

I'd rather do something about what I believe in that try to force others to do what I feel guilty not doing.

Nemesis said... [reply]

Nectar, thank you. You do a great job of showing the conservative side of things--it's clear that you have put a lot of careful thought into the issue.

When I said, "I don't care if global warming turns out to be fake," I wasn't suggesting that the facts are unimportant. Of course they are. And I know that there are facts which both support and oppose the theory of global warming. My point was that even if it turns out that the current theory of global warming as presented by Al Gore and Co turns out to be incorrect, that won't change the way I feel about my responsibility to be a good steward, to use resources wisely, and to not reject good ideas simply because they come from a different party than mine.

Nectar said... [reply]

Thank you for your soft answer to my comments.

I have a brother that seems to feel the same way you do about environmentalism. He is a caring, concerned person, and he really wants us all to take good care of the planet. He is making an honest effort to uncover the truth of global warming and man's relationship to that. I applaud him for all that, and we are in agreement in this.

The problem to me is that, like you, he really doesn't care very much whether or not global warming is partly the result of what man is doing, as long as it gets us to use cars that consume less gas and in general put more money into new technologies that will pollute less and use our resources more wisely. So he is willing to overlook the dubious science of Al Gore et. al. because it furthers my brother's objectives.

Very few people in the world really understand the science involved in global warming. But they are willing to go along with the scare tactics and the assumptions being made because they believe it will force people to do what they believe needs to be done. They assume others are only holding back because of greed, laziness, or even because the idea comes from the opposite political spectrum. They are willing to put their trust in the politicians on their side, and the scientists who support the global warming theory because "the end justify the means," only they don't think in those terms.

I happen to have a Ph.D. in Optical Sciences, a degree many of the scientists who support the global warming theory wish they had. And I think their theory is junk science.

So, is there harm in remaining silent about the flaws of the global warming theory, seeing that it promotes "good behavior"? I think there is. For one thing the philosophy of the "end justifies the means" is the kind of philosophy used by repressive regimes everywhere.

For another thing it leads to bad policy. People are making bad decisions based on misinformation about global warming. Decisions that will greatly affect our quality of life. Out of fear we are putting more power into the hands of the government. We are wasting our resources in developing technologies that are less efficient and more harmful to the environment, because we aren't looking at the real problems.

It makes for bad science. You can seldom get funding to do research that goes against the popular opinion of the day and age that you live in. Any discoveries that you make which contradict what people want to believe are rejected. What people choose to support, not understanding or caring if it is really true, but in loyality to their political philosophy, does make a difference.

Now, I understand that you aren't pushing global warming in order to scare us into action. However, some people are doing just that. You just want a better planet, and everyone to be just as concerned about the consequences of their actions as you are. That's great. My only point is that we have to be careful to use only legitimate means to accomplish our goals, and not assume an idea is good because it comes from our own party, or else we will find ourselves worse off than before.

Sorry this is so long. And thank you for allowing me to vent some frustrations on your blog.

JackJen said... [reply]

So, this post is rather old, but I wanted you to know that I've referenced your book list MANY MANY times.... (We have a "contra" book club among friends in my ward so we can read books where people swear and not feel guilty...) and next month we're going all thematic...and everyone is reading a nonfiction "book about food." There were some good'uns on your list. So thanks!

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