UNLESS

*crossposted from Seven Deadly Divas*

Forty-ish years ago, a senator by the name of Gaylord Nelson (Wisconsin) organized a nationwide environmental teach-in to help educate children and the population about environmental concerns. This was called Earth Day, and the first year saw about 20 million people participating.

Now, around 500 million people will “participate” in Earth Day (or Earth Week) around the globe.

It’s an interesting holiday, and one that has sparked a bit of back-and-forth within the environmental community, for a few reasons.

My own criticism of the holiday stems largely from the idea that we can learn about all kinds of things in one day, but UNLESS we actually make a change that matters, it won’t make any difference. Giving people a token action (say, giving money once to a local environmental charity) is not that useful if it is a one time token action. The money will be well spent, but one donation does not an environmentalist make.

Also, a lot of the things pushed for Earth Day are trivial.

Yes, choosing to use a reusable bag is a worthwhile investment, as it chooses to use a reusable thing rather than a disposable one… except that many reusable bags are made of plastic (more petroleum) or cotton (a crop that requires HUGE amounts of chemicals in most growing operations). And that paper bag comes from trees, and requires a lot of processing.

In short, most of the advice – like these stamps supposedly rolling out from the USPS this week – is insipid and silly in a culture that already KNOWS that there is shit going down with the environment. Maybe it’s because I had the luxury of being in grade school after the onset of Earth Day celebrations, but I’ve heard “turn off the water when you brush your teeth” since I was old enough to brush my teeth.

Most people have already chosen where they will or will not make changes. Right now, human wants are going to trump proposed “environmental changes”, especially when they’re inconvenient, or painted as inconvenient by industries that would be harmed by the change. And really, many “good” changes cost money – even so called “simple” ones like adding insulation to your house. Plus, some people think that anyone asking them to take care of the environment is just taking away their God Given Freedom To Do Whatever The Hell They Want as they throw still lit cigarette butts from their neon orange Humvees.

But then, if I look back at what I just wrote, there was a level of success there. Learning about the environment and taking care of it was just part of the April curriculum at school. It gave us a chance to plant trees and learn about sprouting beans in the classroom window.

If Earth Day can make little knowledge accessible to little kids, then I’m all for it. Much like Earth Hour, though, it’s only useful if we take it beyond one day. Knowing that you should do something is different than doing it.

Planting a tree is no use if all you do is plant it, and then leave the poor little sapling to shrivel up and die in the summer heat with no water. You did little for the environment UNLESS you kept up with caring for it.

Earth day works if Earth Day is a seed, not the full extent of the education.

As with any project, though, we have to start somewhere.

The used bookstore where I work spends a lot of time and resources on recycling and other small community education programs, as well as chain wide “competitions” (where stores work to use fewer bags for purchases, and then the Corporation donates a certain amount of money for each declined bag to a nation wide charity). Plus, a used bookstore is, at heart, a recycling operation. Our receipts for sold merchandise say “Thanks for giving a new life to your stuff.”

So today, as part of our store’s celebrations of Earth Day, I’ll be reading The Lorax aloud to whatever children I can find to listen. This will happen (in some form or another) in all the Half-Price Books stores in the country.

And I will emphasize to them the great UNLESS that Dr. Seuss poses to all of his readers. The challenge of UNLESS that is central to the message of The Lorax:

UNLESS someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.

-The Lorax, Dr Seuss

Storytime with Anna

As I was practicing for my performance of The Lorax at work, I recorded myself reading it. I figure if I post that on the internet, I’ll have a HUGE audience, and that’ll be a little less nervous than reading for my coworkers and customers.

So here you go: The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

(And yes, it’s better with pictures)

Book Update

Since my last book update, I have finished Diet for a Dead Planet (Christopher D Cook) and The Consumer’s Guide for Effective Environmental Choices (The Union of Concerned Scientists), gotten halfway through Redwall, and read The Last Little Cat.

I highly recommend Diet for a Dead Planet to anyone who wants to read about the human costs to the current agricultural system – not so much as a condemnation (which it is) but also as a history of how the system actually developed, both industrially and politically. It’s written in such a way as to be easy to read in small chunks, and it was my bedtime reading book for awhile. Cook also does a great job of endnoting his work, so anything that seems outrageous can be fact-checked – something I did a few times.

The Consumer’s Guide was pretty dry but good to read, since it actually takes SCIENCE to the idea behind “greening” your everyday decisions. Especially in light of this week being Earth Day (more on that later this week), it’s nice to read something that says “these things actually make a difference, but those things really don’t”. For example, choosing to buy an energy efficient refrigerator is a much more important decision than whether you use plastic or paper grocery bags. They line up their scientific method and have a large section of data and analysis in the back of the book to support their findings as well. (Not surprising, given the authors.) Unfortunately, it’s about 10 years old, so it’s not as up to date as it could be, and a lot of the progress they see as possible hasn’t come about yet.

I have given up on the Dalai Lama’s book for now, mostly because it is a little too thinky for me right now. I’ve put off most of the other books for another time.

Instead, on my reading list, I have:

  • Bunnicula and The Celery Stalks at Midnight, by James Howe
  • The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  • The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, by Ree Drummond
  • Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
  • A Garden Book for Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, by the River Oaks Garden Club, and Houston Garden Book, by John Kriegel

Plus, of course, finishing Redwall and whatever other Brian Jacques books I can track down at work. Hopefully this will be a good continuation of both fun reading that I’ll enjoy and reading that will feed my brain (pun intended) as I research and study various things about our food industry and about my local gardening climate.

Also, for what it’s worth, those books at the top of this post are the first books I’ve actually finished since all this started last year. *\o/*

Bookstore Bingo

*crossposted from Seven Deadly Divas*

The phone rings. I answer it (within the first two rings, of course).

“Hello, this is <Bookstore Name> in <Location>, Anna speaking, how may I help you?”

*****

“Hi, do you sell books?”
No, the whole “Bookstore” part of our name is a joke, we really sell sticky widgets.

*****

“Hi, do you have a book?”
Nope, we’re fresh out.

*****

“Hi, I’m looking for frerkhtngrmwth.”
“Could you repeat that? I didn’t hear you clearly.”
“I’m looking for frerkhtngrmwth, by Thrrlblwrt K Hamthripth. You know, her new book.”
“Um… let me put you on hold just a moment and I’ll check.”
<checks new releases section for books with titles that sound like frerkhtngrmwth.>
“I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t seem to have any copies of frerkhtngrmwth right now.”
“Oh alright. I’ll try online.”

*****

“Hi, I was wondering if you had <Obscure Book Title>”
“Give me just a moment and I’ll check the shelf.”
<checks shelf>
“I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have a copy of Obscure Book Title right now.”
“Why not?”
“Well, we’re a used bookstore, so our inventory is really unpredictable.”
“But I checked your online inventory and it says you have it.”
“…. We actually don’t have an in-store or online inventory. Are you sure?”
“Well, I looked it up on Amazon Dot Com, and it says you have the book!”

*****

“Hi, I’m looking fer books on Yew-Bun-Tew Lye-Nucks. It’s a computerin’ book.”
“Just a moment and I’ll check the shelf for you. … I’m sorry, right now all we have are Red Hat books and some generic Linux books.”
“Naw, I don’t need them Red Hat things. I need a Yew-Bun-Tew book. Thankya though.”
<I actually had an extended conversation with this gentleman, and he knew exactly what he was talking about. But I had to try REALLY hard not to giggle.>

*****

“Hi, I need a copy of Sandy Backerack for my kid.”
“uhh… do you know what kind of book it is?”
“He says it’s a play.”
“Well, I can’t find a record of any book with that title, are you sure that’s it?”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.”
“You’re sure it’s not Pygmalion? That book is on a lot of reading lists right now.”
“Yes I’m sure. It’s called Sandy Backerack and it’s about a guy with a really big nose.”
“You mean Cyrano de Bergerac?”
“Yeah, that one.”

*****

… to be continued …

How many bookmarks do YOU need?

Working at a bookstore, I run into a lot of books that I want to read. In fact, my “to read” list has gotten longer, and longer, and longer the more I’ve worked there. We’re allowed to keep a stash shelf in the store of things we intend to either read and return (we can check books out for 30 days) or purchase in one chunk later on.

Needless to say, it’s taken a bit of willpower not to pour my paycheck back into the store, even with the snazzy employee discount I get. Especially since I tend to be in the middle of a bunch of books all at once.

On my list right now:

  • The Lies of Locke Lamora (need to actually finish this) – Scott Lynch
  • Blood Sucking Fiends – Christopher Moore
  • The Spellman Files – Lisa Lutz
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are – John Kabat-Zinn
  • The Universe in a Single Atom – His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Diet for a Dead Planet – Christopher D Cook
  • The Diet Myth – Paul Campos
  • The Courage to Start and No Need for Speed – John “The Penguin” Bingham

As some of you might know, though, I’ve had some troubles for the last 6 months (has it really been that long? :/ ), so my attention span is a fickle beast that I’m frequently frustrated with. Which basically boils down to my having trouble actually finishing books, or not being able to read them front to back in any reasonable time.

That’s not so much a problem with the non-fiction books, since I can usually go chapter to chapter with them, and bounce between a few.

But with fiction? I’ve read the beginning of Lies of Locke Lamora at least three times now, because I get into it, get excited, have to put the book down… have a few bad days, and just don’t pick it up again after.

I’ve always been a serious reader who didn’t shy away from tome-sized novels. But now I’m finding that it might be time to focus on short stories for awhile, and get back to the tomes later. (You’ll notice that both the other novels on that list are lighter and more humorous reading. That’s intentional as well.)

Either way though, I’m pretty excited about my current list of things to read. I’ll post updates if any of them become favorites, and hopefully in a month or so have another list of things that are on the bookshelf.

Until then, though, you might consider stock in bookmarks. I tend to use lots of them.