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Check It Out

Courier Article by Sean Davis
Sunday, January 4, 2009

Titles Unearth Most Unfriendly Eco Challenges

The world is most definitely a changing place. A new year, a new president and (hopefully) a new economy, one can but hope we have learned from our mistakes. One thing is certain; a lot of dirty work has yet to be done.

In "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why it Matters" Rose George gives an interesting look at a very unsavory and often unthought-of subject. From robotic toilets to the open sewage of India, the author gives examples of mankind's unseen toll on the Earth. George brings to light the threats that face us as well as the technologies, like biogas digesters and the use of lasers, which may save us. In the meantime, this book is an eye-opener to the many dangers that are inherent in our very existence.

Waste is not the only problem facing modern civilization. In "The Body Toxic: How Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Wellbeing" some of modern science's miracles are bared for the threat they are. From nonstick coatings in microwave popcorn to the painful history of cosmetics, Nena Baker relates several cases of modern industry's disregard for the safety of its customers. The apparent lack of accountability is staggering when looking at the breadth of some of the pollution in question.

This rampant abuse of America's trust in big business is further explored in "Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children" by Philip and Alice Shabecoff. Brought into question here are the Teflons and DEETs, but also the hormones, antibiotics and anti-seizure drugs found in many urban water supplies. As disturbing as much of the data presented is, the book does provide an appendix to help reduce your child's risk to exposure to these modern nuisances.

It seems everyone is full of advice for living a much more environmentally friendly life. In "Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living" Graham Hill and Meaghan O'Neill have created a guide that is easy to read and full of fact. Is it more efficient to leave the light on or turn it off when you leave the room? I knew dishwashers were great, but who knew they saved time and helped conserve water? These are but a taste of the quick facts provided by the experts from

Another such guide is "Hey Mr. Green!" a list of the best questions from Sierra Magazine writer Bob Schildgen. Provided are necessary insights for living an eco-friendly lifestyle. Through other people's dilemmas, Schildgen provides both old and new resources to help clean up ones act, as well as save money.

This idea of using old elements in new ways for profit is the heart of "Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy." Lawrence Lessig points to the new generation of consumers, the CD burners and samplers of music, television and film. He argues they should be considered less of a threat to the traditional model, and claims they are just as important a part of our fragile economy as any other, and should not be criminalized.

Lessig believes they will be integrated more and more into the mainstream, and a more flexible system will emerge.

Even if gasoline were to stay as cheap as it is forever, we still need to change the way we live. While big oil has most recently been seen as the environmental bad guy, there are thousands of hidden hurdles to living a healthy, nontoxic lifestyle. Through our creativity and continued awareness of these pitfalls, and the acceptance of alternative viewpoints, we have hope for the future. However, it takes learning to find the right way.

Sean Davis is a readers' advisor in the Reference Services Department at Central Library.