The MOF&G Online
Turning to Earth
Stories of Ecological Conversion
by F. Marina Schauffler
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Cloth ISBN 0-8139-2159-7 • $49.50
University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 2003, www.upress.virginia.edu
Like many Mainers, Marina Schauffler participated in coastal cleanup days year after year...only to find the coast littered again shortly after the cleanup. Like many, she adopted "earth-saving tips" but found that they did not address the root causes of environmental abuses. "Instead of advising people to reduce their use of lawn chemicals and to keep their cars well tuned, I wanted to suggest that they rethink grass monocultures altogether and that they bicycle instead of driving," she writes in Turning to Earth. This desire led her to investigate the lives and writings of six people who have looked for and responded to those root causes. "By drawing together personal stories of ecological awakening, I hoped to uncover dynamics of inner ecology that might help to renew the outer world," says Schauffler. Probing those stories also helped Schauffler earn her doctorate in ecological ethics and spiritual values.
Schauffler chose six 20th-century, U.S. "ecological writers"--Edward Abbey, Rachel Carson, N. Scott Momaday, Scott Russell Sanders, Alice Walker and Terry Tempest Williams--and looked for common traits in their lives that encouraged them to write so deeply and ardently about the earth. She found, for example, that all six had parents who were concerned with the welfare of their children, and freedom to explore untamed natural areas in their youth. Churches may have influenced these writers when they were young, as well, although they tended to move away from churches ultimately.
The opening chapter of the book is based on the writings of and personal interviews with Terry Tempest Williams, who was raised in a strict Mormon family in Utah, whose family was exposed to radioactive fallout from atomic bomb testing, who subsequently lost many of her family members to cancer, and who has been told by her oncologist, "It is not if you get cancer, but when." The following chapters follow various themes, all starting with the letter R: Remembrance (commonalities in formative experiences); Reflection (periods of introspection); Revelation (moments of insight); Reciprocity (strengthening ties with the ecological community); Resistance (taking action on behalf of nature); and Ritual (creative and ritual arts that support the conversion process). Each of these "R" chapters ends with Schauffler’s interesting introspections into her own life and how remembrance, reflection, etc., have shaped her commitment to nature.
Turning to Earth is an intelligent, thoughtful, probing book that serves as an excellent introduction to the emerging field of ecopsychology. Schauffler tells how Williams "strives to model her inner ecology after the desert ecosystem, letting go of old habits and assumptions and attending carefully to what she terms the ‘bedrock self.’" She notes Edward Abbey’s conclusion that trees have a "conscious presence." The author explains that society’s apparent incapacity to deal with ecological problems may be due to what psychologists call "psychic numbing" resulting from the magnitude of those problems. She quotes Scott Russell Sanders’ observation that in trying to live ecologically, "The choice is not between innocence and guilt, the choice is between more and less complicity." She says that art can help connect people to the ecological whole; and that acts of civil disobedience, legislative actions, adopting simple lifestyles, and advocating for animal welfare are among the steps that people take to help save the natural world. She notes the irony of environmental professionals who commute long distances, fly to many meetings, and routinely use disposable products--and tells how she chose a simpler, close-to-home lifestyle to counter these problems. "This domestic approach to resistance pales beside more dramatic and large-scale protests," writes Schauffler, "yet I remain convinced of its importance. Ecology, as its Greek roots confirm, begins in our households."
Reading a chapter of Turning to Earth each morning renewed my ecological spirit and reinforced my belief that ecopsychology defines the next, essential, big step that the environmental movement has to take. The book left me with some weighty questions, too. If the freedom to explore untamed wilderness during youth is so important to one’s respect for nature, what will become of the increasing number of children who are denied this experience--and of the world in which they live? Do occasional, structured class trips to environmental centers satisfy this need? (My own children would answer with a firm "No.") And if people like Edward Abbey and Rachel Carson are considered "converts," what would it take to convert unethical politicians and heads of polluting corporations? How can we get these people to revival meetings of "born again pagans," as Alice Walker calls herself? Scenes of eco-terrorism from Carl Hiaasen’s fictional Sick Puppy (a fun, vicariously-pleasurable read, by the way) flash to mind, but what about real life? Can ecopsychology go beyond diagnosis and on to successful treatment? Reading Turning to Earth could comprise the first sessions of this treatment. --JE
The Complete Guide to Making Great Garlic Powder
by Herrick C. Kimball
Readers of The MOF&G may recognize Herrick Kimball’s name from his excellent, sure-to-be-a-N.Y.Times-bestseller book, Anyone Can Build A Tub-Style Mechanical Chicken Plucker. Now Kimball’s back with a perfect little book of "down-to-earth inspiration and how-to information" about growing garlic and making and marketing garlic powder.
Of course you can buy mass-produced quantities of generic powder made from chemically-grown, wimpy, softneck garlic at the chain store supermarket, but Kimball is not talking about that stuff. He’s talking about garlic powder--made from your own, far more flavorful, organically-grown stiffneck crop. "Sink your teeth into a hot, buttered slice of Italian bread that has been dusted (or doused, if you so choose) with homemade garlic powder, and your taste buds will immediately testify to the superior flavor."
Herrick sent me a sample bottle of his own garlic powder, and yes, it has influenced this review. It is scrumptious on bread and in the simple Garlic & Barley Miso Broth recipe that begins his book.
Read this book and you’ll get good directions for growing garlic and turning the bulbs into powder. The booklet alone will be enough for gardeners and growers with interest in producing powder for themselves. For those who want to enter the niche market that garlic powder offers--and Herrick thinks this is a good market--an additional publication will help a lot: "A Garlic Powder Profits Report--The Herrick’s Homegrown Story," also by Kimball and available for $16.95 from the address given above. (Again, there’s no shipping charge.) Find out how Herrick has supplied his local market with garlic powder--and paid himself $20 per hour to do so.
© 2003 by Jean English
Voices From the South Debunk GE Myths
A new report, "Voices From the South," systematically refutes widely promoted myths about genetically engineered (GE) food. Released by Pesticide Action Network North America and Food First just days before a ministerial level agricultural conference promoting GE foods got underway in Sacramento, California, in June, the report counters claims of the biotech industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that GE crops are a solution to hunger in the Third World.
In the report, leading activists, scientists and farmers from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, India and Ecuador argue that the development of GE crops has not focused on feeding people but on securing market share for the world's largest agrochemical/biotech companies. "Genetically engineered crops are instruments of industrialized agriculture," said Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC Group in Uruguay, one of the authors. "They benefit the richest people in the world, not the hungriest. GE crops are designed to take the control of food production away from local communities, by creating greater dependence on agribusiness corporations for seed and pesticides."
The report addresses six common myths spread by the biotech industry about GE crops, with responses by leading Third World analysts. "You can break down these myths into three basic components: Green washing, poor washing, and hope dashing," said Anuradha Mittal, co-director of Food First, who is from India. "Green washing suggests that biotech will create a world free of pesticides; poor washing would have us believe that we must accept genetically engineered crops if we are to feed the poor in the Third World; and hope dashing claims there are no alternatives. But in this report, this rhetoric is systematically dismantled by the very people GE crops are supposed to benefit."
Research by Food First reveals that the industry claim that there is not enough food to feed the hungry is not based in fact. The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. The real causes of hunger are poverty, inequality and lack of access. Too many people are too poor to buy the food that is available (but often poorly distributed) or lack the land and resources to grow it themselves.
"What farmers in the developing world need are policies that give farming communities control over their own resources and build on local ecological knowledge," writes Timothy Byakola, also an author, who coordinates PAN East Africa, "not another technological quick fix."
The authors note that enough food exists to feed the world one and a half times over, and that GE crops have caused economic and ecological problems where they have been grown. The report argues that the poor and hungry of the developing world need economic and social policies that address the root causes of hunger in poverty and inequality, not quick technological fixes that largely benefit foreign corporations.
The report highlights traditional farming methods that involve sustainable use of land, water and seeds in a system that guarantees food sovereignty. Current global trade and economic policies that force privatization, centralization and commercialization threaten food sovereignty in southern countries.
Voices from the South is available at www.foodfirst.org/.
Source: Voices from the South, The Third World Debunks Corporate Myths on Genetically Engineered Crops, Ellen Hickey and Anuradha Mittal (editors), June 2003, PANNA, 49 Powell St. #500 San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 981-1771, www.panna.org/.
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