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Happy Earth Day

It’s been nearly 40 years since the first Earth Day, and unfortunately we’ve recently taken a lot more steps backward than forward.

Still, we humans have taken a lot of great steps forward since the 1970s. There’s a lot to celebrate about our planet, and so many ways to help it survive and thrive. We founded Ashland Creek Press to raise environmental awareness through literature … this combines two of our passions: stories and taking care of our planet. There are myriad ways to help out the planet, and to make every day Earth Day in your own life.

  • Immerse yourself in environmental literature! We love books like Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and Ann Pancake’s Strange As This Weather Has Been — each is a stunning work of eco-lit, each in such a different way. Naturally, we also love every one of our Ashland Creek Press titles, from eco-fiction to veg lit to books about animals.
  • Watch movies. A few environmental films that are interesting, important, and well worth watching: Earthlings, Cowspiracy, What the Health, Forks Over Knives, If a Tree Falls, An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel … the list goes on, but this is a great start.
  • Take action. Clean up a beach or a park; step up your recycling; plant a new tree, bike or walk instead of driving; eat vegan for a month (or more) … there are so many small changes we can make that become regular habits and definitely make a difference.
  • Get political. Of course, don’t neglect to vote for candidates that believe in climate change and want to do something about it — but you can also write letters, sign petitions, march, and otherwise make your opinions known…every voice does matter.
  • Get kids involved. It’s clear that today’s young people are the ones who are going to change the world, and they’re realizing they need to do this for their own survival. Help them out, whether it’s by giving them books about environmental issues, spending time with them outside, volunteering with a nonprofit to clean a beach or maintain a hiking trail, or taking them to an animal sanctuary. Show them what’s at stake being out in nature.
  • Support organizations that do good work. From conservation to animal rescue to protecting the oceans, there are a lot of great organizations that need support to do what they do. Be sure to investigate nonprofits carefully to be sure your money is used wisely and that the organization is truly environmental (you might watch Cowspiracy before making donations). Here are a few organizations we feel are worthy of our support via the Ashland Creek Press Foundation.

We wish you all a very happy Earth Day, and here’s to much more progress to celebrate in years to come!

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Film Review: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Okay, so this isn’t a book review — but it’s such an important documentary that I wanted to review it here on EcoLit Books. (The book connection: As you watch the film, you’ll learn about a few books to add to your reading list, including Comfortably Unaware and The World Peace Diet.)

Cowspiracy (which is currently still available for its special Earth Day price of $1) covers the impact of animal agriculture on the planet — it’s the number-one contributor to human-induced climate change and affects everything from the rainforests to the oceans — and why some of the biggest environmental organizations never talk about it.

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Filmmaker Kip Andersen interviews representatives of governmental and “environmental” organizations, including the Sierra Club, Oceana, Surfrider (he tried to talk to Greenpeace, which wouldn’t agree to speak with him), and it’s fascinating to watch them stumble over their words when asked about animal agriculture’s impact on the planet.

And yet the facts speak for themselves. To produce just one quarter-pound burger takes 660 gallons of water (in other words, two months’ worth of showers). One gallon of dairy milk uses 1,000 gallons of water to produce, and for every one pound of fish caught, there are five pounds of bycatch (including dolphins, sharks, turtles, and penguins). To protect cattle-grazing lands in the United States West, ranchers kill coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, cougars — and wild horses and burrows are being rounded up and held so that cattle ranchers can use public lands for grazing.

Why won’t so many environmental groups talk about this? It’s not an easy topic, with agribusiness being so powerful. In Brazil, 1,100 activists have been killed for speaking out against animal agriculture. And of course, as Michael Pollan says in the film, asking people not to eat meat and dairy is a “political loser” for member-based organizations.

Yet there are both individuals and organizations who will speak the truth, and this is where the heart of the film is. A spokesperson for the Sea Shepherd Conservation society says there is “no such thing as sustainable fishing,” and quotes what founder Paul Watson often says: If the oceans die, we die. “That’s not a tagline,” she adds. “That’s the truth.”

Cowspiracy contains some difficult truths for omnivores, but it’s important viewing for anyone who’s concerned about the environment — and the last half hour is truly inspiring for those who are open to making a difference. (And in the last twenty minutes is one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen in a film…don’t miss it.)

“You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period,” says Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher and author of Mad Cowboy. “Kid yourself if you want…but don’t call yourself an environmentalist.”

Visit Cowspiracy to learn more. And even if you don’t watch the entire film, do check out the film trailer, read some of the facts, and find out how to take action.

 

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, readers!

Today, we’re celebrating the launch of Cassie Premo Steele’s book Earth Joy Writing, a wonderful guide for reconnecting with our planet through writing prompts, meditations, and other exercises in creativity.

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Click here to read an excerpt of Earth Joy Writing, and visit the Earth Joy Writing website to learn about Cassie’s book tour and to download audio recordings of the meditations and readings from the book.

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We hope you have a lovely Earth Day, in whatever way you’re celebrating the planet and its creatures today.

 

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Happy Earth Day!

It’s been lots of fun to see so many celebrating literature on Earth Day.

Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit has posted several eco-themed poems, honoring both Earth Day as well as National Poetry Month.

Sheila Boneham’s post, “Reading for Earth Day and for Life,” features lists of literature for every reader.

The Florida Department of Education has posted Earth Day reading lists for kids from pre-kindergarten through high school.

In the case of Blair Richmond’s blog, a photo does the job of a thousand words. For all the teens and tweens (and grownups!) out there who like paranormal vampire romances, Blair’s first two Lithia Trilogy novels, Out of Breath and The Ghost Runner, deal with environmentalism, animal rights, conservation, running, Shakespeare — and, of course, there’s a vampire love triangle.

For all you writers out there, here are a few Earth Day writing prompts — one from my own blog, and a great list of prompts from LitBridge.

And, last  but not least, Ashland Creek Press is hosting a book giveaway for Earth Day — sign up to receive a free eco-fiction sampler, as well as to be entered to win a free copy of one of the featured eco-friendly books.

Happy Earth Day!

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Earth Day in the Plasticene Era

 

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“It’s so hopeless,” a young friend said, tossing a plastic water bottle in the trash. “I don’t believe in recycling.”

“Don’t believe?” I said, reaching into the garbage. “I didn’t know it was a religion.”

“It’s a faith. A faith that you’re doing the right thing. A feel-good gesture that masks a larger problem.”

plastic trash

As I dropped the bottle into the recycling receptacle, I felt that familiar spike of serotonin from having done my bit for the environment, and I knew she was right. Self-satisfaction with our little actions can keep us from taking up the larger, more difficult, actions. Recycling is grossly inefficient. Every year, Americans throw away three-hundred pounds of plastic per person, only ten percent of which gets recycled, and poorly recycled at that. Not only is it down-cycled into something like decking material, it uses an inordinate amount of energy in the process, as we truck empty water bottles all over the country. All this so we can re-use a toxic material? When we die, our bodies will decompose into a bit of carbon and methane. Plastic never disappears. It breaks down into smaller bits of polymer, releasing pseudo-estrogens and other hazardous chemicals in the process, until it is the size of a single molecule. This is where the waste stream meets the food chain. The molecules enter the water table under the landfills where they make their way to the sea, to be devoured by fish fooled into thinking it’s plankton. Then we eat the fish.

plastic fork

The modern world runs on plastic — it’s in our cars, computers, hair conditioner, and replacement hips — and there’s no going back. The 2010 worldwide plastics production was three hundred million tons. This is where people, like my young friend, begins to feel it is a battle that can’t be won.

We didn’t used to feel so defeated by environmental challenges. In the decade following the first Earth Day in 1970, the personal was political and that attitude turned the polluted tide. In “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation” (Hill & Wang), Adam Rome tracks the transformation of the environmental movement over the decades, and its lessening impact, as grassroots campaigns morphed into organizations focused on lobbying. In the 70’s, it was citizen pressure that helped birth the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Now, we can’t even get Congress to curb climate change, even as the waters rise up around us and the oceans become too acidic for life.

Rome

So when I stop buying plastic water bottles, is that just a self-congratulatory waste of time? When I sign a petition for my community to ban single-use plastic bags, am I causing undue strain on local businesses without any societal benefit? No. The immediate environmental payoff might seem slight, but the ultimate reward is the message to corporations. When consumers balk, corporations notice.

Since Congress will not act, we as individuals and communities must, one action at a time. Cities all over the country are banning single-use plastic bags and water bottles, which not only takes those out of the environment, but it puts pressure on corporations to seek alternative to the immortal plastics of today. A million plastic bags a minute are created, but they don’t need to be made from petroleum-based polymers. We are such a clever species. If we want to make plastic out of algae, or bark, or even jellyfish, we can do it. (not corn, please, it depletes the soil and adds more pesticides to the world) But there must be strong consumer will behind it because scientific research isn’t cheap. It starts with saying no to what we have now. Recycle, yes, but also refuse. Give corporations a reason to rethink plastic.

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