Wednesday, August 10, 2011

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Book Review - No Impact Man, The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, By Colin Beavan.
In this remarkable book the author, a young man living in Manhattan with his wife and   infant daughter, decides to do a nearly impossible experiment.  He decides to live for an entire year without making any impact on the environment.  He does this, along with his wife and daughter.  He covers all aspects of modern living --transportation, food, travel, recreation, paper and cardboard used in packaging, even Kleenex and toilet paper.  He decides to buy and use only food produced within 250 miles from his home. He walks or uses a bike, never a car, and sets a strict limit on flying.  He buys cloth diapers for the baby, and uses neither elevators or subways, and electricity only for washing clothes.(As he and his wife are both authors, they have flexible time. 
Beavan does an amazing amount of research on the impact on the environment that is done word-wide, especially by Americans.  Here are some of his findings:  The average American produces 4.6 pounds of trash every day, roughly 17,00 pounds per year; - In the Pacific there is a swirl of garbage, mostly plastic, the size of the U.S.; -  A child by age two, goes through some 4,000 plastic diapers; - There are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean (U.S. Environment Program); - Food packaging makes up to 20% of our solid waste nationwide; -  Many plastics take hundred of years to deteriorate; -  While 1 billion of people in the world lack clean drinking water, Americans flush 2.5 trillion gallons a year down the toilet; - A single round-trip by plane pours  three tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as much as an entire year of driving by car.  (These are merely a few of his discoveries.)  
The author acknowledges that perhaps no one could do the drastic experiment that he did.  But he said that it's imperative that we all do something.  He ends with an appendix of sources and ideas…some 25 pages… to help those who decided to make an impact on the environment, on the harm we are doing daily to our earth.  He writes with humor, conviction, and a realistic admission of the problems he encountered in his attempt to "save the planet."  His is a book well worth reading.  (It will soon be in our library.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Sign of Jonas by Thomas Merton

Book Review - The Sign of Jonas, by Thomas Merton
This is a marvelous book, a diary written by Merton during a five-year period of his living as a Trappist Monk at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky.  Some of his entries are brief and others are quite lengthy, including philosophical wonderings, poetic   descriptions of the beauties of nature he sees all around him, theological treatises and remarks about  his daily experiences, with bursts of delightful humor sprinkled in.  He gives a detailed description of the life of a Trappist, the perpetual silence, the hand signs they learned    for non-verbal communications, the long hours of prayer, beginning in the early morning, the long hours of work in the monastery and outdoors, the frugal diet and the simplicity of life.
Merton had a great passion for writing and his Abbot recognized his remarkable talent.  He gave him various assignments such as document for the monastery and lives of the saints, and also allowed him time for the many books he was inspired to write.  The problem Merton had in being faithful to his duties as a monk and finding time for writing caused him several physical breakdowns, with time spent in the infirmary. The publication of his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, brought him instant fame, even internationally, and the countless letters from all over the world, the stream of visitors and a number of speaking requests made this problem all the more difficult. He   eventually had to compose a general response to his letters and to have help with his letter-writing.
When Merton began his diary he was not yet an ordained priest, nor even a deacon, and he expresses his fervent longing for this to happen. His depth of spirituality is evident in the eloquent prayers and preparations he made before ordination, and the joy he felt at being able to offer the sacrifice of the Mass. But in his religious fervor he still remained the lovable, remarkable human he had always been. You would enjoy this book, as well as some of the countless others he has written, a few of which have reviews in this blog.