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Oops! And Read Harder Book 1: Something Someone Recommended

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Way back on December 31st, I mentioned my new project for 2015, which is Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge. And I’m doing it, and it’s going very well, but I may or may not have also said something about how two blog posts per month seemed totally reasonable. Well. That was probably true, for most people, you know, just not when you’re me and you’re planning a wedding and also just not really spending a lot of time on the computer. So now it’s March 1st and I haven’t written a single update on my project. And I really do spend a whole lot of time on this blog apologizing for failing to update it more frequently, which would be a little more appropriate if I believed that many people read it, so I think I’m really apologizing to myself. Sorry, self, that you are so bad at maintaining any sort of update schedule here; you really need to get your priorities straightened out. Especially since these will most likely not be ridiculously long posts.

The first book I selected to fulfill a requirement on the Read Harder Challenge list was a book someone recommended to me. Finding a book to fulfill this requirement really wasn’t difficult, because, well, most of the time when I pick up a book, it’s because someone said it was good. Frequently, it’s because another author (cough*Neil Gaiman*cough) that I like said it was good and it’s right there on the cover for everyone to see. However, in this instance, I figured I’d go with something that an actual person whom I actually know recommended, and, to make the challenge more interesting, something that wouldn’t normally find its way onto my reading list. Fortunately for me, Christmas had just happened, and for Christmas I got just such a book: eaarth by Bill McKibben.

I read fiction almost exclusively, so to pick up a book about science—as much as I love science—was a little intimidating. The last science class that I took was a Genetics and Ethics class when I was in college, which was the first semester Mike and I were dating—five and a half years ago—and, well, it didn’t go well. Mostly because there was no prerequisite listed, so about half the class took it as a “gotta fulfill my science requirement, this seems like it’ll be liberal arts-y enough to not be boring,” and I was one of that half. It was not liberal arts-y. It was a 200-level genetics class half full of people who hadn’t taken biology since freshman year of high school. Mostly, it didn’t go well, and that was with a med student boyfriend to help me out. I imagine lots of people didn’t pass.

Eaarth, however, was surprisingly accessible. Bill McKibben has a message for the world about climate change—mostly, “It’s here, god dammit, now will you morons do something?”—and he wants it understood by the masses. I was surprised at how the book pulled me in right from the beginning, and even more at how much I didn’t know about this crazy important issue, like how we’re already above the threshold of carbon in the atmosphere to sustain life as we know it, and at the rate we’re going, we’ll be completely screwed by 2050. Everyone talks about this issue like the real problem is still far away, but this isn’t an issue for our great-grandchildren. That’s 35 years. The plankton is already dying out. Climate-related disasters are happening all over the world, the effects of which we in the US have a hard time seeing if we’re not looking for them. We need to make some changes.

Part one of eaarth was scary, but part two was hopeful. We’re on our way to completely screwing ourselves, but McKibben makes some suggestions as to how to slow this process down, and they’re mostly suggestions that I liked. It mostly has to do with hunkering down in our communities and taking what might seem like a few steps backwards. More local farms and backyard gardens—even if you don’t have a whole lot of space, companion planting can help your garden produce a whole lot more food than you’d imagine. (Of course, I live in a place with almost no soil, so that’s fun and exciting.) Shop locally as much as possible. I mean, fewer UPS trucks driving around with half the world’s Amazon orders piled up in the back can’t possibly be a bad thing, right? And we’re at a point where we can put down roots locally and still be in touch with the rest of the world. I was thrilled to find that McKibben is a huge fan of the internet because, well, so am I.

Did I like the book? It’s hard to say. It was interesting. In a way, it was very easy to read—it didn’t take me any longer than most novels I pick up, and I understood what he was talking about. However, it was also very hard to read in the sense that it was terrifying. It pissed me off. And I’m bad at being pissed off at one thing, so, like, I’m pissed off because of this book, which leads me to being generally pissed off about almost everything, which, despite my being from Massachusetts, is not my default state. I didn’t love that, but I think I needed that, because I immediately turned the (oil) heat in my house down from 70 to 64. I mean, I can put on a sweater. I’ve made some changes. And this summer, if the ground ever thaws, maybe I’ll plant some tomatoes and see what happens from there.

I’ll be back…well, you know, eventually to tell you all about my second selection in the Read Harder challenge. I’m not telling what I picked yet because I want to keep you on your toes, but it’ll be a retelling of a classic tale.