Falling Through Time Review

What happens if a hard-driving advertising professional from the year 2012 fell forward seventy years into a green future? That’s the premise of Falling Through Time, the new eco-thriller from novelist Patrica Comroe Frank. Narrated in the first-person voice of the advertising executive, the book leads the reader on the adventures and misadventures of when worlds collide: the day a marketer of mass consumerism meets deep ecology.

After an accident in Alaska, Summer Holbrook, the narrator, wakes to a new world. It’s a rocky awakening for her. The future these urban refugees have carved out of the remote wilderness in California’s Siskiyou Mountains is the polar opposite of the high consumption world she’s left behind. Accustomed to creature comforts and luxury, she despises this new world of greatly reduced population, absent technology, and the return to basics.

Most puzzling of all is who are these mysterious holistic healers, living so harmoniously with nature?  Their post-consumerism way of life results in a culture clash filled with serious—and sometimes humorous—misunderstandings. When Sophia, the village elder, traces the ecological  “house of cards” that led to the environmental collapse, Summer is forced to confront her previous life of brands and the role she played in creating markets for foods and beauty products laced with chemicals, colorings, carcinogens, and genetically modified ingredients.

The book can easily be simply enjoyed as a fast-paced adventure-thriller, but the astute reader soon discovers the book delves deeper and can be considered equal parts Back to the Future meets An Inconvenient Truth—with perhaps, a sprinkling of In Defense of Food.

Falling Through Time is an unusual book as the author dares to “color outside the lines” as she crosses genres of contemporary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and green living. Somehow, Frank weaves it all together, and the reader will cheer for Summer as she undergoes her rejuvenation with help from village characters, including the steward of the forest and the warm bond she forms with a feral dog.

March 15, 2012

Tree Shaping Book Review

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees is a recently published book written by Peter Cook and Becky Northey, the world’s leading tree shapers. The knowledge contained in this book is their answer to a growing worldwide demand for information on what is known as the “pooktre” shaping method.

This book has 42 years of the authors’ real-life experiences of tree shaping; the information is given in a clear step-by-step process. The knowledge is easy to put into practice because the book contains so many photos along with an explanation of exactly how it’s done, creating a platform to allow individuals, with no previous experience, to begin shaping trees into all kinds of fantasy forms and useful items. The ideas provided in this book encourage people to live in harmony with the environment.With this new knowledge, and an understanding of tree lore, you will be more observant of the trees that grow around you.

The book starts with a young man riding his horse along the lonely surf beach of Fraser Island and finding a large hunk of ambergris (secretions from the intestines of sperm whales used in perfume), which comes from the largest predator on earth. The young man sold it and bought 160 acres of old growth forest in the mountains of southern Queensland and continues to the present day with a peaceful property covered with many beautiful examples of pooktre.

The authors explain which tree species are suitable for the pooktre treatment, and just as important, the trees to avoid. They explain the principles of why a tree species will work or not, using many real examples to explain the importance and practical use of tree lore. Some knowledge is unique to pooktre. Some techniques, such as grafting, and wind staking, have been so refined they have become new techniques in their own right.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees by Peter Cook and Becky Northey.

Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees has over 350 images and illustrations and 20 content packed chapters full of great information, but this is not just another “how-to-book”, they also share the underlying principles of tree lore which governs their artwork. The book Knowledge to Grow Shaped Trees demonstrates that trees are dynamic living beings and what can be achieved when you work cooperatively with them.

February 2, 2012

Dutch Book Portraits

In a bid to promote a love of reading during Dutch Book Week, the Collective Promotion Dutch Literature has come up with an extremely innovative way to promote local literature.

With each year featuring a different theme, this year the focus was on the autobiography (Geschreven Portretten) with writers like Anne Frank, Vincent van Gogh, Louis van Gaal and Kader Abdolah being celebrated and honored.

To pay homage to the writers, artist Van Wanten Etcetera created the amazing campaign to promote Dutch Book Week and literally show the faces of the people behind the literature.

January 18, 2012

Childhood Pastorale Book Review

Central to Barbara Julian’s wonderful treatise Childhood Pastorale: Children, Nature and the Preservation of Landscape, on the intrinsic value of nature, is her memory of playing freely in ‘magical’ neighborhood gardens that felt to her like being in ‘thick woods’.  She “scrambled over fallen branches and rocky outcrops, dodging holly prickles” and what she pretended were poisonous snakes and spiders.  All this was done right in her own neighborhood, away from the prying eyes of any interfering adults.

Julian presents arguments, in a very poignant manner, which reveal how much value civilization has lost through urbanization and the destruction of forests and green spaces.  Children, she notes, have become ‘saturated’ in technology today and spend endless hours in front of TVs, computers and video games.  As a result, they have lost any connection to nature, as well as to the brain and soul stimulation that come with free play in wilderness spaces.  Further, she says, it is up to us to “guard, honor and preserve the places which we share with the trees, flowers, weeds, vines, mosses, grasses, insects, birds and animals.”

Barbara includes many stories and memories from those of an older generation which reveal how critically important it was for them to spend their early years in forests, on farms and at beaches.

The results from growing up in a “damaged rural environment or overbuilt urban one” are disastrous, she argues, and include obesity, attention deficit disorder, autism, aggression, anxiety, insomnia, eye strain and depression.

This delightful book also discusses how various countries have handled the spread of urbanization.  Barbara Julian herself takes a strong stand on the issue of “nature deficit disorder” and advocates an active approach to stop the current trends.

She recommends we all: (1) speak up for green spaces in our own cities, (2) find out where the safest outdoor spaces are for kids to play in without parents, (3) plant trees and preserve gardens from future subdivisions, (4) lobby for zoning that preserves large lots and heritage gardens, (5) set an example by turning off our computers and getting frequent outdoor exercise, and (6) donate memorial trees for parks and boulevards to help renew urban forests.

Anyone who has sensitivity for nature or how children are growing up today will love this book.  I highly recommend it.

November 18, 2011

High Heeled Guide to Spiritual Living

What is so spiritual about eating animals? Well that depends on your standpoint. For many cultures and religions the sacrifice of animals to be eaten is culturally, socially and spiritually significant. The society I have been raised in is one such society, a roast joint of meat on a Sunday, a Turkey at Christmas or Thanksgiving if you live in the USA, a prime steak as an extravagant Saturday night treat. For people of other faiths, the idea of eating flesh of any kind is abhorrent.

As a vegetarian, I stand by the idea that eating meat is cruel and unnecessary and yet, until recently, as an on/off, part-time vegetarian, I still did it. Until recently it would still happen that my head or my stomach ruled my heart and I would happily tuck into a bacon sandwich.

Let’s be final about this. I do not love meat; I prefer the vegetarian option every time. I believe all animals on the planet to be equally splendid souls; none should be viewed as lesser. I hold no water with the belief that any creature was put here for us to eat. Yes, it remains true that a deer may well be placed here for the lion to prey on. But I am no lion; I do have a choice, and a conscious – when I choose to engage it. I love those darned furry things, yet continuing to eat meat stood in direct opposition to this so-called love of animals. I was a hypocrite with blood on my hands.

So, if I believe that eating animals is unpleasant and unspiritual, why did I continue to do so for so long? I will be honest here; sometimes it is easier to just not think about the consequences of our actions. The poor creature is already dead (once it is conveniently delivered from slaughterhouse to supermarket). I can afford it, and it smells great roasted. In such instances I chose not to engage my consciousness. Which I am ashamed to say is just about as ignorant and arrogant as you can get.

However, I cannot be unconscious any more. I want to love animals genuinely and that does not include the ingestion and digestion of their bodies. There are no options. For me it is vital that I never eat meat again.

The reason I feel so strongly about this is because I have now engaged my brain with my soul, and there is no turning back. My spiritual soulful conscious thought knows this. I think that all animals, and all living creatures are part of this world. I believe us all to be connected on a basic, fundamental level. I have preached my way through the pages of this book about how important it is to be good, forgiving, and compassionate to our fellow humans. Yet I truly believe that animals are made of the same psychic, spiritual, energetic matter as the rest of us.

Animals have souls. Animals deserve to live the best life they possibly can. I shall have no part in causing their lives to be a misery.

Animal rights are a frontier that many traverse only partially. We may wail and mourn for the puppy that was cruelly tortured and abandoned, but we think nothing of the life of torture and deprivation of basic comfort inflicted upon chickens, the dairy cow or other animals whose lives are irreparably limited for the benefits of our hungry stomachs.

You would not condone the slavery of humans, so why condone it on our fellow living creatures? Is it because they cannot speak, because they submit to our will, because the Bible says that we can use all plants and animals as we choose to?

Our consciousnesses must be raised, and this topic is vitally important in that battle. We must start to look outside of our own minds at some point on our spiritual pathway. Yes the mind is a great place to start, followed by our hobbies and our habits, but soon we must turn to the state of the world. What we eat, how our food is produced and the effect this has on the well being of the planet, on so many different levels, must be addressed. I was going to pussyfoot around this subject. That was only because I was pussyfooting around it in my own life.

I cannot afford to do that any more if I want to like myself and live what I believe to be correct. I must commit myself to my spiritual cause. It is time to get fierce with my food. It is time to wake up and realize that what we eat can affect our spiritual sanity, our level of personal spiritual awakening and the lives of millions of animals and people worldwide.

Let me be blunt. I believe that eating animals can block your spiritual progression. If you are in denial about the harm that is caused every time you sit down to a meat-laden meal then you are not raising your consciousness to a spiritual level. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but I sincerely believe it to be true.

Animals are not happy when they are kept in confined spaces, they mourn and moan when their offspring are taken from them and they live in confinement, only to be killed. If all things are made up of energy, and our thoughts can become our lives, then surely animals’ feelings go straight into the energetic remnants of their flesh. Which we then consume, and so we eat their misery and we eat their fear. This cannot be good.

When meat comes packaged in cellophane it is easy not to allow those thoughts to enter your mind. It is easy to see a great deal on offer and put yourself and your family’s finances first. But really you are not doing yourselves any favors because while you grabbed a bargain, you are living against your better knowing. Nor are you being kind, loving and generous to the world around you.

In buying meat you are purchasing a product that has caused great suffering to the creature that died to provide it. You cannot get away from that fact. Your consumer choice is promoting the suffering of that cow, duck, chicken, pig or turkey. You are saying yes to abominable cruelty and telling the people who make those products that you want more.

Of course there is the option of free-range meat. I questioned this for a while. I figured that if the animal has had a happy life, then maybe eating it was ok. This, however, is again just my mind overruling my heart. No matter how happy that animal’s life, and how painless the death of it might be, it is not my place to choose if that animal lives or dies.

My natural spiritual position is one of non-violence, peace, love and respect of the planet and all who abide upon her. Eating meat does not fit into that equation. When I eat meat it goes against my soul’s knowing and the knock-on effect of this is that my spirituality stalls. So now, for all these reasons, I do not eat meat.

I believe that because of my choice to live consciously in all aspects of my life I am psychically raising the bar. I am respecting my place on this earth as a spiritual being who is connected to all other things.

Excerpt from The High Heeled Guide to Spiritual Living by Alice Grist. Published 2011 by John Hunt Publishing/Soul Rocks.

November 8, 2011

The Protein Myth Review

It was only after much disputed research leading to the US Surgeon General’s (and British) warnings against cigarettes in 1962 that the public, and the medical profession, finally stopped denying the fatal results of smoking. The same thing needs to happen, explains author David Gerow Irving, about the dangers of eating meat. “Meat and dairy products cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes,” he assures us in The Protein Myth, adding that many chronic diseases “can be … reversed by eliminating animal protein from the diet.” Irving takes us meticulously through the science behind these assertions, and about a quarter of the book’s 444 pages details the references upon which he bases his message.

Many well-known studies have shown clearly that meat and dairy consumption increase the incidence of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and breast, prostate and colon cancer:

“Low protein diets inhibited the initiation of cancer … (and) dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed … casein, which makes up 87% of cow’s milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process … the safe proteins were from plants…”

Why then do doctors, nutritionists, politicians and bylaw officers not warn the public with labels against indulging in a diet which costs western health care systems billions of dollars a year? The simplest answer is that billions of other dollars are made in raising and selling meat.

It takes a long time to reverse public attitudes based on decades of mistaken “food group” recommendations, and, most inconveniently of all, most people like the taste of meat. People will deny any number of facts in order to sustain habitual pleasure behaviors, and the information put out by organizations like the American Institute For Cancer Research is confusing about the relative benefits and dangers of meat eating. Why? Because the disease industry organizations are serving two (or more) conflicting masters: corporate partners that fund them and public health interests.

People have accepted years of brainwashing about needing protein for energy and strength, yet few could actually explain what a protein is. Protein molecules are continually made in cells, according to the instructions of genes, out of chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. They create our physiological forms and facilitate all metabolic reactions within bodies. These are the chemical compounds that have facilitated life since its emergence in the oceans 3.5 billion years ago.

We are accustomed to hearing that “you are what you eat,” but whatever you eat you are all (generally) protein. We have been told that animal sources are “better,” yet plant protein too is protein (where do we think animals get it?). To consume protein via animal bodies (along with fats, genetically engineered feeds, factory-farmed hormones, medications) is to create the imbalances that manifest in conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease because, for one thing, we need much less protein in adulthood than during the growing years and the excess (apart from fueling tumor growth) leads to “accumulation of toxic protein byproducts”.

We are slowly becoming more educated about all this: nutritionists now recommend cutting down on red meat and reducing fat. At the same time however, UN agencies and transnational corporations work to extend the cattle, pork, egg and dairy industries to new parts of the world where, as a result, scarce water is being used up and landscapes polluted by tons of toxic animal wastes.

The U.S.’s Food and Drug Agency, Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are in the business of both regulating agriculture and lobbying for farmers, which amounts to a clear conflict of purposes. Meanwhile, “nonprofit” agencies such as the cancer societies, which support enormous staff and administrative expense, have budgets intertwined with those of drug companies and agricultural lobbies keen to cleanse their public image by raising funds for the disease foundations. (Irving supplies names of corporate presidents who sit as trustees of the American Cancer Society).

Additionally, the advertisements of drug companies are crucial to the bottom line of the most esteemed medical periodicals, while profits for the companies depend on producing medications that people will continue to need. In developing these drugs, pharmaceutical companies experiment cruelly on millions of animals worldwide every year. In a nutshell: the drug industry captures, breeds and imprisons sentient animals as test subjects to market drugs that treat the ills we get from eating the billions of animals brutally raised and slaughtered in the meat industry. This takes place in a context wherein business interests and public health interests do not mix. Which interests do governments protect?

The U.S., by some standards the world’s most powerful country (and containing its biggest pharmaceutical and slaughter industries) only ranks 46th in the average citizen’s life expectancy. What could more starkly show how closely animal welfare and human health interests are negatively intertwined? Also contained in Irving’s analysis, is the staggering waste of public funds and charity donations for research that employs a lot of staff but has never cured a single disease.

The Protein Myth explores all these complex linkages, is dense with fact, and should itself come with a warning: the descriptions of the tortures endured by animals on meat farms and in research labs are not for the squeamish reader. Yet these are things we need to know about, especially if we are to spend our charity dollar wisely, design healthy diets, rein in government spending on self-interested agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations, and spare the planet the worst causes of global warming: animal-produced methane and the destruction of forests for agricultural land which services impossibly out-of-control human population growth.

We also need to remember that most of us will die of one of the major diseases: rampant cells will lose control or our hearts will suddenly seize up, but research indicates that these things will happen later rather than sooner if we avoid meat.

Drug companies and the “cure” fundraisers want us to assume unconsciously that there is a product or procedure which could make us live forever, but neither wonder-drug nor indeed a plant-based diet will accomplish immortality. The point is that with a little wisdom, humility and compassion, we can live in harmony with the rest of the living world and our companion species on this planet.

The Protein Myth shows us the connections between wisdom and biology, corporations and ethical choice. It is not an entertainment (although some of the bizarre research projects scientists dream up may make you laugh — in disbelief), but it repays the effort of close reading. Keep it on hand for the references as well as text, for all those times when you need to explain to acquaintances why you choose not to eat meat, dairy and chicken.

We have just one free copy of The Protein Myth by David Gerow Irving to giveaway. Please send us your name and we will make a draw on November 5th, 2011. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date on our contests and giveaways.

October 18, 2011