Monday, May 26, 2008

Growing Up Green: Book Review by ChristineMM

Growing up Green! Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Growing Up Green!
Author: Deirdre Imus
Publication: Simon and Schuster, April 2008
ISBN: 978-1416541240
Format: Paperback book
Retail: $15.95



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publicist for the purpose of writing a review.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

I really wanted to love this book and had hoped to give it a 5 star rating. In this review I will fully explain the reason for rating this book with 3 stars. I think I have given it a fair judgment. Note I have implemented many of these suggestions in our family’s life in the years past and am supportive of families making healthier choices as well as making choices that are better for our environment.

The best thing about Growing Up Green! Is that Deirdre Imus has taken every single green living issue pertaining to children and health and summarized it in one place. Buying and reading this book can save you lots of time and money. As a comparison, I have been reading about health, wellness, and green living and parenting for twenty years and have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on books and magazines and hundreds of hours combing through lots of information to extract out the latest recommendation on a topic. If you have not yet invested that kind of time, this book is a time saver for you (and a bargain).

The book is easy to read. You can breeze through it quickly. One of my problems was that I was so horrified by two subjects that twice I had to shelve the book for a few weeks to save my sanity (more on that later).

The book’s strong point of being all encompassing and cutting to the chase is also its weakness. Imus covers each topic shallowly, sometimes too thinly. Although she does provide websites to go read for more information on nearly every topic, sometimes there just is not enough information to explain a topic. Other topics deserve reading an entire book (or two) on the topic. Specifically troublesome was that some topics that I know from other sources are conflicted or are being credited as junk science is never mentioned in the book. Things come across as fact without saying that some of these topics are questionable, with conflicting studies published on both sides of the position, so I (the informed reader) don’t truly know what to believe (others ignorant on some topics may take everything as gospel).

Several times, Imus says that we should just choose the course of action assuming the worst is true, and avoid that thing lest we possibly harm our children’s health. That would not be so hard if it involved one or a few choices in our lives but when you put all the recommendations together, to really do all the things in this book just may drive a person crazy (seriously) or at the least, would leave them worried and possibly angry at the world too.

Another major issue is there is no prioritization of the recommendations. Eating your fruits and veggies versus eating organic versus going totally vegan versus using all green school supplies and children wearing only organic cotton and renovating your home to replace everything with green materials is all weighted the same. The fact is that even if we have a desire, putting every single one of these recommendations into place is not possible, especially when a family’s budget is limited. It is not feasible for most families to renovate their homes just to make them greener. Even with our best intentions the fact of the matter is that some of the lifestyle changes that are not prohibited by our budget are hard to be consistent with over the long-term as they require constant effort to go against the tide which can be emotionally draining and exhausting. I speak from experience when I say that swimming upstream is difficult in the long term.

Additionally we hear over and over how the author was able to implement these changes with her only child. Perhaps if she had two or more children she might see that sometimes a parent’s best intention is altered by the different wills, personalities, and taste buds of different children even born into the same family and raised with the same parenting style and diet as the other children in the family. Additionally parents with more than one child have less energy and patience to juggle all these recommendations with different aged children. This book does fall prey to the mother of an only child typical thing “I did it with my one child so you all should have the same success with all of your own children if you would just try”.

The author gives no sympathy to the reader by way of acknowledging that making all of these changes might be difficult, by the way.

Take it from me, a mother who has over the years implemented and practiced some alternative parenting methods and choices, managing an alternative parenting lifestyle is challenging. We face challenges at the grocery store when shopping, when at friend’s and relative’s homes, when at children’s birthday parties, and when at the doctor’s office. The lack of guidance with some kind of a priority scale and the lack of encouragement for readers to use critical thinking and their personal discernment about which battles to fight and which to surrender is an issue. Reading all of these recommendations for green parenting will leave some readers overwhelmed. Some readers will be left confused and may give up, while some may even end up neurotic and angry or exhausted as they try to do everything recommended (and worry of damaging their children if they fail or choose to not follow a recommendation).

I found the book scary in some parts. The most disturbing to me was the one thing that I’d not heard about before. The author says that chemicals and drugs used in the infertility treatment process may damage the very children that are conceived from such procedures. We were not led on where to go for more information or told what studies or reports discuss this. If this really is true our country is in real trouble and we all would have serious reasons to be skeptical of American medical doctors.

The next issue that caused me worry and family strife was the use of plastics in food wraps, food storage containers and water bottles. One of the issues is Bisphenol A. I was so worried about what I read that I went and did more research and found the topic to be debated and studies conflicted each other. The author may be happy to know I’ve thrown out most of the plastic we own in a fit of fear and anger after reading that section of her book. I’m now worried about hormone disruption in my sons and wonder if they will be infertile in adulthood. My husband thinks I’m crazy and we’re actually having disagreements over this topic. This is one topic in the book that is not covered as deeply as I felt it deserved. For example if a study showed that the plastic with food in it should not be heated then why can’t we still use it to hold cold food? We are told instead to just avoid the use of it entirely and buy glass food storage containers.

Although the book has a chapter on how to become an activist in the community, it is lacking something else more important. The book really needed a chapter about how concerned mothers can convince their husbands to go along with these changes (especially since some are not easy to implement and others are very costly and some may be too costly for the family budget). In fact the topic of the budget is never discussed, since it is not an issue for the author I guess she thinks it is not an issue for mainstream Americans? Additionally dealing with other relatives on our alternative choices is something that we need support with. That topic is completely absent. If you do all the things in this book it will be you against the world, or perhaps only with the support of other green living parents that you meet in online discussion groups.

The author quotes about a dozen medical doctors who are famous in their fields or have published books on the topics. Their biographies are at the end of the book. To be more of a thinking person readers should really go on to read those books too. I have read some of them and they educate and enlighten the reader more than this book can in its short length and broad scope.

The book really needs an index so we can quickly reference the topics, especially to look back on a topic we know we read on the first go-through. I can’t believe there is no index!

The book also had some typos, spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes. One duplication error was in a chemical reference chart. I’m surprised the editor and this major book publisher let those get through.

The topics in the book span from pre-conception through raising teenagers. Some of the larger topics touched upon which deserve more reading and self-education are Autism and the vaccination debate. One or more whole books on those topics really should be read. A few other topics are thrown in like saying we should use public transportation. My husband said he heard Don Imus on the radio the day after Deirdre did a book signing at her own town’s library in which he admitted he sat in the limo with the engine idling while she did her talk, and he was chastised by a citizen for doing so. Could they not have driven themselves from their own home to the public library in their same town or used public transportation?

To summarize if you want to be told what to do and to not think much about all the background information or to even question if these statement are correct you’ll love the book and would think it is 5 star book. If you want all the topics in one book for fast reading you’d love it too (5). If you worry that the book over-generalizes or possibly conceals that the topic is actually based on junk science, it is a 3 or a 2. If you are well read on these topics already then the book won’t be of much use to you and it would be a 3 or a 2. If you like to gather your own information and think on your own you may think this is a 3 or a 2.

I have implemented many of the suggestions in this book before it was published. If you don’t know this stuff already perhaps this is a good starting point for a quick read summary of all the recommendations.

I wish all parents well and hope that everyone’s children are healthy now and in the future. I hope you are able to be happy on your parenting journey too—don’t let worries ruin it.



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1 comment:

Kim said...

My motto is "Exploit the Earth or Die" (info here: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/exploit-the-earth-or-die.asp) and I live by it. I think the question of "how best to make your life more and more difficult" is the only one answered in this book.

The reason why you're having fights with your husband about this is because he, understandably, doesn't want to sacrifice himself and his own well-earned money on a philosophy that basically feels that human beings' comforts and needs are second to the inanimate objects around us. I applaud your husband's sense of life and willingness to stand up to those he loves when he recognizes that any reasonable person is being pushed too far by pseudoscience and an anti-human, anti-life political view.