Tag Archives: Conservation

Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

She steps into a patch of sweetgrass and asks its permission to take some. She waits. When she feels that she has been accepted, she leaves a bit of tobacco from her pouch as a gift, according to the Law of Reciprocity. Only then does she begin to harvest some stems of sweetgrass—never the first plant, and never more than half. Those who take all of a species or clearcut the land fall prey to the Wendigo, a ravenous beast of indigenous folklore who is never satiated and is always seeking to devour.

Robin Wall Kimmerer takes her students on camping trips out to the forest or swamp so that they can turn their Latin nomenclature into true knowledge. Kimmerer has found a way to combine her Ph.D. in plant ecology with her ancestral Potawatomi traditional wisdom in practices that will bring healing to the land, the plants, and the humans who live here. As she writes of her daughters’ childhoods, her nurturing spirit shines through stories of maple sugaring and pond reclamation. The chapters are interwoven with Potawatomi creation myths, memoirs of family and friends, and detailed scientific experiments. Kimmerer believes that we have lost touch with the natural world, and that we have forfeited so much peace and wisdom from not listening and receiving its gifts.

Everywhere I turned, I heard Braiding Sweetgrass mentioned as the best resource to teach us how to reconnect spiritually with creation and what was variously called the “non-human” world, the “other-than-human” world, or the “more-than-human” world. I listened to the audiobook, which is almost seventeen hours long and is read in Kimmerer’s soft, kind voice. Although it was originally published in 2013, our library system still has holds lists on our many copies of both the print and digital editions. In other words, the message is enduring and is growing more and more important every day. The stories and ideas are so absorbing that I often arrived at work with no clear memory of my commute, floating in a peaceful, thoughtful state.

If you are a botanist or a camper, an ecologist or a gardener, or just someone who watches water disappearing in western North America and swallowing Florida, Kimmerer has a unique perspective on how we can begin to heal. She can stand in a rainstorm and watch droplets form on moss, name every tiny bit of the plants in Latin, and then draw spiritual lessons from her observations. Those of us who are descendants of European immigrants, steeped in consumerism and rugged individualism, have much to learn from indigenous understandings of the land and of human relationships with the natural world.

Very highly recommended. A must-read.

Disclaimer: I listened to an audiobook edition of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Join the No-Plastic Challenge!, by Scot Ritchie

Join the No Plastic ChallengeNick and his friends live by the seashore, and today they are going to have a picnic for Nick’s birthday. Unfortunately, they have seen the devastation that single-use plastics are causing for the land and animals around them, so they are attempting to have an outing without using any plastic. This diverse group of kids spends time in a home, a store, a fast-food restaurant, and the outdoors, offering elementary-school level information and suggestions for alternatives.

Although most people are unaware of how terribly severe this problem is, the positive tone of this title will motivate readers from knowledge into action. Plastic bags, disposable water bottles, and other single-use plastics are ending up in the stomachs of birds and fish, as well as other animals, and when we eat them, we ingest microplastics, too. As noted in the book, “every piece of plastic ever made is still around today!” (p. 22) However, the book’s goal is not to induce guilt, but rather to change habits. After describing the manufacturing process to produce plastic, the author notes the many excellent uses of plastic, particularly in medical needs. He even points out that some people with disabilities depend on plastic straws for drinking, removing some of the hysteria over plastic straws.

Ritchie gives many child-sized recommendations for alternatives to single-use plastics, and as an adult, I continued with online research, as well. We have been recyclers for decades, but I am concerned with the amount of plastic packaging we receive that cannot be recycled. After reading this book, I ordered a set of mesh bags for buying produce at the grocery store. Along with our canvas shopping bags, it’s one small step that we can take to reduce the growing demand for single-use plastics. Reading this book will help your kids to start thinking about conservation, but it will also cause the adults in the room to become much more aware of the ubiquity of plastic in our lives, and awareness is the first step to solutions.

Remember the Jeopardy champion who said that his secret to success was reading children’s books? As someone who selects children’s nonfiction for a large library system, I couldn’t agree more. We are all seriously fascinated by a few subjects, but we have a lively interest in hundreds more! Life is too fun and too short to be a world-renowned sage on all things. Well-written children’s nonfiction fills this gap perfectly. In addition to this book, also check out You Are Eating Plastic Every Day: What’s in Our Food?, by Danielle Smith-Llera.

If it can cause each reader to make one small change for the better, Join the No-Plastic Challenge is very highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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