Playing by the book

Reviews of kids' books and the crazy, fun stuff they inspire us to do

The post in which I’m not impartial, but I am impassioned

Posted on | November 29, 2011 | 5 Comments

**Warning: I wear my heart on my sleeve. This post has things to say and opinions (backed by science) to share.**

What’s the Point of Being Green? by Jacqui Bailey is the most depressing, worrying book I’ve read this year. It’s also the nonfiction book this year I wish all my blog readers and their kids would read.

What’s the Point of Being Green? tackles head on how you and I are slowly destroying the thing we rely on – our planet, our home, the Earth. It pulls no punches as it lucidly discusses the causes and catastrophic consequences of climate change and environmental destruction. It’s a message lots of people don’t want to hear, it’s a message lots of people outright deny, but it’s a message we all need to take on board and respond to.

With chapters on fossil fuels and their alternatives, the degradation of the natural environment and the concomitant impact on biodiversity (and why this matters), population growth, over-consumption and waste this book looks at the damage we’re doing from every important aspect.

And whilst it doesn’t shy away from the problems and their enormity, the book is packed with ways we can all make a difference with tips on how we can change our behaviour and why we should change our values, open our eyes and accept what is happening.

Photo: NRDC Media

The book is brilliantly written for its target audience (fluent readers to 14, I’d say), with an urgency and liveliness that makes the book exciting and gives the reader a sense of empowerment; not only are the issues presented clearly, excitingly and thoughtfully, young readers will feel they can indeed make a difference.

M lapped the book up; she enjoyed retelling lots of facts she’d learned, and enjoyed even more “badgering” us to make changes suggested by the book, from collecting our shower water to reuse on houseplants to making sure we use lids on our pans when cooking.

The colourful illustrations, including lots of cartoons, are fun and although the book is jam-packed with information it is all presented in easy-to-enjoy chunks, great for both dipping in and out of, but also reading from cover to cover. There’s a glossary, well compiled index and a very useful list of organizations and websites to explore on the topics raised in this book.

This is a book with a powerful agenda. Some people won’t like that, but I love it. M loves it. It’s utterly depressing, compelling and essential reading.

In case you hadn’t guessed, the issues discussed in this book are ones very close to my heart. I’ve read the science, I understand what is happening, I’m frightened by the environmental changes that are taking place, but I’m trying my hardest to do what I can to keep the planet healthy for future generations.

That’s why we don’t own a car, we never fly, we really try to limit “stuff” we buy, we grow as much food as we can ourselves, we eat no fish and very little meat, all the electricity we use comes from renewable resources. I’m telling you all this because we still lead a vibrant, exciting, cultured and creative life. I’m trying to encourage you to see that you too can make changes that might seem enormous, but that are perfectly do-able, and are ultimately enriching. The biggest difficulty is changing one’s attitude.

Our allotment at the end of October

Outburst over, we still could do better as a family. Absolutely. So that’s why in response to reading What’s the Point of Being Green? when M suggest we make our own handkerchiefs we can re-use I enthusiastically supported her request.

First we looked out favourite bits of cotton fabric remnants and cut them into squares (our happened to work out about 25cm square). M and J then hemmed them up, with varying degrees of help from me, to create handkerchiefs. If you don’t sew, you could buy some blank cotton handkerchiefs (we found them easily in a department store) and customise them with fabric crayons or paints, or even with a little bit of embroidery.

I created a tissue holder out of an old tights leg – we can hang it on a door, pop the clean ones in the top and pull them out from the bottom when we need them.

Whilst sewing and blowing our noses we listened to:

  • All of the album Save the Planet, originally released by the Early Learning Centre, but now only available online it seems. Depending on my mood the songs seem somewhat cheesy or brilliant. The messages are great, just the musical settings are a little too 80s power ballad for me in the most part.
  • There is No Away by Uncle Rock, accompanied by the beautiful voice of Elizabeth Mitchell, all about rubbish and pollution. You can listen to the whole song for free here. Please do!
  • Who Needs the Junk? by The Sippy Cups. I haven’t found it for download but here’s their thought provoking video:



  • Arthur Smid came up with lots more wonderful songs about climate change and other environmental issues including Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Jack Johnson, The Polar Bear Song, My Changing Planet, I’m a Climate Scientist (my personal favourite), a Sesame Street recycling song, and two long lists of environmentally themed songs – this one and this one. Huge thanks to @taigacompany, @polarbears, @hatfieldpdx, @AnnaEvely, @MomsCAF and @pdxmarian for helping compile this list.



    Other activities which could work well alongside reading What’s the Point of Being Green? include:

  • Making a cloth bag, also known as a MORS bag to reuse instead of accepting more and more plastic bags. Maggy at RedTedArt has a tutorial.
  • Watching Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray
  • Wake Up, Freak Out – then Get a Grip from Leo Murray on Vimeo.

    The script, with extensive peer-reviewed references and additional information and links, is available at wakeupfreakout.org along with links to translations in more than twenty foreign languages.

  • Working out your carbon footprint. Here are a couple of online calculators aimed at kids: this one, this one. For adults or older kids I like the WWF footprint calculator. Thanks to @nickie72 and @liveotherwise for pointing me to some of these calculators.

  • Ok, now it’s over to you. As my husband asked as I drafted this post “What will your blog readers make of this? How will they respond?”. I don’t know, but I’m all ears.

    This book is one of six books shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize 2011, an award that celebrates the best recent books that communicate science to young people. The winner will be announced on December 1st.




    Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review, however, reflect my own and honest opinion.

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    Comments

    5 Responses to “The post in which I’m not impartial, but I am impassioned”

    1. Sara
      November 29th, 2011 @ 12:44 am

      Great review, I will look it up! Handkerchiefs, there’s something we haven’t done. I love the holder!

      I had a similar reaction to reading Bill McKibben’s Eaarth. It is scary and depressing, but the changes can be an enrichment of daily life, rather than a deprivation. I can’t say I envy the rabid shoppers after the news this weekend!

    2. Stacey
      November 29th, 2011 @ 1:58 am

      This post comes at such a great time for me. I agree with you strongly but lately some of my actions have not aligned at all with my values. My oldest daughter has been feeling silly that she brings reusable bottles to school when many of her friends bring plastic bottles each day. Tired of the fight, I have caved in lately and sent plastic water bottles with her to school while cringing the whole time. I am anxious to get this book and for us to read it as a family. We could all stand a little bit of reminding… Thanks for wearing your heart on your sleeve- it makes for the best posts :)

    3. Zoe
      November 29th, 2011 @ 6:44 am

      Hi Sara, Thanks for pointing me to Eaarth. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks very interesting. I’ve added it to my wishlist. Yes, I think that’s really a key thing – that changing our lifestyles can result in enrichment rather than deprivation.

      Hi Stacey, ahh, just what we were talking about in our emails! Have you seen the video The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard (it’s on youtube) – that might be good for your daughter to see if you want her to consider her use of immediately throwabale stuff. Here’s the main website: http://www.storyofstuff.org/
      What’s the point of being green is available on amazon.com so I hope you can find a copy near you.

      Both Sara and Stacey – can you think of any other books esp picture books, but also non fiction books that deal with climate change for children?

    4. Charlotte
      December 3rd, 2011 @ 11:51 am

      Hi Zoe!

      Great post!

      viz shower water–there’s more water than the houseplants need, so we use it for flushing the toilet…

    5. Zoe
      December 3rd, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

      Geat point Charlotte, esp in winter when house plants don’t need much water.

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