Archives For Consumerism

 

Resisting Consumerism.

A Review of 

The Year without a Purchase: One Family’s Quest to Stop Shopping and Start Connecting
Scott Dannemiller

Paperback: WJK Books, 2015
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith

 

The “Year of…” premise for structuring a book is getting stale.  They are everywhere.  I suppose they have always been around, but the past few years it seems as if there is a new one every week.  The Year of Living Biblically (A.J. Jacobs), The Year of Biblical Womanhood (Rachel Held Evans), and Sabbath in the Suburbs (MaryAnn McKibben Dana) are recent examples of the theological subgenre of this type of book.  I  read and enjoyed them all.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) takes the same idea and applies it to eating only home grown or home raised food for a year.  Susan Maushart’s most entertaining The Winter of Our Disconnect operates within a different time frame (six months), but is the same premise – one family living without electronics so they can relate more genuinely to each other.  A quick search on Amazon reveals a number of other titles built around the same idea: Do something (or not) for a year, enlist the support and/or participation of your family, and write about what it was like for you all and how it changed your life in the longer term.  All of the books I have listed are enjoyable, thought provoking reads that I have recommended to friends.  However, lately I have noticed myself rolling my eyes when I spot another “Year of…” book on display at the local bookstore.  We human beings are all too capable of taking a good concept and running it into the ground until it is not retrievable.

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William Cavanaugh - BEING CONSUMEDHere’s a superb theological reflection for Black Friday…

An 11-minute video introduction to:

Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire.

William Cavanaugh

Paperback. Eerdmans, 2008.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

A 2008 Englewood Honor Book
[ Read our review… ]


Part I:



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“An Ocean Epic for a Plastic Age

A review of
Moby-Duck:
The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea…

by Donovan Hohn
.

Review by Brent Aldrich.


MOBY DUCK - Donovan HohnMoby-Duck: The True Story
of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and
of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers,
Environmentalists, and Fools,
Including the Author,
Who Went in Search of Them.
Donovan Hohn.
Hardback: Viking Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Hardback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

If I had to, I could probably count the number of times I’ve seen the ocean on one hand… Four. Throw in the Gulf of Mexico and I might need to use two hands. The ocean doesn’t have a pressing daily reality for me, despite it occupying the majority of the earth’s surface, and with water increasingly becoming a contested resource. And even for folks who might dwell daily beside it, it seems difficult to image the scale of the ocean, or of the complicated web of causes and effects – economic, political, environmental – that make water a pressing issue. And so the question: how to make something as large and complex as the ocean fathomable? Even more, how to make it a thing for which we can feel affection?

Art, I think, can do such a thing. By drawing upon as many layers of complexity and detail and signification as possible, and crystallizing these into a single image, art can make particulars stand in for and relate to the whole. Although I tend to think most often in terms of visual arts, literature, of course, does this as well. Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them, reads as such a work. Although a long journalistic essay at heart, Moby-Duck’s elaborate and beautiful narrative, well-developed characters, and attention to the details that make any particular place what it is, turn this book into a delightful read.

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“The Vanguard of Social Change

A review of

Radical Homemakers.
By Shannon Hayes
and
The Missional Mom.
By Helen Lee.

Review by Sara Sterley.


RADICAL HOMEMAKERS - Shannon HayesRadical Homemakers:
Reclaiming Domesticity from Consumer Culture.

By Shannon Hayes

Paperback: Chelsea Green, 2011.
Buy now:
[ Amazon – Paperback ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

Read an excerpt of this book

The Missional Mom:
Living with Purpose At Home
And in the World
.
Helen Lee.
Paperback: Moody Books, 2011.
Buy now:
[ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle]

MISSIONAL MOM - Helen LeeI’m a relatively new mom: our son will be two in July. Most of the time, I’m still wondering  to myself how it is that we’re supposed to be responsible for this new little life, especially since he has actually started to develop opinions of his own as of late. My husband seems much more confident and capable than me thus far. In the midst of this uncertainty, I’ve also been struggling with how best to incorporate and find time for pursuing the justice-related passions that my husband and I were so involved with prior to becoming parents. Two recent books have challenged me to rethink some of my preconceived notions about motherhood, homemaking, and what it means to live out my mission in the here and now.

I read Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes over a weekend several weeks ago. Several of my favorite bloggers had recommended it over the last few months, and I finally got my hands on a copy. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but the book really shook me up, in the best kind of way. Hayes articulated for me much of what I’ve been thinking and wrestling with in the back of my mind, but had yet to come to any coherent conclusions. I’ve been pushing copies on everyone I know and working it into the most random of conversations.

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“Embracing the Depths of Life

A review of
Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society

by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy.

Review by Sarah Winfrey.


VENEER - Willard/ LocyVeneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society
by Timothy Willard and Jason Locy.

Hardback: Zondervan, 2011.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
[ Amazon – Kindle ]

If you listen to the voices of our culture, there’s nothing better than feeling good about yourself, and it doesn’t much matter what you have to do to get there. Whether you buy something (or many somethings), make yourself into a celebrity (even if just a small-time one), or take medication, it’s all worthwhile if you feel good about yourself and your life. As Christians, we’ve even welcomed these ideas into our churches and our homes. After all, doesn’t Jesus want us to be happy, healthy, and to thrive during our time on earth?

The problem with putting so much emphasis on happiness, though, is that we come to value certain aspects of life more than others. If it looks good and it makes us feel good, we begin to automatically welcome it. Unfortunately, this means that we welcome, without question, many things that we might otherwise eschew. It also means that we change how we look and how we come off to others, eventually embracing a picture of reality that’s far from true.

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“Wasting Away in the USA”

A Review of

American Wasteland
By Jonathan Bloom

and

Dive
A Documentary by Jeremy Seifert.

Reviewed by Chase Roden.

AMERICAN WASTELAND - Jonathan BloomAmerican Wasteland:
How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food
(and What We Can Do About It)
.
Jonathan Bloom.
Hardback: De Capo, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon – Hardback ] [ Amazon – Kindle ]

Dive.
A Documentary by Jeifert Seifert.
Available through the website: www.divethefilm.com

Jeremy Seifert wants you to eat trash. Jonathan Bloom just wants you to stop throwing food away.

In the wealthiest country in the world, while tens of millions of Americans don’t get enough to eat or know how they’re going to get their next meal, we throw away 11 million pounds of food an hour. While people suffer malnutrition or even starve, half of the food grown or purchased in America is thrown out, uneaten.

Seifert and Bloom independently take on food waste in two recent works, approaching the topic from surprisingly different perspectives. Where Jonathan Bloom’s book American Wasteland focuses on waste in the production, sale, and disposal of food, Jeremy Seifert’s documentary Dive starts with dumpster diving — the reclaiming of edible food from the trash cans of grocery stores — and moves to broader questions about American society. The problem as Seifert and Bloom both identify it is not simply one of hunger in a land of waste, but also of the massive environmental impact of food rotting in landfills.

Jonathan Bloom’s career as a freelance journalist shows in his far-ranging fieldwork and tendency to use examples of individuals and institutions to make his case against waste. Starting on a factory farm in Salinas, CA and going wherever the story takes him — school cafeterias, landfills, nursing homes, high-tech waste facilities in the UK — Bloom is dedicated to uncovering and understanding waste wherever it occurs. He even takes a job in the produce section of a Durham, NC grocery store for several months in order to witness the industry first-hand. The stories Bloom uncovers are treated fairly and with a positive outlook, with the stories of people working against wastefulness alongside accounts of profligacy.

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“Assessing a Broken System”

A Review of

The Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

By Stan G. Duncan

Reviewed by Adam P. Newton.


Stan Duncan - Greatest Story OversoldThe Greatest Story Oversold:
Understanding Economic Globalization.

Stan G. Duncan

Paperback: Orbis, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Economics isn’t always the most exciting field of study, and when you factor in the charged politics of globalization, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the flood of graphs, charts, statistics, and emotions. Thankfully, the principal strength of this new book by Stan G. Duncan is the clear, accessible language he uses to outline his thesis and corresponding details. The Greatest Story Oversold is a solid, faith-based introduction to the intricacies of modern global capitalism, with specific attention being given to how this system has created such a profoundly divergent set of winners and losers.

From the outset, Duncan is upfront with his biases, and such blatant openness is refreshing and welcoming, as it allows the reader to not feel like he or she has just cracked open a graduate-level text in macroeconomic theory. It’s plain to see that Duncan comes from the Christian faith, that he’s comfortable with the language of the Church and the Economics, and that he thinks the system is broken. To put a finer point on it, it’s obvious that the author is a progressive activist who seeks to educate and mobilize like-minded believers who are aware that something is wrong in the world, but aren’t clear on the details.

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An excerpt from

American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and the Quest for Perfection.
Laurie Essig.
Hardback: Beacon Press, 2011.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Watch for a review soon in the ERB…

 

“Compelled to put a Price Tag on Everything?

A review of
Scroogenomics:
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays

By Joel Waldfogel
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Scroogenomics:
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays

Joel Waldfogel
.
Hardback: Princeton UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Scroogenomics - Joel WaldfogelThe Christmas season is not my favorite time of year; the busy-ness, the shopping, the over-the-top giving of gifts, they all drive me insane.  I was therefore intrigued when I heard about the new book Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays by economist Joel Waldfogel.  Although Waldfogel makes some good points over the course of the book, it was disappointing overall.  I’m sure you are familiar with the old adage “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”  Well, there must be a parallel adage describing economists, something along the lines of “If the only tool you have is economic theory, then everything starts looks like it needs a price tag.”  Or at least that was what kept popping into my head as I was reading through this book.  Gift-giving itself isn’t the problem for Waldfogel – a point on which I heartily agree – but for him the big issue is the obligatory giving of gifts that are not appreciated, or dare I say valued, by their recipients.  Waldfogel is particularly bothered by the “waste” inherent in gift-giving, and here waste has a very specific meaning, which may be a common definition among economists but was one with which I was unfamiliar; waste, for Waldfogel, is the difference between what was paid for a gift and the monetary value that the recipient puts on it.  As an example, if I buy you a gadget that costs $30, and you are less than enthralled with the gift and if surveyed about it, would have only bought the item if you could pay $5 for it, the $25 difference in these two values is the “waste” to which Waldfogel so vigorously objects.  I’m not completely sure, especially in the present economy, that the money is wasted, as it does go to fund jobs at a number of points along its production and distribution cycles.

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“The Gospel of the Land”

A review of
Consulting the Genius of the Place:
An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture
.
By Wes Jackson.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Consulting the Genius of the Place:
An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture
.
By Wes Jackson.

Hardback: Counterpoint, 2010.

Buy now: [ Amazon ]

CONSULTING THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE - Wes JacksonWes Jackson, founder of The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, has been of the leading voices of the agrarian movement over the last four decades.  And yet, his books are relatively unknown.  This fate, however, is perhaps about to change, with the recent release of what is perhaps his finest work, Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to the New Agriculture.   The themes of place, biodiversity and the virtues of perennial plants that have abounded in Jackson’s previous books converge in Jackson’s thorough argument for a new approach to agriculture that is dictated not by market economies or agribusiness but rather by the land and ecology of a given place.  Jackson’s argument is fairly simple: humanity needs to learn to shift our agricultural efforts away from large-scale monoculture operations which contribute to the catastrophic effects of erosion and of the chemicals in the fertilizers and pesticides that such monocultures demand.  Instead, he argues, we should return to diverse plantings that include perennial crops and that fit with the land, climate and other ecological features of our particular places.  He says in the book’s preface:  “As our minds sweep over the past and back to the present, I want them to center on the natural ecosystems still with us as our primary teachers.  They are our source of hope.  Reduced in number and limited in scale, they still hold answers to countless questions we have not yet learned to ask” (xi).  The primary natural ecosystem, of course, that Jackson and others at The Land Institute have trained their focus – given their home base in Kansas – is that of the prairie.

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