a greener u

by jennifer mccharren
This fall, as the children return to the academic realm, follow their lead and take a few lessons from the masters on how to increase your connections to the planet. Here are just a few informative reading gems from the libraries of progress:

the omnivore’s dilemma

Pollan traces the provenance of four meals to explain the various contemporary “food-chains” we are part of. These range from the abstract to the handmade. Starting with the industrial system that brings us high fructose corn syrup and everything in the “fast” food group, Pollan then explains both industrial- and small-scale organic farms, and finally, a meal the author hunts, gathers, and grows entirely himself.
In the words of a fellow author, Pollan’s writing is “not really about food–it’s about everything.” He manages to weave together history, philosophy, genetics, and personal inspiration into an intricate imperative for a whole-food revolution.
Warning: after reading this book the supermarket will never be the same.


McDonough and Braungart write about “remaking the way we make things” to align with true sustainability. The authors show a way out of the wasteful, inefficient processes of the First Industrial Revolution into a new era of production that works in concert with nature. One reviewer writes, “Part social history, part green business primer, part design manual, the book makes plain that the re-invention of human industry is not only within our grasp, it is our best hope for a future of sustaining prosperity.”
Bonus: this book practices what it preaches! It is made of polypropylene, which means it can be completely recycled, plus you can read it in the tub!

pilgrim at tinker creek

A Pulitzer Prize winning classic of nature writing, Annie Dillard’s journey through the seasons at her home near Tinker Creek takes the reader from the microorganisms in the soil, to the trees in the sunlight, from frogs in the creek, straight to the cosmos. Dillard herself calls it a book about theology. Whatever genre you place it in, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek is gorgeous and profound.

priceless florida

For a more local, and encyclopedic sort of read, check out this fascinating book about Florida’s own unique ecosystems. In a surprisingly readable style, Whitney focuses on relationships between major animals, plants, and microorganisms in each ecosystem, not on lists of individual species.
For more book suggestions, and some of the most beautiful nature writing around, check out Orion Magazine, which can be read online at orionmagazine.org and be sure to check out EU’s review of Picturing Florida on page 21.