Friday, April 30, 2010

Green Barbarians

One wonderful advantage to libraries is that they enable you to stumble upon and flip through books that you might not have found otherwise. The Green Barbarians is a book that I found in just this way and it is brand new, published in 2010; the author has actually not even added it to her list of books she's written on her website yet. Now, while I am completely interested in current scientific and homegrown knowledge concerning the environment and conservation I typically have a hard time reading shiny new books dealing with these issues. First, many of them read like a novel which is an allegory of the worlds troubles and you don't discover any fun and interesting facts until three or four chapters into the book. I do not get enough sleep to read books of this variety. I usually end up reading one paragraph a night until I realize I could be reading junior fiction instead. Second, many environmentally minded books say the same things. And by this I mean they say the same thing as other such books, and they also say the same thing over and over in every chapter, just in case you slept through all of the pages previous to the one you are reading (which may be true, but I can flip back on my own).

The Green Barbarians by Ellen Sandbeck stood out to me in the library because it is divided into eight chapters focused on different portions of daily life (food, body care, etc.), and each chapter bumbles through interesting historical information in that category and then points out various areas where current typical practices are driven more by consumerism than actual science. The concept driving the book is that the western world has been conditioned to be afraid of dirt, bugs, bacteria and fungus, while it trusts most products and practices pushed by advertisers. However, dirt is nothing to fear, and regular exposure to normal bacteria is just what our immune systems need throughout our body, including our digestive systems, skin, and even our lungs.

Reading The Green Barbarians is more like looking through a magazine, every short section is interesting and individual so you may read all (as I did) or just the few which catch your attention.
As with any book, the viewpoint taken by the author might not be the perspective that I would have chosen for every topic (I don't agree with her take on genetically engineered crops for example); nonetheless the book is filled with research and personal stories which will certainly enrich anyone's knowledge of their home environment.

Here are a few fun facts from The Green Barbarians:

* The bacteria that make your feet smell are the same ones that produce the odor in many cheeses, such as Limburger and Muenster.

* The Food and Drug Administration has banned nine chemical ingredients from use in cosmetics and body care products sold in the United States, while the European Union has banned over a thousand ingredients.

* A person who eats moderate amounts of free range meat has a lower land use requirement (i.e. it takes less space to produce that person's food) than a vegetarian.
Yay goats and bison and game meats!

* Washing your hands with water only and then rubbing them on a towel or your pants gets rid of more bacteria than using antibacterial soap. (Though using plain soap gets rid of the most.)

* Swedish scientists have shown that the vibrations from humming, particularly low notes, can clear sinuses and reduce the symptoms of colds and allergies. I've always loved humming, but this is a great excuse for when I am around less-music-loving people.


  1. Very interesting. I'm adding this to my 'To Read' list!
    (By the way, I think you should review books on the side! Loved reading your post about it!)

  2. hmm I too have had my intrigue sparked. It has been added to my ever growing list of literature to be read. Than you for sharing Sarah :-)

  3. I plan to find this book at my library after reading your review. It will be interesting to attempt to live bravely on planet earth!

  4. this sounds like a perfect read for me. It is a necessity of books I read lately to either have the pick-it-up-put-it-down style, or to pick any chapter and read from there style.

    Have you ever read the one: Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbra Kingsolver. I'm guessing you would like it.


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