Friday, March 2, 2012

Little Changes: Tales of a Reluctant Home Eco-Momics Pioneer - by Kristi Marsh

Little ChangesIn conjunction with Bridgewater's One Book One Community Read program, Marsh came to speak at the Bridgewater Public Library to talk about "Goin' Organic with a Budget Friendly Attitude". After a diagnosis of breast cancer, Marsh set out to discover how the chemicals we "smother" on, and "devour" into our bodies, by way of health and beauty products and food, might be playing a part in rising cancer rates.

Marsh began her presentation by saying it was appropriate for her to be speaking at Bridgewater Public Library because some of the research she did for her (very recently published) book was conducted there. While she does not specifically mention Bridgewater Public Library in the book, she does describe "constant trips to the library...[seeking] to fill [her] brain with information." And she does specifically mention Bridgewater State College (now University) as the place where she was first awakened to the reality that the abundance of chemicals in our "health" and beauty products, and our food, could be contributing to the the high rate of breast cancer in the United States. Library as gathering place and community center is made clear in this book when Marsh describes giving her first presentation to a group of other mothers at a local elementary school library. She uses a library methaphor to describe the quietness of the conference room at the Massachusetts Department of Health, where she gave testimony against the use of BPAs in food in beverage containers, and again to illustrate how her her mind worked upon hearing about the President's Panel on Cancer "my mind raced like fingers running through an old library card system." Well, Krisit, you certainly date yourself, here!

Although the message is similar to the one in Michale Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, this was a much easier and quicker read. If I have any qualms about the book, it is this: I don't think Marsh tried to reach a big enough audience. It is clear that her target is other "Moms", which not only excludes fathers, but also anyone who is not a parent. My husband and I attended the presentation together, and based on what we heard have already begun making changes to our food purchases. And although he has not yet read the book, he did look through it to find out what it had to say about chemicals in hair dye, after our teenage daughter left a mess made of the most unnatural pink color on our bathroom walls, floor and countertop, some of which will never come out!

Marsh's message is clear, upbeat, and encouraging. She is realistic about what kind of changes can be made, without being discouraged by setbacks. I was particularly interested in what she said about school fundraisers, and how so often the rely on selling junk food, or cheap products, belying what we otherwise try to teach children about healthy eating and sustainability. I think about annoucements in my church where it would not be unusual to hear about a book discussion of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, followed immediately by an annoucement that one of the kids is selling (preservative laden) cookie dough.
For more information see Kristi Marsh's Choose Wiser website.

1 comment:

  1. We face the contradictions mentioned in the last paragraph as we try to remove vending machines from our "green" buildings. Plastic food wrapped in plastic is kept in electric boxes 24/7, to sustain students who are learning about how to make the world a better place. Hmmm.