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Our fragrant viburnum bush is sweet with dainty backyard blooms, established in its second season as a native East Tennessee plant at home with our family. This sunny, dry day enticed me to get back into the habit of hanging nearly all our clothes on the line again. My preschooler is playing outdoors, the dog is happily romping and we’re celebrating the first day of spring. This vernal equinox is traditionally supposed to balance equal parts of day and night, with the sun rising precisely in the east and setting due west. If only life always felt so perfect and balanced and wholesome.
I just finished reading a book that takes a moderate, evenhanded approach to parenting and its relationship to our world. It’s not another how-to book, nor is it focused on just one aspect of environmentalism or green living. I dare say, in this volatile political climate in which we live, it’s even a book that you could appreciate, no matter what your political stripes.
The book Raising Elijah is by mother of two and acclaimed biologist, Dr. Sandra Steingraber. She skillfully weaves personally accounts of her and her husband’s adventures in parenting with lesson after lesson about the environment. She never alarms, preaches or bores; but somehow Steingraber manages to explain the facts behind the stories of an entire generation’s worth of health-related concerns. As a cancer survivor who also wrote Living Downstream and a parent who’s dealt with childhood asthma firsthand, this author brings authenticity to her message that’s clearly written for other parents.
What would you do if you found out that the play equipment at your child’s school contained a substance shown to cause cancer? Steingraber the scientist can explain which substances of concern our children still encounter in everyday life. Steingraber the mom shares the sometimes uncomfortable choices her family has made in trying to protect their children. You know that feeling that if we just ignore a problem it might go away because it seems too big to tackle anyway? She addresses that. She also gives clear examples of how, as parents, we tend to live by the precautionary principle — and why it’s reasonable that society support this level of precaution as well. Don’t read this book out of concern for the environment. Read this book if you care about your children’s future.
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