Bothered by My Green Conscience
by Franke James

New Society Publishers, 2009. ISBN 978-0-865-71646-9.
Reviewed by Judy Alter
Posted on 06/23/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

You can probably read this small, illustrated book in half an hour, but it might change your attitudes forever. James opens with four questions: 1) Do you feel guilty if you throw paper in the trash, instead of recycling it? 2) Do you turn off lights to save energy? 3) Do you apologize for driving a gas guzzler? 4) Do you worry about climate change? If you answer yes to two or more, you have a green conscience; I answered yes to all but the third, because I drive a VW bug.

In 152 5½ x 6½ pages, artist Franke James uses her signature style of lively drawings, photos, and hand drawn text to chronicle her experience with going green. There are five chapters: 1) Me and my SUV say goodbye; 2) Green Eccentric Glamour; 3) The Real Poop on Social Change; 4) Paradise Unpaved; and 5) To My Future Grandkids in 2020.

The episode that most got my attention was the greening of their driveway. After she and her husband sold the SUV and had no car, they had no need of a driveway. They decided to dig it up and make a garden. "Oh, no" said the city of North York (within Toronto). "It is illegal ... your driveway must be made of concrete, asphalt or interlock. And you cannot plant more than one tree." Bureaucracy gone amuck! Eventually, they get their green driveway, and instead of pouring 2700 gallons of runoff into the storm sewers, they send over 10,000 gallons to recharge the groundwater and nourish their plants and trees. Pretty impressive.

James' worries about 2020 are legitimate—will we experience such drought that evergreen plants will be replaced with cactus? Will water be rationed and our grandchildren accuse us of wasting drinking water filling up swimming pools? She quotes statistics that the polar ice cap is thawing 30 years ahead of predictions, and the world has 15 years—no more—to cut emissions.

This small book is both delightfully charming and frightening, but the most important thing it does is to make you think about greening the world and to realize each one of us, like James, can make a difference. I suggest you take 30 minutes, read it, and then re-read it whenever you need reminding to put your green conscience into practice.

Something you should know: the book was printed on chlorine free paper made with 100% post-consumer waste, which saved 32 fully grown tress, 11,787 gallons of water, 23 million BTUs, 1,514 pounds of solid waste, and 2,840 pounds of greenhouse gases. Pretty impressive, isn't it? Shows what we can do.

Franke James is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto and walks or takes public transit almost everyplace she goes. She has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from University of Victoria and a Bachelor of ine Arts from Mount Allison University. You can learn more on her website.

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