Vail: Tales of the environment |

Vail: Tales of the environment

Cassie Pence
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyCassie Pence

This summer, exchange the pop fiction pool-side reads for some eye-opening books that discuss important environmental topics. Think of it as intellectual cocktail party fodder that just might call someone to action – including yourself.

Both old and new, here are five books guaranteed to spark the environmentalist in you:

1. “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” by Barbara Kingsolver

Somewhat an oldie now, but a goodie, Kingsolver takes a novelist approach to a non-fiction account of growing her own food for a year in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” There are recipes in every chapter, along with cold hard facts surrounding the food industry’s most disgusting and disturbing problems, like turkeys who cannot reproduce and how the majority of our seeds are owned by three companies. Yuk. But like sneaking in greens with your four-year-olds mac ‘n’ cheese, Kingsolver gets her point across without shoving it in your face. Her story of an American family uprooting to connect with a farming heritage stands alone as a great read. The environmental statistics are just an extra bonus.

2. “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” by Edward Abbey

A conspiracy theorist coworker once recommended this classic novel by Edward Abbey, which some argue is more comic book than novel. Nonetheless it calls people to protect the American wilderness. The story centers on Vietnam veteran George Washington Hayduke III, who returns to the desert to find his beloved canyons and rivers threatened by industrial development. On a rafting trip down the Colorado River, Hayduke joins forces with feminist saboteur Bonnie Abbzug, wilderness guide Seldom Seen Smith, and billboard torcher Doc Sarvis, M.D., and together they wander off to wage war on the big yellow machines, on dam builders and road builders and strip miners. Perfect for those who didn’t make it to Moab this spring.

3. “Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis,” by Rowan Jacobsen

Still confused but inherently terrified of the dropping-like-flies honey bee? Me too. This journalist’s book promises to explain clearly what is happening with the bees with well-documented facts. Jacobsen identifies the culprits – blood-sucking mites, pesticide buildup, viral infections, overused antibiotics, urbanization and climate change – that have led to habitat loss and the destruction of hives. So if you have come accustomed to your berries, nuts and citrus fruits, put “Fruitless Fall” on your summer reading list.

4. “Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution – and How It Can Renew America,” by Thomas Friedman

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman uses facts and his expertise in business, politics and science in his newest analysis on climate change and over-population. Although the book is part doom and gloom, he also points out his faith in America’s capacity for innovation and hopes the country steps up to take the lead in developing clean power and energy-efficient systems.”

5. “The Lorax,” by Dr. Seuss

This is an environmental book for every age, even the four-year-olds at Nurturing With Nature in Eagle-Vail understand Dr. Seuss’ message. The story is an all-too familiar tale of the battle between the Lorax, who is friends with the trees, and the selfish Once-ler, the heartless entrepreneur bent only on retail profit. He has his eye on the Truffula Trees, to be used for the Once-ler’s best-selling Thneeds, a garment that morphs to fit anyone’s needs. The factories pollute the skies, forcing the Bar-ba-loots and swami swans and humming fish to leave the area. Finally the last Truffula Tree is chopped down, undermining the Once-ler’s business, forcing workers to move, and leaving behind a devastated environment. The story does end with hope (after all, it is a children’s book), with a single Truffula seed remaining, forecasting that “the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.”

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at

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