The Bonzai Book Club Begins! “Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong And How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly”

August 1st, 2011 - filed under: Furthermore » Bonzai Book Club

Read It!

I’m so excited to jump right in to our first ever Bonzai Book Club! The BBC will alternate with the Monday Monthly Mission, and I’ll always announce the book along with the MMM, so you’ll have a full month to get your copy and read ahead if you want. Sound good?

This month we kick off our first BBC with a very special book, one that I’ve been intending to read since it’s release in 2009 (seriously!) Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, by James McWilliams, is an honest examination of the “local/slow foods” movement and the actual impact that it has in reducing our ecological footprint. This is a controversial book that will probably tell us things we’d rather not hear, but if our goal is to truly be the best environmental stewards that we can, then we need to confront the realities of our efficacy.

McWilliams has been called a sellout, a cynic, and a shill. But McWilliams is actually just an environmental historian specializing in colonial and early American history. He’s also a professor (Texas State in Austin), and brings that sort of rational, straightforward intellectualism to this work. His fundamental premise is that there was no romantic “golden age of agriculture”, and that the idyllic, idealistic “myth of the small farm” is just that – a myth.

I find myself wading into these waters with an equal mix of skepticism and curiosity. I’m going to keep an open mind. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the intricacies of these important issues.

I got a head start on my reading this weekend . . . in the sauna!

Just Food has six chapters, plus an introduction and a conclusion. I propose that over the next two weeks we read the Introduction, and chapters 1, 2, and 3. That will take us up to page 117, almost exactly half-way through the volume. We’ll meet back here on Monday, 15 August, for our first book club discussion group. (!!!) I’ll provide a series of questions to facilitate dialogue, but the conversation will not be “directed”, so bring your own ideas and topics and questions and comments!

For those on the fence, or for those wanting more, here’s some additional media:
McWilliams interviewed on Canadian radio show Animal Voices
McWilliams interviewed by the awesome ladies of Our Hen House

I’m so excited guys. So. Excited.

  • Court

    i am excited too. picking it up from the library. today. yessss.

  • Valerie

    Got my copy @ the local library ages ago, but haven’t had time to read it yet. I guess it’s time to start :)

  • Angela

    I just started reading this book last week but haven’t gotten past the first chapter yet. I’m in!

  • Kate

    I’ve read this and it’s very interesting. I can’t remember if he sites this study, but it pretty much debunks the whole local food movement (at least as a primary focus) in six pages:

    I think you’d enjoy it if you haven’t seen it yet Sayward.

  • Joselle

    Great selection. And breaking down the reading into chunks with a deadline makes it more manageable with a busy schedule.

  • tara

    I wasn’t sure about reading this book or not after I read a description, but I do like to know both sides of every issue so I’m gonna join in. I’ll grab a copy when I’m in Austin next week on vacation. Maybe it’ll be autographed, with the author being a local and all. =)

  • Liz @ iheartvegetables

    Ohh I actually started reading this book and then I had to take it back to the library before I got to finish it :( haha but I liked what I started!

  • Casey @ Pocket Full of Sunshine

    Excited to read this now! Thanks for all the info!

  • Clair

    Love that you are reading in the sauna! But how do you keep from getting your pages all sweaty and steamy?!

  • Mary

    Yay!! I had to get my library to order it last night-so heres to hoping it gets here soon!!

  • Amanda

    So excited! Just ordered it from Amazon today! :]

  • Meghan

    You know me, always skeptical of seemingly green things. ;-) I’ve been wanting to read this for a while because (meat eating) locavores drive me freaking nuts. This is probably because I am a cranky vegan asshole, but I am okay with that.

  • Kathryn P.

    It was too recently published for my poor little library to have it :( I’ll just have to read it through you guys then!

  • Amy

    I’m so excited about your book club and even more excited (and surprised) that my little southern library had the book. Now to only find time to read it!

  • Stephanie

    This sounds so fascinating. I’d love to join your book club, but my rural library doesn’t have the book. I might buy it…but I’m trying to reign in my book purchases. Sigh.

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Just picked up my copy that I got through the campus interlibrary loan system. Guess I’d better read fast – can’t wait to get started!

  • Sayward

    I’m happy there are so many people participating in this! It’s gonna be a great discussion. And, I’m glad to hear that so many smaller libraries carry a copy. (and sorry for those of you whose library doesn’t!)

    @ Clair – haha, it was a little sticky in there but I managed.

    Can’t wait to hear what you all have to say! See you in a week and a half!