Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bookworm, Blogworm--I'm still here!

I thought the summer would bring me more free time--time to read, clean my house (ha, ha, who was I kidding!), and blog. I have had more time for reading, and I have been devouring books one after the other. I've tried to keep up a pattern this summer of alternating fiction with nonfiction titles, and so far it's going very well. I've been more selective in the books that I'm choosing, and so far I haven't read one I haven't liked and/or learned a great deal from. I was away from my computer over the 4th of July weekend, (a fabulous trip to Watkins Glen, NY for the Indy Car race there, and a wonderful weekend with friends. I hope I get a chance to tell you more about it; it's beautiful up there and we had a great time.) I spent about a half hour this morning reading up on some of the blogs I'm following--not all of them, I'll admit, and I left no comments.

Here's a rundown on some of the books I've read recently:

1. Population Control: Real Costs, Illusory Benefits by Steven W. Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute. It's an eye-opening account of how big organizations like the World Bank and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) are encouraging government leaders to control the birth rates of their respective nations. Everyone knows about China's one-child policy, and China arguably has the most oppressive population policies, but did you know that the UNFPA actually partners with China to encourage population control? Mosher tells some horrific antecdotes that he has collected over the years from Chinese women, and women from other nations as well, who have been intimidated into having abortions and sterilization procedures. Overpopulation fears began as early as 1798, believe it or not, when Rev. Thomas Malthus predicted that by 1890, the Earth would be dangerously overpopulated. In the 1960's there were fears of a population boom (or "bomb" as the term was often used; presumably an analogy to the atomic bomb), and some decided that we must do something about this "problem." To make a long story short, big and powerful people began imposing population control programs in many countries; in fact, some global relief organizations refused (and still refuse) to supply aid for their nations' poor unless contraceptive services were encouraged. In many developing countries, clinics are well stocked with contraceptives, but have no supplies and medicines to treat diseases such as malaria and other preventable infections. To control the spread of HIV, condoms are handed out, and abstinence is given a dismissive wave of the hand. The HIV epidemic is getting worse in many places, and there is evidence that it's actually being caused by population control programs: A woman goes into a clinic for a shot of Depo-Provera; except the needle has been used on an HIV-positive woman (unbeknownst to anyone because she's never been tested) and not properly sterilized. (Plenty of contraceptives, but inadequate equipment to sterilize tools properly. Go figure.) In many countries, there are, or soon will be, too few young people to help support the elderly populations, because people have been discouraged or prevented from having children. I would recommend this book to anyone, whether pro-life or pro-choice, who is concerned for the welfare of Earth's poor.

2. The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. This is a must-read for every parent and teacher. Remember when you were growing up and you spent all your free time outside? Especially in summer, when you roamed the neighborhood and built forts and tree houses, played hide-and-seek, and searched for crayfish in the creek. You played pickup football in the vacant lot, or maybe in your neighbor's side yard. What do kids spend their free time doing these days? Playing video games and surfing the Internet. Kids go to school and learn about how the rainforests are quickly disappearing, and humpback whales are becoming extinct; but too many kids don't know what plants and animals live in their own neighborhoods. How will kids grow up with concern for the spotted owl in Oregon when they haven't really played outside much at home in Virginia or Florida? Spending time in nature is a great way to reduce stress--how many times did you climb a tree or go fishing or head down to the creek to skip rocks when you were upset and needed to cool off? I will tell you this: my youngest son, I am happy to say, is NOT a victim of nature-deficit disorder; every day he brings some new critter into the house that he's found under a rock or down by the lake near our home. He likes to watch the birds hop around the yard looking for food. My other two boys are not quite as attached to nature as the youngest, but I hope we are limiting their "screen time" enough and encouraging enough outdoor play that they will appreciate and take good care of the natural world around them. The most recent edition has great resources for parents and educators, including specific activities to do with kids to help them develop a love for nature.

3. The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks. I read this one over the Fourth of July weekend. I admit it--I'm a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks, even though some friends and family members cringe every time they hear his name. I know Sparks' novels tend to be somewhat predictable and full of his own cliche's, and they typically follow a similar pattern: in coastal North Carolina, a boy and a girl meet and fall in love. Things seem to be going great until some tragic event or strange twist of fate threatens to tear them apart. Sometimes one of the lovers ends up dying, leaving the other to try to get on with life without them; other stories have happier endings. The Lucky One reads like a typical Sparks book: a soldier serving in Iraq finds a photo of a girl in the dirt, and when no one claims it, he keeps it. Soon he discovers that carrying the picture everywhere he goes seems to protect him from harm, like a lucky charm. Once he's finished with his tour of duty, he sets out on foot from his home in Colorado to track her down to Hampton, North Carolina. The two end up falling in love, much to the consternation of her ex-husband, who is the father of her son and the deputy sheriff. Yes, it's predictable, but there are enough surprises and little twists to keep you reading; and I will say that the ending is satisfying if not a little sad. If you like Nicholas Sparks' books, The Lucky One is as good as any of them.

I hope to write a few more blog posts before the end of July; I want to tell you about our recent trip to the Finger Lakes and the racing we watched there. (Every year I become a bigger fan of the sport, it seems.) I hope to blog some more about other books I'm reading or plan to read; and later on this summer I will DEFINITELY tell you about our trip to Yellowstone National Park, which is coming up soon! I'm sure I'll post some pictures, too.

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