"Small Changes Have Enormous Impacts"

Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, was both refreshing and inspiring! I really enjoyed listening to this audio book, read by Kingsolver herself, which also included an interview with her. With her usual humor and intelligence, she recounts the story of the year her family spent growing most of their own food, and purchasing the rest only from local sources. It was a family project, after moving from Arizona back to their property in southern Appalachia, and the book is co-authored by her husband and oldest daughter. In taking on this project, the family was committed to this simple concept: “The way we eat determines how we use the world.”

The things you purchase are your way of weighing in on how the world gets used, and food is probably the only thing you regularly purchase three times a day–purchase or procure… It is one of the most significant ways that we have an impact on our environment, either negative or positive. That’s why we thought it was it was important enough to pay attention to and write a book about.

I found this to be an incredibly informative book. Along with Kingsolver’s enjoyable narrative, Steven L. Hopp, her husband, wrote numerous, very interesting sidebars about the economics and politics of food production and delivery. Her daughter, Camille, wrote about the family’s experience from a young adult point of view and also discussed menu planning and recipes. Younger daughter, Lily, was ever-present, although too young to sign a book contract and be considered co-author.

I learned a lot from this book without feeling that Kingsolver was being either pedantic or fanatical. It was a story infused with common sense and hope! She graciously guides you through that year of growth and learning for her family, and was very honest about their decision to “exercise some control over which economy we would support.” She shares her belief that we can all make a difference in the world, and her suggestions for small steps we can each take to make a difference were caring and sensitive to the different circumstances, feelings, and beliefs of her readers.

Where do you start? She suggests that you “become more aware of where your food comes from and more aware of your daily food decisions” as a beginning. She shares with you the steps her family took in their organized attempt to make a positive impact through their own food decisions that year. Then she encourages you to take some small steps that are right for you:

Small changes have enormous impacts and small steps in a particular direction enable more steps for yourself and others. So anything you do in a direction that feels sensible, that feels sustainable to you, it is a step that you should honor…

Be sure to visit the web site that is companion to this book. And you can read an interview with Kingsolver from the Powell’s Bookstore web site.

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5 thoughts on “"Small Changes Have Enormous Impacts"

  1. Nan -

    I wonder why they did it for only a year? I’ve heard so much about this book and I really must read it, since it is just what I believe. I like the idea of eating in season, eating locally, growing at least some of one’s own food, growing organically. Lovely writeup.

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  2. Robin

    Nan, the book is only about that one year, 2004, through all the seasons. As far as I know, they are continuing on with this lifestyle. During that year, they really tried to honor the commitment–only foods grown themselves or bought locally. At the end of the book she talks about continuing to live that way, but allowing for an Italian wine or Alaskan Salmon every once in awhile…”but in moderation,” as she said. It’s very interesting, and I would really enjoy hearing how you feel about it when you read it.

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  3. Gentle Reader

    This is on my Non-Fiction Five challenge list. I’ve heard so many good things about it. Thanks for the write-up–you’ve confirmed my choice!

    I’ve been trying, in a small way, to eat more locally and more in season. Like almost anything you know is good for you, it’s difficult to implement. But, baby steps! Maybe this book will motivate me further.

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  4. Robin

    Gentle Reader, I think you’ll enjoy it when you read it. It’s such an important idea, and she does it all in such a positive way.

    Thanks, Karen. I agree that it is a very important message and ideal. It really raised/changed my awareness of the food we eat and where it comes from.

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