In the Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism, Fran Hawthorne looks at the modern concerns of liberals where and what to eat, buy, wear, shop for and more with humor and skepticism. She weaves current news stories with real-world examples, such as: what do a family of environmentalists and union leaders eat when they have dinner together anyway? She researchers the real impact of buying everything from organic eggs to solar panels and asks why that purchase may or may not be important to you. She acknowledges the necessity of those less-cheap, less-ethical and less-environmentally sound alternatives, and gives case studies on those companies and people who are working hard to make ethical and environmental work in the real world.
Fran Hawthorne certainly understands it's not always easy being green. In the Overloaded Liberal, she discusses the real impact that those modern dilemmas have on the world.
The Daily Green will be interviewing Fran Hawthorne live in New York City on Saturday, Sept. 11, part of Lit Crawl NYC, at 6 p.m. at Scratcher Café (209 East 5th St. near Bowery). All are welcome. Come with your own stories of liberal dilemmas there will be a time for audience questions perhaps Fran will be able to help you solve them.
A few questions for Fran Hawthorne, a classic overloaded liberal:
What is a day in the life of an overloaded liberal like? What are your daily dilemmas?
Probably the most common is the produce dilemma. When I first joined the Park Slope Food Coop, I stood in front of the apple section literally for minutes, debating: organic Gala apples from New Zealand, or local "minimally processed" apples from New York State? Organic is better for the earth and your body, but all that gasoline wasted and all those carbon emissions shipping from New Zealand .... versus, it's good to support the local farmer, but how safe is "minimally processed?"
The more common version of this is, how much do you fight with your family and roommates? My husband and son didn't care when I bought earth-friendly detergent or recycled paper towels. But when I bought recycled toilet paper, they rebelled. I started hearing all these muttered comments about "Russian military surplus toilet paper."
What was the most surprising thing you learned when writing this book?
Joining the Coop itself turned out to be a surprising dilemma. It sounds like the ideal liberal thing to do, right? An egalitarian community where everyone shares in the work, it tries to buy local, pesticide-free, recycled, no-genetically modified products from responsible companies, to limit the amount of packaging etc., and it keeps prices down because all the members must work approximately 3 hr/month doing the normal jobs of running a grocery store (cashier, shelving, cleaning etc.), without pay. Well, but think about this: If the Coop didn't exist, I'd have to shop at Key Food or Pathmark or Costco etc. Those stores would hire people to do those jobs, and those tend to be union jobs retail grocery is one of the last bastions of unions in the private sector which means they have pretty good pay and benefits. Because I don't shop at those stores, they need fewer people. So by joining the Food Coop, I've put scores of people out of work. Yikes!
More generally, I was surprised at how many dilemmas there are you could drive yourself crazy with almost every decision. I was surprised at how ridiculous some of the advice in "green" books can be. I was also pleasantly surprised in a couple of cases (such as my apples) where it wasn't so hard to reach a "good" answer.
What is the craziest thing you or someone you know does to go out of their way to do or avoid doing as an overloaded liberal?
One family I know has two sets of tissues (kind of like keeping kosher with milk and meat dishes) the recycled tissues for most use but the "bad" virgin-soft tissue to be used only if they've had a cold for a few days and their noses are really, really sensitive.
Or you might say I'm crazy because I absolutely refuse to use the automated-checkout lines at the grocery store, even if the (only) line with a live cashier has 10 people with heaping-full carts and there's no one waiting at the automated line. It's about what I said before about union jobs at supermarkets I want to do what I can to preserve jobs.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.