Bag It: Is your Life too Plastic? (2010)

Bag It: Is your Life too Plastic? (2010) is a good intro to plastic. It talks about single use plastic, the proliferation of plastic in everyday products (lining cans, etc.), and plastic toxicity. The info about toxicity is a little nerve wracking, but I found the documentary to be informative and approachable. Also, it was a really good reminder to focus on avoiding bringing plastic into the home.

The toxicity discussion made me think about the contrast between zero-waste living and plastic-free living. In plastic-free living, the ultimate goal is to avoid all plastic because of the issues with plastic trash, but also to avoid the toxins in plastic. Zero-waste living is more focused on avoiding sending things to the landfill, even if that means reusing plastic items.

Personally, I would like to avoid plastic and I would love to, eventually, replace all the plastic bottles that I’m reusing with glass or stainless steel containers. But, I think that I have a responsibility to extend the life of plastic I purchase as much as possible, even if it’s just a mayo jar. And, I don’t trust recycling, especially as I live in an apartment and our recycling bin is always contaminated with non-recyclables – that probably means that all my carefully cleaned and sorted recycling ends up at the landfill. While I may be increasing the risk of exposing myself to toxins, reusing the plastic I have reduces the plastic in the environment. It also means that I’m not contributing to the production of new products.

It’s not an easy decision to make. After learning about plastic toxicity, it’s really tempting to throw out all the plastic. But, I think that the best solution for me is to simply work on avoiding bringing plastic into my home. I’m privileged to be able to access and afford items that come in glass bottles (natural peanut butter, etc.) even though it’s more expensive. But, this isn’t something that many people can do. We’re all sort of stuck in a situation where plastic is cheap and profits are more important than consumer health.

Into the Gyre (2010)

It’s Plastic free July! I was going to kick off the month with a trash audit because it’s a great way of tracking your plastic use and looking for alternatives (reducing what you use, finding ways to reuse things you can’t avoid, etc.). But, that’s going to have to wait until August.

Instead, I’m using the weekly bingo challenge from Marandas World (Instagram) as inspiration (thought I’m not officially participating in the challenge). This first week was education and awareness. One of the options is watching documentaries. I don’t have Netflix, so I had to look for alternative options. My library gives me access to Hoopla and Kanopy, amongst other great digital resource platforms.

Hoopla is generic entertainment (books, movies, etc.). It doesn’t have the best selection, but I found a couple films about the environment. The only one I found that’s focused on plastic is Into the Gyre (2012), which is about a group of scientists that sail out to the North Atlantic Gyre to gather research (it can also be rented or purchased via Vimeo). I think a lot of people would find it boring, but I found it really interesting to see how they trawled for plastic and learn little tidbits about plastic in the oceans.

Kanopy focuses on documentaries and films that enrich us (it’s a really great resource and has content just for kids). I found several films: Bag It: Is your Life too Plastic? (2010), Oceans: The Mystery of the Missing Plastic (2016), Plastic Planet: Investigating Plastic and its Effects on our Health (2010), and Straws: The Impact of Plastic Straws on our Environment (2017). I’m sure there’s more – they have a whole section of great eco films. I’m currently watching Bag It! and it’s a good mix of informative and fun.

Lastly, Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2013) can be bought or rented directly from the films website or via Vimeo.

Bonus option: Like on Vimeo, you can buy or rent films from YouTube. Some documentaries are even posted for free, like content from CBC Docs (just make sure that you’re watching the official version from the official creator so that any ad revenue can go directly to them).

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

This was such a fun book. It’s set in our world, but there are magicians. Blythe and six other teens are guardians associated with the seven types of magic. As they set off to gather each guardian, the two magical governments are on the brink of war. The guardians need to learn to work together and find their own strengths in the process.

It’s a great adventure with 7 very different teens learning to stand up for themselves and each other. It’s about friendship (yes, this is one of those rare books that focuses on friendship and doesn’t assume that everyone needs to couple off). It focuses on families – blood relations and found families. And, it’s about courage and all the different ways people can be brave. Each of these teens come from different backgrounds – from a sheltered, timid kid to a badass superhero. They all need to find their own strengths and their own courage.

This book has all kinds of rep – different racialized communities, different sexual preferences, different gender identities (including non-binary and trans), and different economic brackets. I would have loved for some body diversity (just one fat or chubby kid would have been nice).

Honestly, my only real disappointment is that the non-binary character, who I loved, was only in the first coupe chapters (though, I expect they’ll to make a reappearance in the future as they were close to Blythe).

Red Chesterfield by Wayne Arthurson

This short book (novella? short story?) was very amusing. M, a bylaw officer, sees a red chesterfield in a ditch. When he goes to inspect it, he finds something unexpected that turns his life into chaos for a week.
What I love about this story is that it’s a quiet sort of chaos. M spends a lot of time drifting through events trying to figure out what the heck is going on. Also, Arthurson is able to pack quite a bit into 99 pages.

It’s a fun book. I legit chuckled when I closed the book. I still stifle a chuckle when I think about the ridiculousness of everything that happened. And, I’ll probably never be able to look at a red chesterfield the same way.

If your looking to support Indigenous Canadian authors, Arthurson is Métis (of Cree and French Canadian descent).

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly

I have mixed feelings about this book.

This book is about the murder of Tina Fountain and it’s investigation by the police. It’s a true crime novel. It seems to be a sympathetic and relatively neutral account of the investigation, with a few mentions of racism and politics.

When started reading it, I was impressed with the author’s approach to talking about Tina and the overall issues of racism towards Indigenous people. But, I was in the middle of it when I was reminded about the importance of own-voices in reviews and story telling. The author is a BBC journalist and, as far as I can tell, she’s not Indigenous. It made me look at the book a bit more critically and I realized that I knew more about the lead investigator than I did about Tina. It also made me realize that the discussion of Colten Boushie and the demands to address the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) was really only included to set the stage and give the reader some insight on the pressure investigators had to find Tina’s murderer.

Does that make the book bad? No, it just makes it another true crime novel that doesn’t really add to the important discussions around systemic racism, MMIWG, broken support systems, etc.

I’m glad I read it because I, admittedly, didn’t know much about Tina Fountain’s death. But, I could’ve just read the Wikipedia article. I know very little about Tina after reading this book, other than she was a sweet girl and got into a bad situation that ended in her murder. This book was more about the lead detective and his investigation.

Tanya Talaga wrote Seven Fallen Feathers. It’s about the deaths of 7 high school students in Thunder Bay. As I mentioned in my Goodreads review, it’s “…devastating, infuriating, and absolutely essential for anyone interested in learning more about racism in Canada or the issues faced by indigenous youth.” If you’re going to read about Indigenous people being murdered in Canada (and you should), start with this book.

I also encourage you to read the #ownvoices (Instagram) reviews of Red River Girl. For example, @anishinaabekwereads (Instagram)has a lot of important insight about this book and the author’s approach to telling the story (scroll back in their feed to early February).

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

This is about subversive, queer, antifascists librarians. There’s action, adventure, romance … it’s a fun story. If I liked Westerns, this would have easily gotten four stars from me. .

This is the only LGBTQia2+ book I’ve read this month. Normally I wouldn’t be too bothered by that, but I haven’t been doing a good job of reading queer books in general. I think I’ve read 2 or 3 books with LGBTQia2+ characters (only one as the lead). So, that’s something I need to work on this year.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Why has it taken me this long to finally get around to reading this book?! And, why didn’t I order the next book two weeks ago?! This book it so good. It centres on Maggie who’s a Dinétah monster hunter. She’s broken, she’s kinda bitchy, she’s got supernatural clan powers, and she’s feared. It’s set in a world that’s been all but destroyed by floods and where monsters roam. There’s action, there are monsters, there’s magic, and it’s dystopian. What more could you want?

It starts with a slow punch to the gut and ends with a kick to the chest. I loved ever bit of it.

Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy

In this book, Savoy looks at the relationship between the American landscape and racialized communities by exploring her experiences and the experiences of marginalized, enslaved, and displaced communities. It’s a fascinating and difficult trip through history and around the country.
While the content is difficult, the writing is beautiful. I was pulled in and entranced by the way she wove through stories that explain the human story of America’s history.

I read this for the #alliesinthelandscape reading group, lead by @jessicajlee on Twitter (the first discussion was Sunday night, but she also provides questions that you can reflect on by yourself). In retrospect, I don’t think I have the time to fully engage in the reading group, but I’m going to try and check in each week to reflect on the conversations and read the books.

We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast by Jonathan Safran Foer

This is an intriguing take on “save the world.” He starts by talking about stories and how sometimes we’re not drawn to an issue until the right story is told (for example, Claudette Colvin versus Rosa Parks – Claudette wasn’t considered “respectable” enough to ignite a movement).

He also talks about belief and how we may not think that scientists are lying, but we still struggle with believing them to the extend that we’re willing to take action. He explores these things through discussing historic events that can give us a non-climate change perspective. He also explores them through his own experiences and inaction.

It’s a really interesting book that has left me with a lot to think about, like my own inaction.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This novella is delightfully intriguing and imaginative. It follows two time travelling operatives from opposing sides, Red and Blue. While they’re altering threads of history in multiple universes on behalf of their respective empires, they begin to leave secret messages for each other. As their relationship grows, they eventually fall in love.

Told threw narrative and their letters to each other, it does a wonderful job of seamlessly moving through time and space and finding increasingly inventive and unexpected ways to leave messages.