With this summer's reading,
it's tough to separate fact from fiction

by Barbara Anderson

The Eagle-Tribune
Sunday, August 24, 2014


If we define summer in "summer reading" as before Labor Day, there's not much time left for vacation escapism. Chip put Brad Thor's "Act of War: A Thriller" on the Kindle he bought me, so I've set aside my dislike of the plastic e-books and am enjoying this novel, though unfortunately it meshes too well with the nonfiction book I just finished.

Thor's threat to America comes from China, which is plotting some kind of attack on our mainland; of course readers know that the Special Forces, CIA, and FBI teams will foil the plot. But in Dinesh D'Souza's "America: Imagine a World Without Her," on which the recent movie was based, China is positioning to take over the role of the world's dominant empire, "without firing a shot," because America is committing suicide, politically, economically and culturally. His last chapter "Decline is a Choice" argues that "we cannot delay -- This is a rare time when America's future hangs delicately in the balance, and when Americans can do something about it."

I eagerly turned the page, hoping for an "afterword" in which D'Souza tells us readers what exactly we can do about it, but just found directions to his website on the way to the many footnotes for each chapter. I'll be frequently visiting DineshDSouza.com and his Facebook site during the coming election cycle for helpful hints.

I need a small break from politics. Let's move on to worrying about the environment, trying to avoid those Al Gore-liberals who politicize it.

It bothers me that I went through most of my life not knowing much about trees, just taking them for granted. I did have an apple tree in my backyard throughout my childhood, where I often perched for summer reading. Like probably most people I can distinguish the red maples from the orange oaks in the fall. Learned just a few years ago that the two "evergreens" in my front yard are, specifically, spruce, grown now higher than the rooftop.

My new interest in trees started with a 2012 novel, Anne Rice's "The Wolf Gift," which is set in northern California: To my surprise, the werewolves hide out in "a towering redwood forest."

My son and his wife took me to see a Sequoia grove in Yosemite, but it wasn't until two years ago that I learned there is a difference between Sequoia and redwood trees. I'd thought that all that was left of this kind of tree were small groves; then two years ago Lance gave me a book about "The Wild Trees" by Richard Preston. He tells the true story about "a tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California ... that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored."

Did you know that there are still miles of connected redwood forest in the Northwest, part of the national and state park systems? I read this book in my hammock between a maple and some arbor vitae, paying attention to some of the many things I hadn't previously noticed about trees.

I wasn't the only one who wanted to spend more time with trees late in life: The famous chimpanzee researcher, Jane Goodall, now 80, chose as a subject for her latest book "Seeds of Hope: the wisdom and wonder from the world of plants." I bought it for my family in return for "The Wild Trees" but first read and fell in love with it myself.

For reasons noted above, I am looking for "Hope" anywhere, not counting that Obama "hopey-changey thing" which is mere political rhetoric. I enjoyed Goodall's 1999 book "Reason for Hope; A Spiritual Journey." Yes, I know she's a liberal, and seems to accept unquestioningly the politicization of climate change, but I identify with her love of animals, appreciate her advocacy for them, and admire anyone who chose to live primitively in east Africa, which fortunately most of our ancestors left thousands of years ago. Tanzania is a relatively safe country, but is altogether too close to other genocidal regions which, along with parts of the Middle East, makes one wish some of the human race could be replaced by chimpanzees.

Then one reads Goodall's discovery that they, too, can behave murderously; maybe that was the point at which her research turned to trees.

Even on vacation days I can't completely avoid the news of the day. My nonfiction reading again meshes with the fiction, notably Dan Brown's "Inferno" that I wrote about earlier this month. Both remind me of the beginnings of my political involvement, when I joined Zero Population Growth. Goodall refers only obliquely to the subject of too many people, but refers to our task "of healing the harm we have inflicted on the natural world."

However, sowing seeds of hope, she tells the story of all those who are working to heal that natural world, and the successes many are having.

Wish I could have lunch with her and Dinesh D'Souza to enjoy their optimism about how the natural world and America could survive the ongoing bad behavior of mankind.

Never mind. Easing into the next election cycle, I recommend "Double Down: Game Change 2012" by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, to understand some of what went wrong in the last one. The re-election of Barack Obama, as America begins its decline, still won't make sense though.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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