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The Overloaded Liberal: Shopping, Investing, Parenting,and Other Daily Dilemmas in an Age of Political Activism [Kindle Edition]

Fran Hawthorne
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

We live in a society that is at once the most politically aware and the most consumer oriented in human history. Twenty-first-century shoppers don't just consume; we investigate and categorize the impact of our decisions on climate change, animals, our health, our political views, geopolitical relationships, working conditions, and more. Yet when we actually try to live according to our principles, it can be so overwhelming, contradictory, and demanding that we want to scream. Every step, every dollar, every swipe of a paper towel has become a decision that can make the world a better—or worse—place.

Take one daily dilemma: what jacket should I buy? If it was made in El Salvador, China, or Vietnam, was it sewn by workers in a sweatshop at near-starvation wages, forced to labor twenty-hour days in dangerous conditions? Are those jobs actually considered desirable in those countries? Can I even find a jacket made in the United States? If I do, should I insist on union-made? But what if that's more expensive? And what fabric is it made of? Does it contain animal skins? Is the cotton organic? What kind of dyes were used? Does it have fair-trade certification? Oh, and by the way: does it look good on me?

Veteran journalist and levelheaded mom Fran Hawthorne sets out to answer these questions—and spark more. En route, she interviews activists and ordinary consumers alike, including officials from PETA, the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, an organization of "EcoMoms," and the rabbinical group that has redefined kosher. She learns from ethicists, psychologists, Wall Street analysts, child-rearing experts, and policy wonks, while examining everything from Barack Obama's union-made inaugural ball tuxedo to the conundrum of how electric cars might obtain their electricity. And she delves into socially responsible investing at a moment when the wheels have come off the economy. Her odyssey will be all-too familiar and often funny for consumers who have thrown up their hands and wondered, "What's a good liberal to do?"

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Hawthorne presents many issues facing the average liberal who seeks to be politically active but is often overwhelmed by the daunting challenges created by informed choice. From what to eat to what to invest in, she makes it clear that what seems obvious (American Apparel’s Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:Table Normal; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Times New Roman;}“Made in the USA Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:Table Normal; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Times New Roman;}” label) is likely far less so under careful observation (American Apparel’s anti-union stance). Do we care more about country of origin or price? Local or organic? Should an eco-minded shopper buy anything from a Big Box store? These are basic questions, but Hawthorne doesn’t sugarcoat the often difficult answers. In fact, contrary to green guides that say any effort is good, Hawthorne counters that weighing in on national legislation is really the only truly effective way to change the world. With the exception of a self-serving lecture on supporting Israel in the final pages, this is a solid choice for those willing to dive into the complexity of living with a social conscious in the twenty-first century. --Colleen Mondor

Review

With a welcome mixture of facts and humor, Fran Hawthorne highlights the dilemmas of living an environmentally virtuous, healthy life in a fiercely consumption-oriented culture.—Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, executive director, Center for Science in the Public Interest

"People are quickly learning that living a simple, low-impact life actually isn't so simple. Thankfully, there's much-needed relief to be found in Fran Hawthorne's funny, poignant, and often eye-opening way of sorting through the dilemmas-and solutions—facing socially and environmentally minded consumers."—Greg Melville, author of Greasy Rider: Two Dudes, One Fry-Oil-Powered Car, and a Cross-Country Search for a Greener Future

Product Details

  • File Size: 1754 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003CN6HAO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,641,583 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
(9)
4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Don't you hate it when you are standing in a store and trying to make a decision amid conflicting internal voices? Organic vs. local? Union vs. sweatshop import? Fran Hawthorne's book is a must-read, if you've ever been in these shoes. You won't get easy answers, but a thorough and hilarious approach to these problems. If you're in a book club, this a great book to read - it'll provoke many lively discussions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A closer look at living green and good, May 4, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Fran Hawthorne's book, "The Overloaded Liberal" is a great read loaded with interesting information about the dilemmas of trying to make the right choices for ourselves. our families and the common good. Many of us want to be more environmentally conscientious, feed our family healthy food and buy products we know are not made with unfair labor practices, but it's not that easy. Fran Hawthorne shows us how we can try to do this and points out the pros and cons of the choices we face daily. Do we buy locally or pick the organic produce from abroad? Are we aware of the environmental impact of transporting organic produce? What really happens to the computer parts we thought we recycled? The over whelmed consumer, vegan or meat eater has to face all kinds of contradictions in a complex, global economy. This book takes a closer look at our most basic assumptions about living green, fair and wisely. How saintly are the companies we love, like Ben and Jerry's or Whole Foods? Hawthorne reports this and more in a clever witty style. I highly recommend this informative and well-researched book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By LABook
Format:Hardcover
Full disclosure: My original interest in this book was to see which well-intentioned folks and organizations were in there. HOWEVER, it was riotous good fun and a quick, information-packed read. I could relate with both empathy and humor to the angst the author described experiencing . The most valuable aspect of the book was her ability to offer up some practical approaches that might contribute to a longer lifespan for our planet. She thoughtfully and personally reflects on how we can all make more meaningful consumer decisions, while reminding us that our lives our so much more that our presence in the marketplace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Sane, and Useful September 24, 2010
Format:Hardcover
This is a very readable book on a topic that's really important. The tone is refreshing and forgiving (nobody wants to be preached at, right?), funny and practical. I learned a lot--for instance. For instance: it's not ALWAYS best for the environment to buy locally, because sometimes it's just so much more efficient to grow or make something in a certain place. And: It takes a lot more carbon to produce cheese than chicken. I love the way she weaves her own experiences into the research, so it feels so personal. I haven't seen another book like it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overloaded, but not alone! October 4, 2010
Format:Hardcover
Wow! Someone else struggles with the same, agonizing everyday decisions that I do -- all the choices that go into living a life that is as ethically and environmentally sound. Hawthorne examines all the issues surrounding ethical consumption thoroughly and thoughtfully, cuts through globalization's complexities, and offers clear-sighted solutions. Essential reading.
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More About the Author

Award-winning journalist Fran Hawthorne, the author of "Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of the Companies we Think We Love" (Beacon Press, 2012), has been a writer or editor at Fortune, BusinessWeek, Institutional Investor, and other publications. She is the author of three books on health care and investing, including Inside the FDA and Pension Dumping.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Leonard Yakir, 2012.

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