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How the Government Got in Your Backyard: Superweeds, Frankenfoods, Lawn Wars, and the (Nonpartisan) Truth About Environmental Policies Hardcover – February 9, 2011

3.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Gillman and Heberlig take a nonpartisan approach to existing environmental laws and consider how each political sphere would like them changed. They use an interesting conceit, highlighting a topic, providing background, then relating how it is received by the Right and the Left. This clarifies dense material, making for an accessible title that also explains why it is so difficult to alter existing laws. Members of Congress, they write, would be perfectly happy if scientists came before them and all agreed that ‘this pesticide is safe, allow it’ or ‘this pesticide is unsafe, ban it.’ But anticipating that level of consensus from the scientific community makes Waiting for Godot look like an afternoon’s diversion. Therefore, politicians are forced to take sides on issues they know little about, resulting in frustration all around. Gillman and Heberlig also wade into private-property rights and home-owner associations and pose the question of just what a good yard means. In all, their discussion illuminates environmental confusion on a national scale and offers help in making the far-ranging debate easier to understand. --Colleen Mondor

Review

“This book condenses the facts in an accessible manner and poses both sides of the debate without preaching either way.”

(Amy Stewart East Oregonian)

“Illuminates environmental confusion on a national scale and offers help in making the far-ranging debate easier to understand.”
(Booklist)

"If government issues relating to produce draw your attention, this book may help broaden your thinking." 

(The Packer)

"Freakonomics for the gardening set---a must-read for anyone concerned with making our planet a safer place to live.”

(SuchABookNerd.com)

"Gillman and Heberlig are a horticulturist and a political scientist respectively, and their unique angles allow them to open these issues to the regular folks like me."

(Reference and Research Book News)

“A lively read for a broad audience, from political activists and policymakers to gardeners and anyone who simply wants to know more about these important issues.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press; 1 edition (February 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604690011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604690019
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Bux VINE VOICE on January 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
An old saying goes, if you try to walk the middle of the road the only thing you get is hit by a car.

That can be true of this book, evidenced by the reviews. It seems highly politically motivated people view this book through their prism of ideology, and that is a shame. What we have here is a concise, well-written tome covering various issues from fertilizers, to global warming, pollution, and more.

It does so by first laying out the problem, looking at it from a scientific side, then attempts to, through economic and political arguments, discuss both sides of the issue.

I especially appreciated the fertilizer and pesticide chapters. As a small Christmas Tree grower I was interested in the science and politics behind using or not using these products, they environmental impacts as well as the economic impacts for and against using many of these products. I found their arguments well thought out, fair, and concise.

I think many on the left may not like many of the arguments made in the book. But at least this book shows both arguments, unlike other media sources such as Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth".

As with anything you read on hot topics, do not use this book as the be all end off. If you are from the left or the right don't base all your arguments from this.

This book is, however, a good starting point to begin your readings. Question everything. Question with boldness. This book will get you asking the tough questions.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Authors Gillman and Heberling begin by observing that it's hard to have a debate on environmental issues that isn't confounded by the debaters' political opinions. Indeed, for many people, how you feel about (say) global warming is more an issue of how you feel about Al Gore than what you know about the actual science and policy implications. This book is an attempt to cut thorugh the politics and lay out the issues behind the debates with (hopefully) a minimum of argumentum ad hominem.

Each chapter takes a particular issue, like global warming, overuse of fertilizer, or air quality, and begins by attempting to lay out the science, the economic issues, and the how policies may affect individual liberties, and in that I think they do a very good job. This is followed by a choice of policies that may be pursued for each issue, beginning (usually) with "Do nothing" and followed by various degrees of intervention. Each alternative is given what they term a "right wing" rating and a "left wing" rating, with discussion, and finally, their measured proposals. So how successful are they at reaching politics-free solutions?

Truthfully, it's just about impossible to make policy proposals that are completely independent of any political philosophy. How you feel about individual versus collective rights is going to strongly influence how you rank various solutions. One person's reasonable intervention is going to be another's abuse of power. The authors come across as sharing a basically libertarian philosophy, and so are inclined to err on the side of personal liberty, though not so much so that they'll deny what they see as a clear and present danger. If they do have one strong bias, it's in favor of science over emotion.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The title of this book annoys me because I believe it is misleading. It implies that the authors' point of view is that government is intrusive and should not be involved in food policy, at least at the local level. In fact, that is not at all what the authors are saying. Instead, they attempt to present the best arguments from both a liberal and a conservative point of view and then leave it up to the reader to decide how s/he will think about a particular issue.

The range of issues covered, while all relating to food policy in the United States, is quite wide. The authors discuss everything from the use of chemical fertilizers on a family lawn to the pros and cons of foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And the authors appear to take care in presenting both the pluses and minuses of each proposed policy. There were several instances where I was surprised to learn that the arguments from, in my case, "the other side" were valid. For example, it turns out that some organic foods are actually exposed to more pesticides than are non-organic foods of the same type. And that carbon exchange programs may appear to reduce emissions, but in fact may not do much to improve air quality at all.

One chapter is devoted to each major food policy debate. At the chapter's end, the book's authors summarize the various policy alternatives that have been proposed to address each issue, indicating by numbers of stars how a conservative and a liberal might rate each option. This technique makes it easy to distinguish, albeit in a general way, where the primary political groups stand on each policy alternative.

Admittedly, true policy wonks will probably not be content with the overviews provided in this concise, useful little book. But for most of us who are (understandably) confused about what is, could or should be happening in today's food policy arena, this book is an excellent resource -- just ignore the title.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Gillman & Heberlig make a valiant attempt to be unbiased in their presentation of ten controversial topics, and I think they succeed. Granted, the title sounds biased; one is led to expect a `blame the government for everything' polemic, but this turns out, fortunately, not to be the case. In the introduction, G&H mention a few examples of government regulations, and tell us about the format of each chapter, 1 thru 11:

"To quantify the differences between the liberals and the conservatives, we've created a rating system. For each policy alternative we put forward, we explain which side is likely to favor or disfavor the policy and why, and then we rate their position. The more stars the policy receives (up to five), the more strongly that alternative is favored by that ideological camp: Five stars = ideal policy; four stars = highly favorable; three stars = it's acceptable; two stars = dislike it; one star = NO." (emphasis theirs). (p. 15). "The first chapter lays out the landscape by explaining how and why politicians and other participants in the policy-making process use and misuse scientific information. The ten chapters that follow look at some of the most important issues facing our environment today. Each chapter focuses on a separate issue, setting out the essential scientific information, governmental policies, policy options (with the left-wing and right-wing ratings) and the bottom line (our own analysis)." (p. 17).

As stated above, chapter 1: Political Science and the Science of Politics lays out the landscape.
Chapter 2: Organic Food: Safer, Friendlier, Better?
Chapter 3: Pesticides: How Dangerous Is Dangerous?
Chapter 4: Fertilizers: Good for the Crops, Bad for the Water?
Chapter 5: Alternative Energy: Is Ethanol Overrated?
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