Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: Greener Than You Think

In case you somehow missed the reminders on TV, newspapers and your favorite websites, today is Earth Day. With that in mind, I thought I’d recommend a book for this Earth Day: Greener Than You Think, by Ward Moore. Written in 1947, Greener Than You Think, was an early example of the works of apocalyptic fiction that became a staple of the Cold War period – but instead of the typical nuclear showdown between the United States and Soviet Union, Moore used a different vehicle to bring about the downfall of mankind, his nemesis: a humble blade of grass.

The protagonist in Greener Than You Think is Albert Weener, a thoroughly unpleasant salesman who stumbles across Josephine Spencer Francis, an eccentric scientist who has developed a “metamorphizer” that will enable grass to grow anywhere and at an incredible rate of speed. Francis sees this as a way to end world hunger by turning any patch of land into an abundant wheat field; Weener sees a way to make a fast buck pitching the metamorphizer as a super-fertilizer for suburbia. He demonstrates by turning a homeowner’s lot of half-dead Bermuda grass into a lush lawn. But the grass doesn’t stop growing, consuming first Los Angeles and then the rest of the world. Greener Than You Think chronicles man’s attempts to stem the tide of the green wave devouring the globe, all told from the jaded eyes of Albert Weener.

What makes Greener Than You Think a good novel to read for Earth Day is the way it invites the reader to contemplate how a seemingly insignificant act – in this case fertilizing a patch of Bermuda grass – can have such broader implications on the global environment. Something to keep in mind when discussing some of the hot button environmental issues of the day like climate change or the use of genetically modified crops. And as an added Earth Day bonus for our readers, here is a link for a free download of Greener Than You Think from Project Gutenberg.
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