Monday, December 15, 2014

A new student review of Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind Environmental Headlines

VBat posted a new student review of Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind Environmental Headlines . See the full review.

I wanted to like this book— environmental problems are relevant to many modern social discussions, and I think Fleischman’s insights into our social systems are spot on. Unfortunately, the good information and ideas provided by Eyes Wide Open are hard to follow and understand, due to the unconventional organization of the book. Rather than grouping the information into the type of environmental problem, say, “fracking” and “GMO’s,” Fleischman addresses multiple issues in each chapter, some in three sentence paragraphs. These blurbs do not provide enough explanation of the topic or statistical evidence to be valuable to the reader. He does not elaborate on each topic enough to connect the situation to his main point, which leaves the reader to either figure out the connection themselves, or simply give up reading. 
If you can get through the confusing organization, the book does make some good points. The most helpful section of the book is tucked away in the back, almost in the glossary— a section on “How to Weigh Information.” This chapter looks at different sources of information, like documentaries and newspapers, and gives pointers on how to find quality information amongst all of the bad information. This section is more detailed than the rest of the book, and is very applicable to real-world situations.
Overall, Eyes Wide Open made for a very unsatisfying reading experience. There are limited facts and explanations for any of the problems or solutions that Fleischman covers in his book, and he fails to present the information in a clear, motivating way. There are a lot of great environmental examples that are briefly brought up within the text, but, without context and a clear direction, it is difficult for the reader to see the overall message of Eyes Wide Open.
I would not recommend this book to most readers. Instead, I would suggest reading something like the Sustainable World Sourcebook, compiled by Sustainable World Coalition. Like Eyes Wide Open, this text urges readers to “examine unquestioned assumptions,” but also provides context, statistics, and specific calls to action for the reader. Written with a similar reader-focused style and including fascinating color photographs, the sourcebook is a great alternative to Eyes Wide Open.