Eco-Saturday: A visit with an old friend

I got word a while back that The Mother Earth News had updated their excellent book The Mother Earth News Almanac, originally published in 1973. I’ve owned a copy of the original since the early ’90s, when I borrowed it from my parents’ bookshelf and sort of accidentally on purpose forgot to give it back. (I made it up to Mom by ordering her a copy on eBay a few years ago.)

The magazine itself has been flashy, glossy, and overrun with yuppies for about 25 years, but every time I’m ready to cancel my subscription, I get the new issue and find at least one useful idea hidden among the photos of solar-powered McMansions and artisanal cheese recipes. (This month’s issue has an article on making soap from homemade lye. WIN.)

Because the magazine has changed so much since 1973, Mom and I were a little skeptical about the Almanac. Would it still be useful, or would it be one of those shiny, photo-driven publications they sell to people who think “off the grid” means you canceled your cellphone’s data plan?

I spotted a copy at Lowe’s yesterday, flipped through it, and put it in the cart.

Last night, while I was canning cranberry sauce, I got out the old edition and compared the two. Here are my general impressions of the new one:

* It’s faithful to the original. Some of the writing has been tightened a little bit, and some prices have been removed because they’re obviously out of date after four decades, but the tone remains the same.

* The book is still organized by season, but it now includes a functional table of contents with a page number for each entry. The original edition gave the page number for the beginning of each season, followed by a list of the items included in that section. The new Almanac is much easier to navigate.

* A few spots have been rewritten entirely. For instance, the entire section on recycling has been replaced with a longer, more in-depth section containing current information. At a moment when I’ve been feeling a bit uncertain about the direction we’re all headed, it was good to see that updated entry, compare it to the original, and consider how far the environmental movement has come in my lifetime.

This new edition feels like a visit with an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time: comfortable and familiar, with a lot of time spent reminiscing about good times you had together ages ago and a little time spent catching up on what’s happened since then.

I like it.

Highly recommended.

Emily

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