Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From Pristine to Earth: A Fictional Adventure About Many Environmental Realities

I freely admit that the children's novel From Pristine to Earth by Ashley Ivanov was written by my research assistant. So this is a biased review.

The novel, written for upper elementary and pre-teen students, is a creative means to a real-world end. It was written teach environmental concepts in an imaginative and entertaining way to make children aware of the need for a safe, healthy and clean environment. 

The novel touches on various topics, including the benefits of recycling and the need for clean air and water. However, the primary messages are the need to minimize the risks associated with harmful chemicals by creating safer alternatives and the need for society to develop and use plastics that break down faster in the environment. 

In the end the author leaves us not knowing whether these reforms will have a successful impact or merely be words on paper. As she writes, “[t]ime will tell.”

Students can learn that reform can be accomplished in various ways, including voting for candidates who support change and through the media which can sometimes influence Congressional action. Grassroots activists -- in the trenches planting the seeds for change -- are usually involved in both.

As the book points out, there are current attempts being made to influence Congress to pass new federal chemical legislation. Current federal law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”), was enacted in the 1970s and has been ineffective as it does not ensure that only safe chemicals are used in the United States. It is estimated that approximately eighty thousand chemicals available in the United States have not been fully tested for their safety. See Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Of these eighty thousand chemicals, EPA has required testing for only an estimated two hundred (a quarter of one percent of the total) and has partially regulated only five (less than one percent).  Id.  

Congress is currently considering legislation to reauthorize TSCA. Perhaps, like the new law described in the book, a reauthorized TSCA would, among other things, shift the burden of proof from EPA to the chemical’s manufacturer to prove that that the chemical is safe and provide a means for adequate, independent validation and verification.  

You won’t find many (any?) books written for pre-teens that realistically addresses TSCA and other environmental issues in an entertaining story that engages kids. It could be used in science classes for upper elementary students to introduce these important environmental concepts through a good story with interesting characters.

The novel is available at and online only from Barnes & Noble.