In Marin / READING LIST
MM: What prompted you to take
up sustainable cattle ranching/
food production as your cause?
NHN: In the year 2000, I was hired
as senior attorney by Robert F.
Kennedy Jr. for the environmental
group Waterkeeper Alliance. I soon
realized the industrialization of our
food system was a timely and vital
issue, affecting everything from
water supplies to animal welfare and
the right to protect the sanctity of
one’s home. We were using the farmers and ranchers of Niman Ranch
as models of humane, ecologically
sound animal husbandry, which is
how I met Bill Niman.
MM: Do you think there are any
cons to cattle and beef? NHN:
When cattle are raised well
the impact is tremendously
positive. Well-managed grazing
protects soils and water resources
because it doesn’t require plowing
and actually simulates vegetative
growth and builds soils. But when
cattle are poorly managed, environmental damage results.
MM: What tips do you have for
people who want to be environmentally sound consumers, but aren’t
sure where to start? NHN: One of
the most important things consumers can do is also the simplest: learn
where your food comes from and
how it was raised.
MM: In an ideal world, what would
the landscape of ranching look
like? NHN: The miraculous thing
about cattle is that due to their
complex digestive systems they
can live entirely on a diet of grass.
Since grasses cover about 40 percent of the earth’s land surface and
grasslands are the word’s most
important solar collectors, cattle
play an essential role of mediation
bet ween humans and the sun, by
converting all that energy to meat
and milk. Ideally, humans should be
managing cattle as proxies for the
disappeared herds of grazing animals that once covered the earth.
This is the only hope for restoring
the proper functioning of grassland
ecosystems. CALIN VAN PARIS
Author Talk Defending Beef: The Case for
Sustainable Meat Production by Nicolette
Hahn Niman of Bolinas, Chelsea Green Publishing
Company, $19.95. Combating the widely held
belief that eating beef is detrimental to our envi-
ronment and our health, Defending Beef presents
scientific data and real-life examples to argue
that with proper farming practices, there is a place for beef in
both our ecosystems and our diets. A former environmental law-
yer turned Bolinas-based rancher, Niman intelligently explains
how we can sustainably have our steak and eat it, too.
Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker of Tiburon,
Grand Central Publishing, $15. The people of fictitious Titan Falls, New Hampshire, revile two
things: the polluted muck of the Androscoggin
River and the Snow clan. The river is vital to the
operation of the paper mill — the basis of the
town’s livelihood — but nobody has any use for
Mercy Snow and her kin. In her third novel, Baker juxtaposes the
good and the evil, the haves and the have-nots and explores the
mysteries linking them all.
Pieces of My Mother by Melissa Cistaro of San
Rafael, Sourcebooks, $24.99. In this moving memoir,
Cistaro shares the sorrow of coming of age without
her mother, a plight that became a soul-searching
quest: was she destined to make the same mistakes
with her own children? Constructed in a then-
and-now format and written with nonjudgmental
insights, Pieces of My Mother is a poignant and ultimately uplifting
exploration of family, love and resilience. Appearing at Book Passage
Corte Madera May 5, 7 p.m.
Early Warning by Jane Smiley of Carmel,
Knopf Publishing Group, $26.95. The second
book of Carmel author Jane Smiley’s trilogy
spanning 100 years, Early Warning opens in
1953, just after the sudden death of the patri-
arch of an Iowa family farm introduced in Some
Luck, the first in the series. Walter and Rosanna
Langdon’s five children are grown, and the next three decades
bring postwar prosperity, followed by the darker times of the
Cold War, Vietnam and the upheaval of the social and sexual
revolutions. At its heart this is a family saga: the next genera-
tion of Langdons face dramatic changes and a surprising legacy.
Appearing at Book Passage Corte Madera May 6, 7 p.m.
Local Page Turners
Book picks by Book Passage’s Ferry Building Manager Cheryl
We sat down
McKeon and Events Coordinator Aliza Goldberg ( Defending Beef).
of Bolinas to
writing the new
Beef: The Case for