All Natural*: *A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier

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Overview

In this age of climate change, killer germs, and obesity, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve fallen out of synch with the global ecosystem. This ecological anxiety has polarized a new generation of Americans: many are drawn to natural solutions and organic lifestyles, while others rally around high-tech development and industrial efficiencies. Johnson argues that both views, when taken to extremes, can be harmful, even deadly.

Johnson, raised in the crunchy-granola epicenter of ...

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All Natural*: *A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier

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Overview

In this age of climate change, killer germs, and obesity, it’s easy to feel as if we’ve fallen out of synch with the global ecosystem. This ecological anxiety has polarized a new generation of Americans: many are drawn to natural solutions and organic lifestyles, while others rally around high-tech development and industrial efficiencies. Johnson argues that both views, when taken to extremes, can be harmful, even deadly.

Johnson, raised in the crunchy-granola epicenter of Nevada City, California, lovingly and rigorously scrutinizes his family’s all-natural mindset, a quest that brings him into the worlds of an outlaw midwife, radical doctors, renegade farmers and one hermit forester. Along the way, he uncovers paradoxes at the heart of our ecological condition: Why, even as medicine improves, are we becoming less healthy? Why are more American women dying in childbirth? Why do we grow fatter the more we diet? Why have so many attempts to save the environment backfired?

In this sparklingly intelligent, wry, and scrupulously reported narrative, Johnson teases fact from faith and offers a rousing and original vision for a middle ground between natural and technological solutions that will assuage frustrated environmentalists, perplexed parents, and confused consumers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Why are severe injuries to women during childbirth increasing in the U.S.? Can our prevailing assumptions about diet and nutrition “to a large extent be responsible for the epidemics in heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis”? How can humans be a functional, helpful part of nature rather than destroying it? These are some of the questions that journalist Johnson explores in his quest to “unravel the confusion surrounding technology and nature.” His vehicle for investigation is wonder, which he proposes to be “the place shared by the rigorous science of the technological perspective and the creative free thinking of the natural perspective.” Johnson was raised by hippyesque parents in the alternate lifestyle enclave of Nevada City, Calif., and his anxieties and struggles around such issues as computer games, the hiking epiphanies of his childhood, and home vs. hospital birth for his newly pregnant wife intertwine with his musings. Johnson, who studied with Michael Pollen at UC Berkeley, takes a similarly open-minded, nonideological approach, and Pollen’s fans, as well as other readers grappling with the flood of conflicting information about how to live a healthy, nondestructive life, will appreciate this book’s thoughtful and nuanced attitude and its often surprising conclusions. Agent: David Kuhn, Kuhn Projects. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Engaging look at the merits of nature versus technology...Johnson’s investigation is both horrifying and amusing, and readers will relish the colorful, witty writing and find much food for thought."—Booklist

"[Johnson] presents a refreshing optimism that neither extolls the organic to the point of supporting pseudoscience nor negates the value of scientific advancements…The book strikes at the heart of hot-button issues with an Everyman appeal." – Kirkus

"It’s hard not to smile when [Johnson] writes tenderly about growing up as a naked back-to-nature kid raised on zucchini in a world of space-pod juice packets like Capri Sun and spreadable cheese food." – Spirituality & Health Magazine

"I had so much fun reading All Natural that I found myself reading passages aloud to my husband and summarizing Johnson's findings to my kids' teenage friends."—RANDI HUTTER EPSTEIN.COM + Psychologytoday.com/Favorable review "This is a quirky and fascinating book, one of a kind. Johnson's parents were stalwart hippies and raised him according to the orthodoxy that whatever is most natural is best, so: natural childbirth at home, no sugar in the diet, no clothing on the baby (not even diapers!), natural medicines etc. Johnson decides to examine the scientific basis of these practices, and lo and behold, discovers more justification than you would expect for a radically less-industrialized approach to managing the various stages of development, life and death."— Michael Pollan, Barnesandnoble.com "What's really welcome about his deeply reported book, All Natural, is that [Johnson's] upbringing makes the investigation of nature vs technology fun as well as thought-provoking...All Natural brings the arguments to life through a cast of wonderful farmers, neighbors, doctors, midwives and Johnson's own parents."—LOS ANGELES TIMES

"His book is not only a fascinating read for those who want to get to the bottom of issues such as raw milk and home birth, but it is also a call for more sensible decision-making...Johnson’s personal journey through the book, which he recounts with sparkling humor, begins with him shopping for the best ideology and ends with him trying to operate without any ideology—seeing 'the world both ways at once, with both eyes open.'"—CONSERVATION MAGAZINE

Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, journalist and This American Life contributor Johnson examines aspects of medicine, food and the environment to encourage informed decisions among readers caught between the nature-vs.-technology argument. The author personalizes his topics by filtering them through accounts of his upbringing during the 1980s as the son of then-countercultural parents who embraced natural living and through his journey into parenthood. Though he admits to a romanticism that favors a "natural aura," he remains open to contrary evidence and allows that both camps can be valid at different times. Johnson examines controversies with choice anecdotes, research and interviews, including: the success of midwifery at reducing maternal deaths in comparison to births aided by common obstetrical interventions; the belief that raw milk carries harmful pathogens while pasteurized milk is safer; the back-to-the-land school of thought when it comes to nutrition versus the results of industrialized chemistry; the purported dangers of sugar consumption; risks and benefits related to vaccination; homeopathic and allopathic approaches to medicine; and large-scale and sustainable farming. The most intriguing sections feature studies on human milk and on anthropological findings in remote areas, while sections that recall the author's childhood perspective border on the indulgent. Johnson surmises that nature and technology could coexist--a balanced and perhaps obvious view unlikely to satisfy the fringes--but he presents a refreshing optimism that neither extolls the organic to the point of supporting pseudoscience nor negates the value of scientific advancements. Not intended as an exposé, but as an overview, the book strikes at the heart of hot-button issues with an Everyman appeal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605290744
  • Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 387,528
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathanael Johnson is an award-winning journalist who has written features for Harper’s, New York, Outside, and San Francisco magazines and produced stories for National Public Radio and This American Life. He studied with Michael Pollan at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in San Francisco.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 19, 2013

    Can't wait till it is made into a movie

    As I read Mr. Rowe's book, I could clearly see the scenes he so vividly describes. He deserves to have streets named after him in Hemet and all of Riverside County. This is the work of a real HERO and the debut of a major writing talent.
    Very few stand up for others; most just turn and walk away. The world needs more people like Mr. Rowe; then we would see fewer dirt-bags terrorizing our land.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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