Freeganism: Background information when reading The Astral

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The Astral

A Novel

by Kate Christensen

The Astral by Kate Christensen
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2011, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2012, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Guidarini

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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Freeganism

Print Review

In The Astral, the Quirk's daughter Karina is a practicing "freegan" - a term that comes from a fusion of the words "free" and "vegan" (although not all freegans are vegans) - and as such, she chooses to eschew conventional consumerism. recycling symbol Often referred to as "dumpster divers," freegans generally believe that western society throws away too many useable goods - including food - and they consciously limit their participation in the current, profit-driven economic system. This wasteful mentality, they explain, increases the need for more landfills, leaches pollution into ground water, and threatens an already compromised environment; once a dump is full, more must be built, and open land is transformed into unsightly and health-threatening garbage heaps.

In response, freegans choose to boycott this way of life and follow a few specific, ethical principles. According to Freegan.Info, these principles include:

  • reclaiming waste: foraging for food whenever possible
  • minimizing waste: repairing, reusing, recycling, and composting products
  • finding eco-friendly transportation: using alternate means of getting around, e.g. train hopping, hitchhiking, walking, skating, and biking
  • living in rent free housing: rehabilitating abandoned buildings and squatting in these spaces
  • going green: turning empty lots into community garden plots
  • working less: reducing the amount of stress we feel by freeing ourselves from the need to consume

They turn other people's garbage into usable goods; as restaurants and markets toss out still-edible fruits, vegetables, and meats because they don't meet "perfect" requirements, the food becomes fair game for a freegan. In The Astral, Karina supplements her "dumpster diet" with store-bought organic food, which, many freegans would agree, is a reasonable way to ensure getting proper nutrition. Likewise, community gardens allow people to share in their quest for sustainable food sources with others who follow in their footsteps.

Some find the freegan lifestyle extreme. Rooting through garbage is, admittedly, an unhygienic activity. On the other hand, we know that at some point waste management will become unsustainable; land is not an unlimited resource. The principles of the freegan movement seem pertinent, and this reviewer believes it's certainly worthwhile to listen to what they have to say.

To read one woman's account of her experiences as a "dumpster diver," check out the Sierra Club article entitled "My Life as a Diver."

Article by Lisa Guidarini

This article was originally published in September 2011, and has been updated for the June 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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