I just finished reading Amphibian by Carla Gunn and have been torn about whether or not to post an entry about it.
The book, although environmentally-themed, has virtually nothing to do with veganism and thus I'm not sure it has a place here on my blog, but it is such a charming little story that relates so closely to what many of us vegans experience on a day-to-day basis that I thought I should mention it to the other avid readers who may take a glimpse at my blog.
Amphibian tells the story of nine-year-old Phineas Walsh, an incredibly clever and precocious boy who would spends his time watching The Green Channel and authoring short stories about a fictional planet paralleling the plight of our own Earth's environment.
Phin's concern rests on not only the horrible things happening to the Earth and the creatures that inhabit it, but also the fact that no one - not his classmates, not his mother, not the psychiatrist that his mother forces him to see - seems to give a damn that any of it is happening. His concerns are continually berated by those around him and reach a boiling point when his mother, under the guidance of his therapist, forbids Phin from watching The Green Channel in an effort to manage his anxiety. The problem, they say, is not with the world (which he could never possibly change) - the problem is with him.
This story is about what it feels like to be an outsider. To care about something so important to the very fabric of who we are and where we live; to care about something that is not only not shared by others in young Phin's life, but something that is continually mocked by most of those around him. Although indirectly, it does relate to the experiences we go through as vegans.
It is curious that there is no mention of Phin being a vegetarian. Phin is consumed with saving animals (even "Cuddles" the classroom frog) and there are definite animal activist undertones to many of the things he says, such as:
"But do you know what I think? I think that some people can't stand to think that animals feel a lot like human beings. I think it's hard enough for people like my mom to write and hear about what's happening to other human beings around the world - let alone other animals too. Knowing that so many more of the earth's animals feel sadness and pain is just way too much hurt for their minds to let them see."
It is common knowledge now that the most effective thing any single person can do for the environment is to abstain from eating animal products, and I am convinced that someone who is as aware of the world around him and as concerned for the planet as Phin is would take up, at the very least, a vegetarian diet.
Regardless of veganism being overlooked, this is a charming story about a little boy who wants to change the world and a world of people that think he is, quite literally, crazy. It's a story that I think will be appreciated by the many folks out there who, like me, bawl their eyes out while watching the animals covered in oil in the Gulf or spend their nights staring at the ceiling wondering where clean drinking water is going to come from in a few years. It touches on what it means to be a part of the 21st century world, a place where a large portion of people are obsessed with the environment and preserving our planet and yet refuse to make any real changes because they may involve some level of sacrifice. My favourite part of Amphibian involves a classroom Earth Day celebration where the assignment is to draw a picture of the greatest gift humans can give the earth. Phin's picture is equal parts hilarious, depressing and - unfortunately - painfully accurate.
If you are easily frustrated by environmental literature that does not at least mention the importance of veganism to our planet's survival, I would not suggest picking up this book. If you can look past that, I think Amphibian is an entertaining and inspiring story about just how lonely the burden of knowing too much can be and the differences that one person (even a little boy) can make in the world.