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Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

Hardy Book Lovers

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With Christmas almost upon us, and the prematurely harsh weather conditions, it's no surprise that Milwaukee's seeing a dearth of author readings over the next couple of weeks. Of course, that doesn't stop the city's hardy book-loving community from organizing and attending a number of book clubs and children's story times.

Among them is Milwaukee Art Museum's monthly Story Time in the Galleries on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 10:30 a.m. Children will hear a story relating to a piece of art in the museum's collection before creating a masterpiece of their own.

The Riverside Park branch of the Urban Ecology Center offers a cozy hideout in which to weather the weather. On Dec. 18 they host a free papermaking class for anyone age 12 and up. Participants will learn to make gifts from recycled paper just in time for the holiday season.

Also at the Riverside branch, the monthly Eco Book Club meets to discuss Lyle Estill's Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy. Estill is the president of Piedmont Biofuels, a worker- and member-owned co-op that makes and sells biodiesel processed at its plant in North Carolina, and also consults with companies looking to set up biodiesel plants.

Early enthusiasm over the production and use of biofuels has been somewhat dampened by scientific studies showing that some biofuels can be more harmful to the environment than fossil fuels, especially once the previously overlooked emissions cost of producing them is considered. Quite apart from the impact on the world's natural ecosystems of clearing large swaths of land to grow bio-crops, many also believe they will exacerbate food shortages-especially in poorer nations.

In a city with both proponents and detractors of the biofuel movement, this discussion should spark a healthy debate. The overall premise of Estill's book-the nurturing of a local, more sustainable economy and communities gathering together in the name of energy and economic independence-should strike a chord with Milwaukee's cooperative and independent businesses, farmers and activists. As we stagger under the failings of the global economy, it's becoming clear that going local isn't just an option: It's a necessity.