Friday, July 6, 2018

Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water by Kathleen Dean Moore

"In these twenty elegant essays, a philosopher and amateur naturalist meanders along the rivers and streams of the american West-and muses on love, loss, aging, motherhood, happiness, the art of poking around, and other important matters. “A smart, compassionate, and wise meditation on living in place” (Terry Tempest Williams)."

Author's Website:


Interview with Author
"If Your House is on Fire":

Discussion Questions: Please check back.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Wilderness World by John Muir, Edited by Edwin W. Teale

Summary (Amazon):
As a conservationist, John Muir traveled through most of the American wilderness alone and on foot, without a gun or a sleeping bag. In 1903, while on a three-day camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt, he convinced the president of the importance of a national conservation program, and he is widely recognized for saving the Grand Canyon and Arizona's Petrified Forest. Muir's writing, based on journals he kept throughout his life, gives our generation a picture of an America still wild and unsettled only one hundred years ago. In The Wildernesss World of John Muir edited by Edwin Way Teale has selected the best of Muir's writing from all of his major works; including My First Summer in the Sierra and Travels in Alaska to provide a singular collection that provides to be "magnificent, thrilling, exciting, breathtaking, and awe-inspiring" (Kirkus Reviews).

Sierra Club:

Smithsonian: Yosemite:

The Atlantic:

Dunbar, Scotland (his birthplace):

Biography and Exhibit by Sierra Club:

PBS: National Parks: John Muir:
PBS: John Muir in the New World:

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. "

"In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks."

Discussion Questions (Written by John Shiver, who will also lead the discussion)
  1. How did John’s childhood and upbringing help prepare him for his life and career as a naturalist and explorer?
  2. Muir encountered many people in his travels. how did they contribute to the success of his wanderings and how were they different from what his father had taught him to expect from strangers?
  3. Of all his adventures, which would you choose to have experienced or shared with him and why?
  4. How did Thoreau’s and Emerson’s writings influence Muir? How were these men and their experiences similar and different?
  5. How would you explain Muir’s accurate premonition that his friend, Professor Butler, had arrived in CA from WI? Was this a coincidence or representative of some greater insight that he was capable of?
  6. How did Muir’s writings establish and popularize the conservation movement in the US? Discuss his style and why it still holds so much appeal today? What were some of your favorite passages?
  7. What were some of his scientific contributions that related to the formation and geology of California Sierras and Yosemite?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Summary: (Amazon): The work is part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and manual for self-reliance. It details Thoreau's experiences over the course of two years in a cabin he built near Walden Pond, amid woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts.

Current Reviews and Articles for the Bicentennial and more:

The New Yorker: "Pond Scum": 

The New York Times: "The True American": 

The New York Times: "What's the Muck of Walden Pond tells us about our Planet" :

The Walden Woods Project

The Thoreau Society:

Walden Quotes:
"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth."

"Things do not change; we change."

"Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations."

Discussion Questions: (Questions written by and discussion to be led by Richard Myers)

1.      Why did Thoreau go to Walden?   Was he, as some people have claimed, a recluse or hermit?
2.     Would you consider doing something similar today?
3.     What do you think of his claim in the section on “Economy” that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”?   Does this equally apply to today?
4.     Have “men become the tools of their tools” as Thoreau claims?
5.     How might we follow Thoreau’s admonition to “simplify, simplify” today?
6.     How does Thoreau’s observation that “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root” apply to his time?  To our time?
7.     How might you, or most Americans today, respond to Thoreau’s thought that “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude”?  How do you think Thoreau would respond to our constantly noisy world today?
8.     What technology does Thoreau focus on as an intrusion into the peace of Walden Pond?  How does this fit into the idea of the Anthropocene (not a term Thoreau would have been familiar with)?  Is there a similar technology you would point to today as being particularly disruptive of society?
9.     In the section, “The Ponds,” Thoreau claims that “a lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.”  What aspect of the landscape particularly attracts you?
10.  Would you agree with Thoreau when he states, “I have no doubt that is part of the destiny of the human race. . . to leave off eating animals.”?
11.  What is your favorite section or idea in Walden?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Green Amendment by Maya K. van Rossum


Summary (Amazon): For decades, activists have relied on federal and state legislation to fight for a cleaner environment. And for decades, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. The sad truth is, our laws are designed to accommodate pollution rather than prevent it. It’s no wonder people feel powerless when it comes to preserving the quality of their water, air, public parks, and special natural spaces.

But there is a solution, argues veteran environmentalist Maya K. van Rossum: bypass the laws and turn to the ultimate authority—our state and federal constitutions.

In 2013, van Rossum and her team won a watershed legal victory that not only protected Pennsylvania communities from ruthless frackers but affirmed the constitutional right of people in the state to a clean and healthy environment. Following this victory, van Rossum inaugurated the Green Amendment movement, dedicated to empowering every American community to mobilize for constitutional change.

Now, with The Green Amendment, van Rossum lays out an inspiring new agenda for environmental advocacy, one that will finally empower people, level the playing field, and provide real hope for communities everywhere. Readers will discover:

• how legislative environmentalism has failed communities across America,
• the transformational difference environmental constitutionalism can make,
• the economic imperative of environmental constitutionalism, and
• how to take action in their communities.

We all have the right to pure water, clean air, and a healthy environment. It’s time to claim that right—for our own sake and that of future generations.


Maryland considering adopting a Green Amendment:

"Water is more important than gas."

"Over a ten year period, when comparing an equal weight of the two gases (carbon dioxide and methane), methane is 100 times more powerful in trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere."

"In 2011, the prestigious journal Climatic Change published their paper (R.W. Howarth, R. Santoro and A. Ingraffea, "Methane and the Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations.") and its startling conclusion: natural gas, harvested from shale, was worse for the climate than coal."

"You have a right to pure water, clean air and a healthy environment. This right is inherent and indefeasible. It belongs to you."

PA State's Constitution Environmental Rights Amendment: 
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."

Delaware Riverkeepers

For the Generations website:

DISCUSSION MEETING PLACE LOCATION FOR THIS MONTH: Bucks County Audubon Society Visitor Center at Honey Hollow Environmental Center at 2877 Creamery Road, New Hope 18938, starting at 6:15 p.m.

Discussion Questions
1. Despite states having environmental right amendments, such as here in PA, why do we continue to have to battle oil, gas and chemical companies for clean water, etc.? (p. 15, 82-)
2. Discuss some of the critical environmental issues, highlighted by the author and many of which are local to PA and the area, including stories about fracking, pipeline construction and infrastructure, water contamination and excessive real estate development (PennEast pipeline, p. 122, DuPont, p. 134, Bishop’s Tube in Chester, p. 174, PFOS water contamination in Warrington, Warminster, p. 154, etc.).
3. What are some of the statistics that surprised you, such as perhaps, methane’s impact on the climate(p. 88), mineral rights, water use for fracking (p. 73, 79), % of Americans wanting the environment protected (p. 217), etc.
4. Discuss a state versus a federal constitutional environmental amendment, their role and significances. (p. 12)
5. Discuss the different players, who make powerful decisions about our resources each day: DRBC, FERC, EPA, NEUP(108). There are many acronyms and what do they all mean?
6. Laws don’t ban pollution or development, but because of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, a permit is now needed to do so. (p. 42) Discuss the different chemicals that are dumped into our environment legally or illegally: PFOA, PFOS (153), PCB (141), TCE (175).
7. In the final chapter, the author discusses how states can create or strengthen environmental provisions for their state constitutions. Pennsylvania already possesses environmental provisions, but is of varying strength and rigor. What are some actions needed to strengthen our provision here in PA? (See page 9-10, 62, Chapter 2) This is what it states as of 1971, Article 1, Section 27–the Environmental Rights Amendment:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
8. What are some actions, that each of us can take, to help secure our rights to a clean environment?

Please feel free to bring your own questions to our discussion on April 26 at 6:15 p.m. at the Bucks County Audubon Society’s Honey Hollow Environmental Center and/or also to ask Maya after her presentation and book signing on May 5, 1:00 p.m. at the Doylestown Bookshop.


Monday, March 5, 2018

The Urban Bestiary by Lyanda L. Haupt

Summary: (from Amazon):
"In THE URBAN BESTIARY, acclaimed nature writer Lyanda Lynn Haupt journeys into the heart of the everyday wild, where coyotes, raccoons, chickens, hawks, and humans live in closer proximity than ever before. Haupt's observations bring compelling new questions to light: Whose "home" is this? Where does the wild end and the city begin? And what difference does it make to us as humans living our everyday lives? In this wholly original blend of science, story, myth, and memoir, Haupt draws us into the secret world of the wild creatures that dwell among us in our urban neighborhoods, whether we are aware of them or not. With beautiful illustrations and practical sidebars on everything from animal tracking to opossum removal, THE URBAN BESTIARY is a lyrical book that awakens wonder, delight, and respect for the urban wild, and our place within it."

(Credit to Tom Furtwangler) 

Author's Site:

Boston Globe:

Wall Street Journal:


At Words, Writers and West Seattle:

Discussion Questions:
1. The author writes that “observation is a lovely overlooked word. It seems to indicate separation; one thing observing another. “ (p. 19) The word evolved from the Medieval Latin observare and means not to just watch but also “to attend”.  How do you “view” our community animals? Has reading this book changed how you “watch”?
2. From Haupt’s descriptions, enlightening stories and anecdotes about different mammals and birds, which stories or observations did you find surprising, such as the playful coyote, territorial moles, dreaming, intelligent opossums, ticklish rats, counting pigeons, the chickadee’s varied language and leadership, and/or the tool making crows, etc.?
3. What personal experiences have you had with the many animals that surround us and share and are a part our community?
4. The author often starts each chapter with a myth, such as the Romanian creation myth about the mole, or the Navajo myth about the coyote or the Ratatoskr squirrel creature of Norse mythology, creation of the hummingbird by the Mayan Great God, etc.. Which stories did you find intriguing?
5. Thoreau wrote, “When I know the name of a creature, I find it difficult to see.” whereas the author states, “I think that such knowing is a kind of gracious hosting, one that enriches not only our own lives, but also the lives of birds. “ What is your experience and opinion about this?
6. The author encourages us to learn the five most common birds around our homes and would most likely include: house sparrows, robins, crows, house finches, starlings and perhaps chickadees. Then, she suggests, learn the next 20 most common birds. Which birds do you think that includes for our area? Do you keep a personal list of bird sightings?

7. “House sparrows, European starlings and rock pigeons form a triumvirate of ubiquitous and disdained nonnative urban birds”, (p. 174), however the author goes on to describe many amazing and interesting attributes of these birds for us to consider. What is your opinion about their presences in our community before and now after reading this chapter? Also, discuss the impact on the physiology of animals living in urban settings.
8. How do you feel about the author including trees and humans in the bestiary? What do you think about the concept of prosthetics by Dr. Catton? (p. 298)
9. If were to write your own Bestiary, which animals and other life forms would you include?
10. What are your daily habits or ways that you personally connect with the natural world around you? Do you keep a journal, save trees, bake bread, or watch birds?