Friday, December 8, 2017

The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams

Summary: (from Macmillian Publishers)
"America’s national parks are breathing spaces in a world in which such spaces are steadily disappearing, which is why more than 300 million people visit the parks each year. Now Terry Tempest Williams, the author of the environmental classic Refuge and the beloved memoir WhenWomen Were Birds, returns with The Hour of Land, a literary celebration of our national parks, an exploration of what they mean to us and what we mean to them.
From the Grand Tetons in Wyoming to Acadia in Maine to Big Bend in Texas and more, Williams creates a series of lyrical portraits that illuminate the unique grandeur of each place while delving into what it means to shape a landscape with its own evolutionary history into something of our own making. Part memoir, part natural history, and part social critique, The Hour of Land is a meditation and a manifesto on why wild lands matter to the soul of America."

Arcadia National Park


"Our national parks are our breathing spaces."

"Our public lands - whether a national park or monument, wildlife refuge, forest or prairie - make each one of us land-rich. It is our inheritance as citizens of a country called America.” 

“This is what we can promise the future: a legacy of care. That we will be good stewards and not take too much or give back too little, that we will recognize wild nature for what it is, in all its magnificent and complex history - an unfathomable wealth that should be consciously saved, not ruthlessly spent.”



2. Experience Life Mag - Behind the Scenes with the author: (**Be sure to watch this**)

>The National Parks Series by Ken Burns with Terry Tempest Williams introduction:

Vermillion Flycatcher (

Author's Website:

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Discussion Questions: (Heidi wrote these and will lead the discussion)
1.     To describe Wind Canyon’s terrain in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, she uses the verbs, “break, erode, collapse, slide . . .”  (p. 80) Which verbs would you use to describe Bucks County?

2.     Our author writes, “Again and again, we find the common story of the establishment of our national parks: a handful of people fall in love with a place, see it threatened, want to protect it for the future and have the passion and patience to attract the necessary fund and political clout to make it happen.” (p. 105) If you had the ability, time and money to protect and save a parcel of land, where would you choose, how small or large and why?

3.     Which national parks have you visited and what are some of your memories, from your visit, which make you ‘swoon’ as Maine does for our author?

4.     After reading this book, are there any parks that you want to visit more than ever now?

5.     Do you have ’place’?  A land or space that you feel tied to?

6.     There are numerous wonderful passages, poems and quotes in this book. One of my favorite is from Laurance Rockefeller: “ How we treat our land, how we build upon it, how we act toward our air and water, in the long run, will tell what kind of people we really are.” (p 28) What are some of your favorite quotes and why?

7.     What do you think of Roosevelt’s vision of “democracy of experience” having created the carriage roads in Arcadia? (p. 92)

8.     Williams’ writing style is beautiful, descriptive, visual, and poetic. She includes letters to friends, sections from her notebooks, and shares struggles with her family. How do you react to her style and does it enhance the stories she’s telling?

Big Bend National Park 

Koan Boxes 

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Summary (Amazon): In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. As a result of such interactions, trees in a family or community are protected and can live to be very old. In contrast, solitary trees, like street kids, have a tough time of it and in most cases die much earlier than those in a group.

Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him. As he says, a happy forest is a healthy forest, and he believes that eco-friendly practices not only are economically sustainable but also benefit the health of our planet and the mental and physical health of all who live on Earth.


Author, Peter Wohlleben's, Site

Wohlleben's Twitter Page:



“But we shouldn't be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with. Under the canopy of the trees, daily dramas and moving love stories are played out. Here is the last remaining piece of Nature, right on our doorstep, where adventures are to be experienced and secrets discovered. And who knows, perhaps one day the language of trees will eventually be deciphered, giving us the raw material for further amazing stories. Until then, when you take your next walk in the forest, give free rein to your imagination-in many cases, what you imagine is not so far removed from reality, after all!” 

“If we want to use forests as a weapon in the fight against climate change, then we must allow them to grow old, which is exactly what large conservation groups are asking us to do.” 

“There are more life forms in a handful of forest soil than there are people on the planet. A mere teaspoonful contains many miles of fungal filaments. All these work the soil, transform it, and make it so valuable for the trees.” 

Possible trip: The Hidden Forest: May 13, 2018 
starting at 249 Euros with a 6 hour walk through the forest, including drinks and meals. Overnight stay is available. See site for more information:

Wohllebens Waldakademie, include many seminars, shorter walks, etc. :

Discussion Questions by Donna, who will be leading the discussion:

1. What are the most surprising, or fascinating facts, statistics or stories you learned from The Hidden Life of Trees?

2. Let’s talk about the “wood wide web”  and the reasons and ways trees communicate with each other.

3. Discuss relationships between trees and wildlife, from beavers to bark beetles, giraffes, woodpeckers, etc.

4. Wohlleben’s style of anthropomorphizing adaptations of trees is criticized by many.  How did you feel about his use of language like:  ‘behaviors’ of trees, ‘mother’ trees, ‘happy’ trees, ’screaming’ trees?

5. This book has been translated into 18 languages and has been a New York Times and international best seller for some time now.  What do you make of its popularity?

6. What are some ways particular trees or forests have affected your life over the years?

7. How does Wohlleben challenge us to think in more long range, tree life-span time frames?  (thinking about ages of trees, mosses; contribution of nurse logs, dead habitat trees, and ultimately becoming humus).

8. He also teaches us about some very interesting biochemicals, such as; ethylene, betulin, terpenes, salicylic acid, tannins, phytoncides, anthocyanin, et. al. What do you remember about these?

9. How does the author address effects of climate change on forests, and vice versa?  Do you think he talked about this enough?

10. Was this book too similar to “The Forest Unseen” to include it so soon on our reading list?  Which one did you like best?  Who would you gift this to?

Monday, October 2, 2017

Extinction: A Radical History by Ashley Dawson

Summary (from Amazon):
"Some thousands of years ago, the world was home to an immense variety of large mammals. From wooly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers to giant ground sloths and armadillos the size of automobiles, these spectacular creatures roamed freely. Then human beings arrived. Devouring their way down the food chain as they spread across the planet, they began a process of voracious extinction that has continued to the present.

Headlines today are made by the existential threat confronting remaining large animals such as rhinos and pandas. But the devastation summoned by humans extends to humbler realms of creatures including beetles, bats and butterflies. Researchers generally agree that the current extinction rate is nothing short of catastrophic. Currently the earth is losing about a hundred species every day.

This relentless extinction, Ashley Dawson contends in a primer that combines vast scope with elegant precision, is the product of a global attack on the commons, the great trove of air, water, plants and creatures, as well as collectively created cultural forms such as language, that have been regarded traditionally as the inheritance of humanity as a whole.

This attack has its genesis in the need for capital to expand relentlessly into all spheres of life. Extinction, Dawson argues, cannot be understood in isolation from a critique of our economic system. To achieve this we need to transgress the boundaries between science, environmentalism and radical politics. Extinction: A Radical History performs this task with both brio and brilliance."

Free Copy of the Book online:

Los Angles Review of Books:!

Publisher Site: OR:

Video from Smithsonian Channel:

Princeton Environmental Institute - Author:

Facebook page:

Discussion Questions:

1. What are some of the causes of extinction, that the author mentions, stating that “about 100 species are lost a day”?
2. What is the Anthropocene (p. 19) and when did it start, in your opinion? How does the formation of language and food surpluses and subsequent famines play a role?
3. Discuss the ecocide and the demise of the Sumerian and Roman empires. What were the causes and what forms continue today?
4. What are some of the same and different concept threads and conclusions between Klein’s, This Changes Everything and this book?
5. What are some of the changes humans need to make, according to the author, in order to stop the pattern of resource- and bio-predation?
6. What are some of the opportunities and limitations that re-speciation and re-introduction of some extinct species provide for the environment? (p. 72)

7. Discuss the economic basis for reversing some of the habitat and species losses in hot spots? (p. 92)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Summary from Amazon:
"The most important book yet from the author of the international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, a brilliant explanation of why the climate crisis challenges us to abandon the core “free market” ideology of our time, restructure the global economy, and remake our political systems.

In short, either we embrace radical change ourselves or radical changes will be visited upon our physical world. The status quo is no longer an option.

In This Changes Everything Naomi Klein argues that climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.

Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

Can we pull off these changes in time? Nothing is certain. Nothing except that climate change changes everything. And for a very brief time, the nature of that change is still up to us.

Jury citation: The Izzy Award:

“This is the best book about climate change in a very long time— reminding us just how much the powers-that-be depend on the power of coal, gas and oil. And that in turn should give us hope, because it means the fight for a just world is the same as the fight for a liveable one.”
Book and film website:

Videos on Vimeo

Film trailer:

Author interview on:
Guardian Live:

Bucks County Audubon Society Associated Event: September 13: Advocacy for a Cleaner Earth Fall Speaker Series held at Delaware Valley University at 6:30 p.m. with Maya van Rossum, who will be discussing the impact of gas pipelines on clean water.

Classroom Curriculum Guide by Caroline Sarmiento of Uni. of Wisconsin:

Interview with Steve Colbert with David Keith on Geoengineering:

Official Book and Film Guide:

Study Guide by Author:

Discussion Questions: (Heidi will be leading the discussion)
The book is divided into 3 parts: I. Bad Timing, II. Magical Thinking and III. Starting Anyway, with 13 Chapters total. I’ve provided questions for each section, some of my own and some taken or inspired from the above listed Classroom Curriculum Guide. Be sure to get a flavor for the whole book, at least skimming and especially making it to end chapters, which are more hopeful.
1. How has this book challenged your position on climate change? How do you conceptualize the relationship between the environment, society, and nature? How do current events, i.e. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria reinforce these issues and perhaps be wake up calls/tipping points for governments and societies to push for change? What do you think of the statement by Pruitt that it seems “insensitive” to discuss climate change at this time?”
2. “The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster. It is our entire world. And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves.” With that said, how does consumerism connect to Climate Change?  Is this just an US dilemma? Can we can consume less and change how much energy we use and if yes, how? (p. 90)

3. What are the connections between trade agreements, pollution, and labor exploitation? What implications does localizing our economies have on climate change? Are there some negative consequences? (p. 76 -)
4. How are the political and economic interests behind certain “bridge fuels” linked to preventing us from making a full switch to zero carbon sources of energy? (p. 128-) Who are the local actors and players who can become renewable energy providers?
5. “Extractivism is a nonreciprocal, dominance-based relationship with the earth.” (p. 169) What different forms of power does this entail when reducing life into objects for the use of others and irreversibly destroys large tracts of earth? The production and power in spite of nature (example of the steam engine) is based on the right to conquer nature.
6. "A Great many progressives have opted out of the climate change debate, in part, because they thought that the Big Green groups, flush with philanthropic dollars, had this issue covered. That, it turns out, was a grave mistake.” Which environmental groups participated in this and were you surprised? (p. 192 - , p. 226) Why does it matter where funds come from? What are the central dangers of the merge between the environmental movement and the economic interests behind soaring emissions? What might be other unintended consequences?

7. What is the role of big businesses and powerful people or the “green billionaires” in the climate movement if not to save us?  (p. 232) Who are some local messiahs? How does this idea of messiahs influence the way we see change in other social movements as well?

8. “The cure could be worse than the disease.” (p. 275) What do you think about “Geoengineering” and the “Geocliche”? What do you think about the finding that older respondents are more amenable to Geoengineering than younger ones? Is this a generational difference? Access to information? Faith in technology?

9. Klein presents the argument that we are all in sacrifice zones, yet we do see different rates of state violence and displacement in low-income communities of color. (p. 310 -) How do these stark forms of state violence place different pressures on certain communities to participate in different ways?

10. Klein asserts that the power of “ferocious love” and when individuals or a community fight for their identity, a culture, a beloved place, that there is nothing a company can offer as a bargaining chip. (p. 342) What are your thoughts and perhaps, observations of this?

11. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands, territories and resources and they have a right to redress lands, which have been taken or damaged without their consent. Many non-natives are beginning to understand that indigenous land and treaty rights have provided a major barrier for the extractive industries and are asking for their help. Discuss this and coalition building. (p. 367 - )

12. This book provides a space to reflect on our own actions as individuals as well as a community. What are you doing personally to combat CO2 emissions and going green? What are some of your goals?