Monday, January 27, 2020

Two Books this Month: A Bright Future by J. Goldstein and S. Qvist and No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

Summary for A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow (from Amazon):
As climate change quickly approaches a series of turning points that guarantee disastrous outcomes, a solution is hiding in plain sight. Several countries have already replaced fossil fuels with low-carbon energy sources, and done so rapidly, in one to two decades. By following their methods, we could decarbonize the global economy by midcentury, replacing fossil fuels even while world energy use continues to rise. But so far we have lacked the courage to really try.
In this clear-sighted and compelling book, Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist explain how clean energy quickly replaced fossil fuels in such places as Sweden, France, South Korea, and Ontario. Their people enjoyed prosperity and growing energy use in harmony with the natural environment. They didn't do this through personal sacrifice, nor through 100 percent renewables, but by using them in combination with an energy source the Swedes call kärnkraft, hundreds of times safer and cleaner than coal.
Clearly written and beautifully illustrated, yet footnoted with extensive technical references, Goldstein and Qvist's book will provide a new touchstone in discussions of climate change. It could spark a shift in world energy policy that, in the words of Steven Pinker's foreword, literally saves the world.

Reviews of A Bright Future:
1. NY Times:

2. Kirkus Review:


Interviews for A Bright Future:
1. Nuclear Focus:

2. Video - C-Span:

Website for A Bright Future:

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Summary for No One is Too Small to Make a Difference: This small book includes the speeches that Greta to the United Nations.

Reviews for Greta's Book:
1. Video:

2. teenvogue:

3. Kid's Rights:

Greta's TED Talk

Time's Person of the Year 2019

Our local student activist groups and actions and others:
1. Bscape:

2. Bscape Website:

3. Article:

4. Article:

Local Event: Everything Eco: An Inconvenient Summit: Feb. 23, 2020, 12:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Discussion Questions: (Donna will be leading the discussion. Please check back later)


Monday, November 25, 2019

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Summary: (Amazon):
It is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

NY Times:

The Atlantic:

Washington Post:

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Shortlisted of the 2018 Man Booker Prize
New York Bestseller
A New York Times Notable Book and a Washington Post, Time, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews and Amazon Best Book of the Year

Author's Website

1. Climate Fiction: Can Books Save the Planet?:

2. The Novel Asks: What Went Wrong with Mankind:

3. How could the Overstory be considered a book of the year:

4. The Secrets That Help Some Trees Live Over 1000 Years:

1. Shakespeare and Co, :
2. Chicago Review of Books:
3. NPR:
4. New York Botanical Gardens:
5. Waterstone Interview:
6. Sierra Club:

Old Growth Forest Network:
Note: Doylestown Township's Central Park's and Heritage Conservancy's Hart's Woods has been recently designated as a forest that has the characteristics of an old growth forest

The Overstory Podcast from Sierra Club: Not about the book but interesting and relevant. Thanks Ann for sharing.

Forest Bathing Opportunities at Bucks County Audubon's Honey Hollow Environmental Education Center: April 11 and May 30, from 9-11:30. 2877 Creamery Rd. in New Hope, PA

Inspirations for Discussion Questions:
a. Litlovers:

b. PBS:

Our own Discussion Questions: (some from the above sources and some of Heidi's own, who will be leading the discussion)

1. What were your experiences with trees as a child and now as an adult? Have trees shaped your life in any meaningful way? Do you have a favorite tree?

2. What might the title, Overstory, signify?

3. The Overstory is split into four sections: Roots, Trunk, Crown, and Seeds. How do those sections reflect the thematic numerous concerns of the novel—that human development (in the micro and macro) mimics growth in the "natural world," that human beings are deeply, intimately bound to nature? What are the significances of these sections? Were you surprised when the storylines intertwined?

4. Of the novel's nine opening stories, which do you find most engaging? Is that because you find the characters more compelling …or the storyline itself … or can the two be separated?

5. There are many wonderful passages and poems throughout the novel. Do you have any favorites?

6. How does the author treat eco-warriors: are they the novel's heroes? Does he seem sympathetic to their causes … or impatient with their stridency? What is your attitude toward eco-warriors, both the ones in the novel and the ones in real life?
7. Some reviewers claim that characters in The Overstory  are short-shrifted, that they are subsumed by the book's ideas. Others say the book's characters are convincing and invested with humanity. Which view do you agree with? Do the characters come alive for you, are they multifaceted, possessing emotional depth? Or do you see them as fairly one-dimensional, serving primarily as the embodiment of ideas?

8. This novel is considered part of a new genre, Climate Fiction or cli-fi. What do you think about it? Does it reinforce what people already think or change opinions?

9. We have read many books about trees in this group including, The Hidden Life of Trees by P. Wohleben and The Forest Unseen by D. Haskell along with your own readings. Has the book changed the way you look at trees in any new ways?


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb

Summary (Amazon): In Eager, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb reveals that our modern idea of what a healthy landscape looks like and how it functions is wrong, distorted by the fur trade that once trapped out millions of beavers from North America’s lakes and rivers. The consequences of losing beavers were profound: streams eroded, wetlands dried up, and species from salmon to swans lost vital habitat. Today, a growing coalition of “Beaver Believers”—including scientists, ranchers, and passionate citizens—recognizes that ecosystems with beavers are far healthier, for humans and non-humans alike, than those without them. From the Nevada deserts to the Scottish highlands, Believers are now hard at work restoring these industrious rodents to their former haunts. Eager is a powerful story about one of the world’s most influential species, how North America was colonized, how our landscapes have changed over the centuries, and how beavers can help us fight drought, flooding, wildfire, extinction, and the ravages of climate change. Ultimately, it’s about how we can learn to coexist, harmoniously and even beneficially, with our fellow travelers on this planet.

Kirkus Review:

Christian Science Monitor:

Washington Post:

(NY Times) 

Author's Website:

Interesting Articles:
1. From 1974, New York Times:

2. Outside:

Beaver Information and Sites:

1. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska:

2. Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources: Beaver:

3. Worth a Dam: Heidi Perryman's site: ("Because the beaver isn't just an animal, it's an ecosystem"

Discussion Questions: (Donna will be leading the discussion and please find her questions below)
1.      Margaret Atwood states that “Canada was built on dead beavers.”  How does the fur trade affect U.S. history?  How did it affect Native Americans?  Talk about some of the players in this saga, from pilgrims, Lewis and Clark, Roosevelt, Hudson Bay Co. etc.

2.     The subtitle “surprising, secret life of beavers” suggests that we might learn some amazing new facts about the natural history of these rodents.  Is this the case?   How might you “subtitle” the book? 

3.     The beaver believers include a host of interesting, passionate characters from hydrogeologists, scientists, naturalists, ranchers, native Americans etc.  Discuss your favorite beaver story.

4.     Speaking of characters, Doug Smith is the leading authority on wolf restoration, and his PhD was on beaver behavior. In the chapter “Wolftopia”, the author states that scientists are trying to answer the question “Which keystone mammal did Yellowstone miss more, the apex predator or the hydraulic engineer?” Discuss the relationship between the wolves, elk, beaver, and streams.

5.     “Eager” should be required reading for ANYONE interested in wildlife and watershed management and restoration.  Let’s talk about the many, many benefits of the wetlands created by beavers.

6.     Beaver believers face the same problem many environmentalists face attempting to persuade disbelievers of facts regarding climate change, renewable energies, glyphosate and pesticide dangers, etc.  (asymmetric burden of proof).  How can we get better at combatting this problem?

7.     The sheer numbers of beavers slaughtered over the centuries up through modern times makes me think that if it weren’t for the beaver believers, they’d be gone for good.  Are you hopeful or woeful for their future?

8.     Mr. Goldfarb definitely has a sense of humor.  Did you enjoy his writing style?  Can you recall a favorite passage, incident, metaphor, or word that made you smile?

9.     What a perfect book this was for us to read after Sand County Almanac.  I suspect that Leopold would agree that the beaver is “an animal that doubles as an ecosystem”. What would a conversation between Goldfarb and Leopold sound like?  Refer to page 243:
“the best thing we can do for many landscapes is to turn their salvation over to a mammal whose ecological vision diverges wildly from our own.”