Our Green Reads book group recently discussed The Monkey Wrench Gang with an equal number of people on Zoom and in person, a true hybrid experience.
The Monkey Wrench Gang is a novel by Edward Abbey, who was an anarchist and environmental activist; his writing heavily influenced the environmental movement, especially out west. Our discussion really homed in on what is environmental action as opposed to environmental terrorism and how it differs from civil disobedience. We each offered our thoughts about what we were comfortable with personally. Some of us could really see the value of eco action and appreciate the efforts that lead to change in policy over the years. Others of us were less comfortable with the approach that was demonstrated by the Monkey Wrench Gang. Perhaps there is a role for the whole spectrum of actions to eventually arrive at a place that is in the productive middle where real change can be made.
We all felt the frustration expressed by Edward Abbey vis a vis the characters in the book and we echoed them as we see them in the issues that we face today. We have read articles in the paper talking about the possible reduction of water available to major cities out west due to the drought. There are even officials contemplating removal of the Glen Canyon dam! One member of our group provided us with more context of the landscape, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, and the culture out there through her knowledge of the area and having known the guy who is portrayed as Seldom Seen in the book. She brought some pictures from 2015 to show the change in water level; the water level is now significantly lower.
Frequently somebody in the group will say, “What can we DO about all of these problems?” Our increased environmental literacy is a great outcome of the group. I am recognizing that as we get to know each other better and can speak most authentically, this is a great forum for airing our feelings and concerns. We get to hear others say what we might also be thinking. Anxiety can be kept a bit at bay when our fears and frustrations are spoken aloud. There is real value in that.
Here is an article in the Washington Post that talks about How to cope with the existential dread of climate change. I think it is worth reading. Our book group can support at least one strategy in getting through these times.
Our next book is The End of Ice by Dahr Jamail. We will meet on Tuesday, August 24 at 7 pm. If you would like to join our discussions, please contact me.
Tags: civil disobedience, Edward Abbey, environmental terrorism, Green Reads Annapolis, The Monkey Wrench Gang
Rarely does a book come around that fills me with hope and inspires me with possibilities, much less shift my perception. In the shit storm of suffering that was 2020, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer was that book for me. Kimmerer is a lovely writer whose prose sometimes verges on poetic, especially when she talks about plants and the ways and practices of Native Americans.
The stories that she brings to explain her perspective on life and living are gentle reminders that we can adopt a different way of being in the world. She acknowledges that we, as humans, are consumers and presents ways that gratitude and reciprocity can be key factors in how we conduct ourselves.
She addresses the theme of greed using the story of the Windigo. She brings to the forefront our relationship to plants in the western tradition as objects rather than as subjects in the Native American tradition. If we could move away from calling a plant “it” and recognize the plant as a non-human person, how would our relationship change? I find the concept of personifying all living beings very appealing.
What are some of the guidelines she gives us? When I hear them, they sound like common sense advice for managing any transaction. She is focusing, of course, on our relationship to plants and to the environment. Protocols such as “Never take the first plant of a species that you see,” “Take only what you need,” and “Minimize harm” are three of the ten that she lays out. By practicing these protocols, we respect the rights of Mother Earth. It’s worth reading the book if only to learn what the other protocols of an honorable harvest are!
Our book group unanimously enjoyed and appreciated Braiding Sweetgrass. Our next book is the classic, seminal Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. In honor of Earth Day, we will be meeting that week on Monday, April 19 to discuss it. How have things changed since this book was written? What still needs to be addressed? What other issues have come to the forefront over the last sixty years?
If you would like to join in our discussion, please contact me. Unless we find ourselves with an extraordinarily nice day so that we can meet outside, we will continue on Zoom for now.
I hope that everyone is getting an opportunity to be outside in Nature to enjoy the miracle of Spring where living is reaffirmed and life is started anew. The Serviceberry is blooming as well as the Redbud. The Virginia Bluebells are nodding in the breeze while the Golden Ragwort is spreading and standing proud with its yellow blooms. Close by to me, I watch two Bluebirds attend their nest in the birdhouse we recently relocated and I laugh at the little Skinks as they scurry across the deck. There’s suddenly so much going on that I could write pages just on my observations!
about the Annapolis Green Reads book club
Tags: Braiding Sweetgrass, Environmental Book Club, Green Reads Annapolis, Indigenous Wisdom, Karen Grumbles, Rachel Carson, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Silent Spring, Teachings of Plants