Tag Archives: environment

Water Witches – Chris Bohjalian

I think this is the second or third book I have read by this author. The first one I read, I really really liked (Midwives). The second one (Before You Know Kindness), also with an environmental theme, I remember enjoying reading – but had to look up what it was about on BN.com.

I fear that this third one will fall into that same “oh yeah, that was okay” category.

In a moving, life-affirming novel suffused with ecological wisdom, a Vermont ski resort’s plans for expansion collide with environmentalists seeking to preserve a mountainous wildlife habitat and riverine ecosystem. Narrator Scott Winston, a transplanted New York City lawyer who represents the ski resort, switches allegiance after he and his nine-year-old daughter spot three mountain lions in an area targeted for clearing. Complicating matters is the envy that Scott’s pragmatic wife, Laura, a native Vermonter, feels toward her famed sister, Patience Avery, a dowser (water witch) who also opposes the ski resort and whose talent for locating underground springs, missing persons or lost objects with a divining rod figures prominently in the novel’s denouement. The struggle between the developers and their opponents culminates in an environmental board hearing that has all the dramatic excitement of a courtroom trial. With wit, insight and mordant irony, Bohjalian charts Scott’s metamorphosis from rationalistic materialist and skeptic to one who believes in higher powers and the interconnectedness of all life. In a refreshing twist, instead of offering a bucolic idyll, the author takes us through a Vermont beset by drought, a declining ski industry, unemployment and endangered ecosystems.

I don’t know about life-affirming or ecological wisdom, but it was a good book. It’s a little heavy-handed on the “there are two sides to every issue!” and “kids are amazing, innocent beings” but overall – nice. That’s really the best I could do – nice.

One thing I did enjoy about it, and this is the kind of stuff I will remember is the little glimpse into the world of “dowsing.” I knew very little about water-dowsing or this group of practicing diviners (divinators?) and probably won’t investigate further but I feel like I got a little glimpse into something, and somehow, knowing my life, this will probably come in handy one day during an inane conversation.


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Saving the World at Work – Tim Sanders

What Companies and Individuals Can Do to Go Beyond Making a Profit to Making a Difference

I keep trying to read these kinds of books, and often they just aren’t very good. This one was definitely better than the rest. The idea of course is that there is lots of stuff you can do to make the world a better place, and some of it is at your place of business. This is all true and good, but what irritated me was his main point was that you don’t have to be a CEO to affect change, and yet his main case study in proof of this was of an intern getting her mom to give her boss some sort of book about how bad the carpet industry is. The boss left it on the CEO’s desk (with no comment) and it wasn’t until the CEO faced some sort of external pressure for change from shareholders did he see the book on his desk. This seemed more like serendipity then a how-to on getting CEO’s to change direction.

I was a little disappointed that there weren’t more tips for non-CEOs.  As employees it’s harder to get high-level change, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can’t do on our own. For example, I am unsubscribing us from junk mail. You can also put CFL bulbs in your desk lamps, and if you have a kitchen, bring some old silverware and place settings for people to use, instead of disposable products. You may be able to convince who ever orders supplies to make some more eco-friendly choices, especially if you can prove that the company will be saving money.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the book, was something I felt was a little misguided, but I liked the spirit of. The author believes that this newest generation of employees cares about their impact on the world as a whole, and wants to work for a company that not only treats them well, but also tries for a better impact on the world as a whole. Whether it’s a mission based business, or just a responsible company. It’s something I certainly feel strongly about, but I am not convinced enough that my peers are. But, I liked it anway.  It seemed an appeal to CEOs and HR to make sure they are offering benefits that reflect a more progressive world view as they only way to attract great employees (benefits for domestic partners, paid time off for volunteer/community work). I really love the concept, and it’s something I hope to accomplish in my future career goals. There was one interaction Sanders described, which I am paraphrasing here:

Recruit: Do you offer benefits for domestic partners?

Interviewer: Why? Are you gay?

Recruit: No, but but I am evolved, and I want to work for a company that is as well.

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Farewell, My Subaru – Doug Fine

I am trying to live more sustainably and be more conscious of my choices and how it impacts the world around me (a slow, painstaking, occasionally expensive or inconvenient process) and have read a bunch of memoirs about the topic (the straight non-fiction stuff is often not as appealing). This is the story of one guy (an adventure journalist/NPR Reporter) who tries to live with all the creature comforts, but off the grid and carbon neutral.

A few thoughts:

  • God, this guy sounds occasionally annoying. He often makes fun of “whoo-whoo” New Mexico (although god, it sounds gorgeous and an awesome place to live) but he is a single guy who built himself a dance studio. And meditates. That’s pretty whoo-whoo.
  • It’s a lot more about how he messes a lot up and falls off of ladders or whatever then it is about the success.
  • I get it. I hate Bush too – but enough already! Almost every other sentence is a “witty” remark about Bush or whatever. He named the chicken-eating coyote “Dick Cheney.”
  • It’s just written in far too self-conscious a style (“She screamed in the way that only a woman who finds out her daughter is marrying Kevin Federline would” – only a slight paraphrasing).
  • The hook is supposed to be about how he manages to maintain a modern life off the grid, etc. (it even mentions Netflix on the book flap) – but aside from the fact that he has hot water and a bio-car, there is nothing about the rest of the world. Does he give up Netflix? Find a local DVD store? I think those kinds of things would have been more interesting than solar panels. I know all about solar panels, damnit.
  • It drives me crazy that some of the books have the message of “Well, you can do it too!” without mentioning that the reason they can live this farm life is because they are writing a book about it. Or a writer. I can’t continue my current job and live on a farm – unless of course I had a book advance, funding me buying a farm!
  • He names his ranch “The Funky Butte Ranch.” Do I really have to say more?

Anyway, it was good – but not groundbreaking. I want more, but not from him. If YOU want more, check out his blog – http://www.farewellmysubaru.com – I am about to go read that now.

By the way – is this really a memoir? What do you call this kind of “A year of doing something wacky” style of books that is so popular and that I normally love?

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