Green Gettysburg Book Club Begins Its Third Year

Next Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2023, the Green Gettysburg Book Club will begin its third year, meeting weekly online to discuss books on environmental issues and explore solutions to both local and global environmental problems. From the beginning, the club has focused on the specifics of climate change, plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, water quality, land use and other environmental issues but also on the social, economic and psychological factors that promote denial of these problems.

“We want to become better advocates for action on environmental issues,” explained Will Lane, an adjunct faculty member in Environmental Studies at Gettysburg College and the online host of the weekly meetings. “But we also see ourselves as participating in a significant shift in the way humans understand our relationship with the natural world.  We need the ecosystem services it provides—clean air, water, pollination of food crops and, until recently, a stable climate. We need a biosphere to survive. If we’re smart, we’ll take care of it.”

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The year began with The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California by journalist Mark Arax. Arax comes from a family of farmers from California’s Central Valley and his book combines good reporting, history, and memoir to provide a detailed look at how the need to provide water for industrial scale agriculture, to “move the rain” from one region of the state to another, has transformed and at times severely damaged the landscape.

Next up was Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by climate scientist and evangelical Christian Katharine Hayhoe. Hayhoe lays out the facts on climate change from a climate scientist’s point of view but then goes on to explain how conversations grounded in mutual respect and shared values can move us toward effective action on the issue.

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by forest scientist Suzanne Simard helped us understand the forest as a community where the trees and other plants cooperate as well as compete. In fact, they communicate—chemically at least—through their roots and the extensive networks of fungi known as mycelia in the ground. In the book, Simard recounts her personal journey of discovery working as a woman scientist in a male-dominated profession. But she also does a great job of making clear just how difficult it can be to do good science in remote regions of the Canadian wilderness.  Hard work for sure!

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generationby Paul Hawken and others came next and presented suggestions for practical action on climate change in about nine different areas ranging from agriculture and forest management to new energy systems and ways to improve the livability and sustainability of cities.  A key insight from the book: regenerating the natural world and thereby sequestering carbon is essential for reducing global warming and creating a more stable climate.

Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge by Erica Gies, our next to last book for the year, lays out a new way of thinking about water.  To deal with water effectively humans need to take seriously what it “wants” to do—slow down, spread out, and fill the aquifers beneath the landscape—if only we will let it.  Water needs to flow and humans need to let it do just that.

The Ministry for the Future, a novel by science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, was the book club’s last read for 2022.  Though it’s most likely shelved with science fiction, the Ministry would be better described as “science-based fiction.” Some chapters carry the main story—the establishment of a global ministry to represent the interests of the human beings of the future and the struggles of its director and staff to slow and then reverse the effects of climate change.  Other chapters, however, teach us new concepts in economics and natural science and better ways of measuring human progress or understanding the impact of ideology on human decision making, and many other things. Reading the book is a bit like wandering through a mansion of more than a hundred rooms. Every room, every chapter, has its own rules the reader must quickly comprehend in order to understand what’s going on. But for readers who care about environmental issues, especially climate change, and want to understand the next 30-40 years,  The Ministry of the Future is just the thing.

The current selection for the book club as 2023 begins is Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse by Dave Goulson, a professor of Biology at Sussex University in England.  Goulson is an expert on bumblebees but is also a passionate advocate for protecting insects and reversing the catastrophic decline in their numbers in recent years. The initial discussion of his book begins on Friday, January 6. Goulson has many videos on insects and the plants that support them on YouTube. Well worth checking out.

New members and occasional visitors are always welcome at the Green Gettysburg Book Club  For more information, or to receive the link for weekly discussions, simply write

Featured image caption: Will Lane, host of the Green Gettysburg Book Club, at the Green Gathering presentation by entomologist and native plant activist Doug Tallamy at the Gettysburg Rec Park in November (Display and Photo by club member, Jon Griffiths)

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Will Lane, a founding member of Green Gettysburg and the Green Gettysburg Book Club, is a Lecturer in English and Affiliated Faculty Member with Environmental Studies at Gettysburg College.

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