Green Frigate Books


Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect: A Primer on Planning Together

By Sandra E. Smith
Robert L. France (Foreword)

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There is a pressing need for the present book. What is particularly useful is its emphasis on not only identifying and reviewing the litany of problems but also in introducing and discussing a suite of corrective measures that have been undertaken. Sandra Smith’s message is that Canada’s water woes are not abstract, distant problems. Rather they are concrete, fixable challenges that require direct involvement by stakeholders—in other words, us. Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect is a useful reminder that in terms of management ‘people need to feel ownership of not only the problems but also the solutions.

—from the Foreword by Robert L. France, author of Deep Immersion: The Experience of Water

Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect makes a tremendous contribution to those of us concerned about the state of water and decision making processes in this country. The book’s structure—starting with participation, then problems, addressing the planning process, and concluding with the potential for change—brings to the fore how citizens, students and water professionals can all contribute to Canada’s water sustainability. I teach three undergraduate courses on various water issues. This is the book I’ve been waiting for—well organized, written with a consistent and compelling voice and full of interdisciplinary, Canadian content.

—Sarah Wolfe, Dept. Environment and Resources Studies, University of Waterloo

In Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect, Sandra Smith shows us pathways toward understanding and appreciating the art and science of water management. Her book is a much needed approach to regarding the interconnectedness of water, people, and our environment.

—Tom Cech, Director, One World One Water Center for Urban Water Education and Stewardship, Metropolitan State University of Denver

Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect, by Sandra E. Smith, is filled with the historical development of water administration in Canada, leading up to the concerns of today, and some suggested alternatives for tomorrow. With the forward by Robert France of Dalhousie University titled “Protecting the Health and Future of Canada’s Most Important Natural Resource”, followed by chapters on the history of governance, a description of water management, and an overall description of this critical resource, this book starts or assists in an understanding of water in Canada. There is provision for an optimistic view of the future and some alternatives that we may adopt. The book describes the allocation systems that are in use across Canada and their challenges as our society continues to maximize the value of that resource. In particular, the book addresses how we economically depend on private rights while protecting and promoting public water uses and ensuring that fairness, flexibility, and efficiency continue in water allocation and management.

Dr. Smith ties in many orders of concern, such as climate change, drought, floods, groundwater, and its migration and interaction with surface water. Smith suggests some options for protecting water and its worth in terms of ecological goods and services, in addition to the standard, jaundiced view of dams, their costs and their benefits, fisheries, water development, and infrastructure plans. Overall concerns with small watersheds and their impacts on large basins is noted. It is a well-researched book, and accordingly, there are an additional 70 pages of references, appendices, endnotes, and an index.

—Rick Ross, P. Eng., Executive Director, Canadian Water Resources Association

Cultivating a Canadian consciousness and an enhanced “water ethic” for actors and influencers appears to be Sandra Smith’s mission. In Canada’s Water, Yours to Protect: A Primer on Planning Together, Smith provides substantive arguments for better regulations around Canada’s water, a greater appreciation for the intangible values of water and offers warnings against poor performance. Smith helps readers to shift their emphasis from government to governance and the necessity to include awareness building, citizen engagement and public involvement. In Canada, Smith contends that ecosystem protection is still in its infancy and to arouse moral and aesthetic sensibilities and to ignite needed protections, media attention, public interest advocacy, and volunteer work as well as institutional changes and strong leadership and academic studies are superb mechanisms of social and political influence. Participatory decision-making, enforced regulation, infrastructure investments, and transparent information are several of the integral processes for safer and more secure water demand and supply. The engagement of diverse actors is required: government and First Nations, bureaucratic agents, water systems operators, and extraction companies, civil society organizations and concerned citizens.

This unique book provides a quick study in water management, water availability, and water and ecosystem protection. Smith invites readers to examine and consider plans for surface water, ground water, curbing water use, protecting water supply and quality. Her writing offers valuable insights on flood forecasting, flood protection, and flood mitigation as more will be affected by water issues with increasing weather events through climate change, land development and growth in communities, in or near flood plains. She also reiterates the importance of undertaking serious deliberations about evaluating the benefits of power generated through hydropower and dispossession and disorientation many suffer through dam construction. A “rights-and-risks” approach is more tenable and essential. Strategies for managing water conflict and engaging all levels of government for shared governance also are essential. Readers are encouraged to plan together to tell new stories about the sustainability and sovereignty of Canada’s water.

—Kathleen Kevany, Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, editor of the “Water, Women, Waste, Wisdom, and Wealth” special issue of the Journal of Cleaner Production

A comprehensive and compelling examination of Canadian water issues from all kinds of perspectives. I love the case studies. A must-have for anyone interested in Canada’s waters.

—Robert A. Chase, Renison University College, University of Waterloo

Changes in the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere have accelerated the rate and altered the manner in which water moves through the global hydrologic cycle. As a consequence, the relative hydrologic stability we have enjoyed over the last century will not return during the lifetime of anyone alive today. Sandra Smith’s book outlines the changes we need to make in the way we think about and manage water in Canada if we want to protect our prosperity and way of life, now and in the future.

—Robert Sandford, EPCOR Chair, Water Security, United Nations University, Institute for Water, Environment & Health


Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey

by Corinne Hosfeld Smith
Laura Dassow Walls (Foreword)

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Smith’s book, a must-read for Thoreau fans, fills in the gap in knowledge of his life post-Walden, which was published in 1854… The book proceeds to dissect the expedition with great attention to detail, showing Smith’s extensive research as well as passion for her subject. She includes weather conditions experienced by Thoreau and [his travelling companion] Mann, travel costs, train route names, comparisons to current-day travel routes, and information about towns visited and passed through. This exemplifies Smith’s dedication to preserving a piece of forgotten Thoreau history. The book even features topographical information (past and present), which mirrors Thoreau’s transcendentalist attraction to nature – very Walden-esque…Certain stories from Smith’s research journeys give the book a personal touch, amongst the mounds of facts and information… And further romanticizing the road trip tradition, each chapter includes a “When You GO” section guiding the reader on a modern version of TGhoreau and Mann’s trip. These sections provide exact information about landmarks from the journey that Google Maps and a GPS can’t match.

—Kate Frese, from a 2014 review in Lancaster Sunday News

Anyone interested in Henry David Thoreau, and especially those of us who mourn for the book he might have written about his late-in-life journey to the Midwest, will be grateful for Westward I Go Free. Meticulously researched, brimming with energy and wit, it admirably fills an omission that previous biographies have been content to skip over.

—Jerry Dennis, author of The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas

Since Thoreau never wrote or lectured about the many wonderful people and scenes he encountered, this excursion’s exposure has been limited for a century and a half. Now scholar Corinne H. Smith has illuminated his ‘Journey West.’ In her superbly written and researched book, she takes us to the places where Thoreau went and describes them, then and now. In addition, she enriches each segment of their trip with her own Thoreauvian adventure,’ which reveals fascinating connections with Thoreau and others. … Corinne Smith’s insightful, moving, and inspiring account of Thoreau’s ‘Journey West’ is a great pleasure to read and a most significant contribution to our understanding of the author of Walden.

—J. Parker Huber, author of A Wanderer All My Days: John Muir in New England

Tracing Henry David Thoreau’s longest, last, and least-known journey from his home in Concord, Massachusetts to Minnesota, Corinne H. Smith has woven a complex tapestry of history, biography and acute observation that would delight the sage of Walden Pond. In joining Thoreau’s 1861 trip to her contemporary travels on the same route, Smith becomes a true ‘deep traveler:’ not a tourist merely, but an explorer. Along the way, readers will not only get to know Thoreau and his young companion, Horace Mann, but such diverse characters as U.S. Grant, John Muir, Frank Lloyd Wright and a 20th-century Canadian artist bearing the first name Thoreau. …Packed with facts and astute perceptions, this is a book Thoreau would have eagerly devoured.

—David K. Leff, author of Deep Travel: In Thoreau’s Wake on the Concord and Merrimack


Seeing the Songs: A Poet’s Journey to the Shamans in Ecuador’s Andes and Rain Forest

by Gary F. Margolis

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Gary Margolis masterfully describes both his inner and outer journeys, as only an accomplished poet can do. He invites us to materialize our dreams, quell our nightmares, and experience life with indigenous teachers. Seeing the Songs IS being there. When you enter this incredible book, you enter a world where dreams and reality weave each other and “fact becomes poetry, poetry becomes fact.” A brilliant book!

—John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman

Gary Margolis has always been a poet, but in Seeing the Songs, he emerges as a Poet in the Emersonian sense: a Seer whose eyes are opened to the world and whose heart and mind sing back this wisdom in words. Moving gracefully through the re-dreamed jungles — both geographic and interior — of a journey to Ecuador and the remembered communities of love that he found there, Margolis transforms memory into vision and vision into a call for action. He asks us to come to know and to protect these tribal cultures and sacred forests on their own terms, not ours. At the same time, with honesty and tender humor, Margolis invites us to face our own fears — as he faces his — and to heed our own sacred callings.

—Rebecca Kneale Gould, Associate Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies Middlebury College Middlebury

Gary Margolis writes important poems about important subjects, which he understands in emotional and intellectual depth, as Seeing the Songs, this fine book, now demonstrates in his lyrical prose.

—Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough, New Planet

Whether sharing his intense experiences with Otavalo shamans in Ecuador, his journey through craters, playing ball with locals or his adventures in the jungle with the Shuar people, Gary Margolis genuinely shares his experiences as if unashamedly talking to his best friends.

—Ximena Mejia Ph.D, LMHC, Director of Counseling Middlebury College


Thoreau and the Aquatic Cats of Concord: A Love Story

by the Venerable Mina Chat
Caroline Alexander (Foreword)
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I am extremely gratified to be able to offer my endorsement of Mina Chat’s contribution to the Feline Canon, an endorsement based not only upon the intrinsic merit of her opus, but also upon my own profound appreciation of the fact that an able feline guide affords a human-person the best possible passage to the Natural World…Thoreau and the Aquatic Cats of Concord correctly draws attention to the many profound, if overlooked, contributions made by the feline companions of Henry David Thoreau to that great man’s evocation of Nature. As Thoreau himself observed, “…the most domestic cat, which has lain on a rug all her days, appears quite at home in the woods, and by her sly and stealthy behavior, proves herself more native there than the regular inhabitants.” It may be that there are persons surprised to learn of the many feline contributions embedded in so celebrated a record of the Natural World – but I am not one of them.

—from the Foreword by Caroline Alexander, author of Mrs. Chippy’s Last Expedition: The Remarkable Journal of Shackleton’s Polar-Bound Cat


Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food Systems in 21st Century Cities

by Janine de la Salle and Mark Holland (Editors)
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Agricultural Urbanism is an important book, one of the first of its kind, envisioning a new relationship of contemporary urban design to agriculture… The scope is broad and ambitious… It is about time [ideas about food system elements] were included in such a guide on designing local communities, and food system advocates owe a debt to the authors for this… The book is more successful in the conceptual realm, as their real examples are so brief that they serve little use except to suggest additional research…

The final substantial section, Perspectives, is the best in terms of both the development of ideas and the writing. The reader is subjected to fewer lists and is provided with more nuanced description that help define common challenges to the ideas in this book… [In one chapter, the authors] propose a thought-provoking idea about how agriculture and development might merge at the metro edge and how society might finance such an agricultural area…

For readers new to these ideas, this is a good book for planting the seeds of ideas about blending food, agriculture, and urban environments. However, it lacks any real political economic reflection for the urban theorist and any reasonable amount of details for the practitioner…

This book, as it advocates for a fundamental rethinking of how food is produced, where, and by whom, falls in the revolutionary camp at times and as such can be exciting and thought-provoking…

[Despite my criticisms], Agricultural Urbanism is still an important book, as most of the urban design and planning community is relatively new to its content. Even those who are not will find something new in this volume, something thought-provoking or inspiring, or something that provides backing for proponents of a new food movement that is grounded in the places people live.

—Branden Born, University of Washington, 2014 review in Journal of Planning Education and Research

In describing the contours of agricultural urbanism, the authors ambitiously discuss the whole gamut of the food system, including food access, the food economy, infrastructure, education, place-making, policy, and environmental protection…

The authors have drawn upon precedents, added their professional experiences, and wrapped ideas together into a framework that is easy to understand and apply

In presenting a broad range of ideas, Agricultural Urbanism provides policymakers and planners with a framework for thinking comprehensively and holistically about food in their day-to-day duties. The book provides a rich conceptual overview

Agricultural Urbanism remains an intriguing and important idea that is likely to be adopted more broadly as communities seek to address issues of climate change, food security, and urban sustainability. For this reason, developers, architects, planners, and city officials will want to understand the concepts explored in this handbook and keep a copy on their shelves.

—Nevin Cohen, The New School NYC, excerpted from a 2011 review in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

Urban and rural don’t have to be mutually exclusive things. Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food & Agriculture System in 21st Century Cities is a discussion of how within cities, food can be grown to help combat the growing demand of the world’s population by encouraging greater self-sustainability. Gardens, farming with free space and more, is a call for more urban dwellers to embrace agriculture as something more than for the farms. Agricultural Urbanism comes with many intriguing ideas, highly recommended.

—The Midwest Book Review, 2011 Amazon review; 5-star ranking

I am adopting Agricultural Urbanism for my course “Planning for Sustainable Communities”… This is an excellent book.

—L aDona Knigge, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Geography and Planning, California state Univ.


Zombie Factory: Culture, Stress & Sudden Death

by Michael Korovkin and Peter Stephenson
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Zombie Factory is a deeply compelling, sometimes chilling examination of how the patterning in which ‘stress’ is administered can quietly, but swiftly, push many people past the edge of themselves – ‘zombify’ them if you will. Transparent, fluid, and deeply captivating narratives are used to drive this point home in a cross-cultural manner. If you’re interested in stress as a concept to gain clarity around in your own life, invaluable insight can be found in these pages. On a personal note I can say I have experienced subtle, yet in many ways profound shifts in the fibers of my own life experience, through beginning to make better choices reflective of the messages this book carries – messages and suggestions to escape the Zombie Factory. This book isn’t just for the medical anthropologist ready for an exquisite ethnography; or any professional interested in shock and post-trauma, whom I also feel will receive great benefit from this book; this book is for you, and for me – it’s for everyone, really.

—M. Cleland, Amazon 2011 review; 5-star ranking

This remarkable book is a worthwhile read at several levels including learning why the odd title is most appropriate! We are all surrounded by and affected by stress. It seems like “we are what we eat” has a parallel in “we are what we stress about” and with equally serious consequences. Zombie Factory will make you think. Moreover, this volume of ethnographic descriptions is remarkable, perhaps the best read of the year. It helps that the two authors, Michael Korovkin and Peter Stephenson are two of the most imaginative and remarkable storytellers you will ever encounter. While they share the anthropological training, their backgrounds could not be more different. This explains in part the power of their joint venture Zombie Factory. For those who like human puzzles this is among the best read that you will find. And for those who like armchair travel, this is a prize volume. But for those of us who want to understand people, reading this book is an essential exercise.

—Barry Glickman, Amazon 2010 review; 5-star ranking

This is a REALLY neat book! Theoretically sophisticated yet accessible to lay readers as well as specialists, Korovkin and Stephenson have fashioned an instant classic in the genre of public and medical anthropology, producing an inherently readable, even fun, examination of how we think of ‘stress’ and how such thoughts can both destroy us and save us from the demands of daily social interaction. This lively and engagingly written book offers both critical ethnographic reflection and lessons for contemporary living.

—James B. Waldram, Professor Department of Psychology and Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Saskatchewan, and author of many books, including Revenge of the Windigo: The Construction of the Mind and Mental Health of North American Aboriginal Peoples and As Long as the Rivers Run: Hydroelectric Development and Native Communities in Western Canada

While still using the behavioristic language of the 1930s, Hans Selye generalized the concept of stress to life itself. We all are aware that to live on is stressful, and that we react to it in many different ways. There is so-called ‘good stress’ and ‘bad stress’, or low or high, or gradual or sudden etc:…Such notions are commonplace today…Stephenson and Korovkin avoid the pitfalls of reduction while at the same time accounting for the physiological mechanisms in a manner that is much more realistic. …The authors, both medical anthropologists, argue persuasively that stress ‘itself’ has not only become a commodity, but has also developed into a fetish object…They remind us that to complete the transaction, we also must be able to purchase an antidote, partial or otherwise, in order to resist the monopolistic tendencies of a singular cause. Hence vacations, long or short. We ‘need’ them like we ‘need’ to labor. What is less appetizing, though more tasteful, is to provide an account of the general patterns of cross-cultural stress, as this book does…Every potential whistle-blower – and the volume is replete with the most fascinating examples of this tension, from insider traders to Inuit hunters, to war crimes victims and aid workers, as well as those who keep them in line, like professional HR manipulators and spies etc., made all the more vivid and almost vivisectional through the ethnographic use of authentic narrative transcripts – is placed in the uncomfortable position of either going with the flow or standing against it. Whichever way we choose – and who is immune to this kind of situation, petty or profound? – there will be stress, and likely lots of it…One of the many advantages to Stephenson and Korovkin is that they use the narrative of real persons in real situations with which we can all identify to make their points…Every reader will be able to find him or herself in the pages of this book, which, despite the possibility of grandstanding interview subjects, is both stranger, and more strangely familiar, than any fiction…Stress is not a mechanism, nor merely a reaction. It is a key ingredient in the recipe for all social reality making and unmaking. We cannot escape it, and we should not fall into the idea that we can ‘manage’ it like we manage workplaces or other human beings, or manage to get out of bed in the morning and go to these places and see these others. Rather, the authors exhort us to critically examine the myths we live and die by. …Nietzsche reminds us that there are ‘necessary errors’ without which we cannot live. Zombie Factory, in a timely, concise and immediate understandable fashion, warns us that there are also unnecessary ones, the errors without which we could not die.

-excerpted from the scholarly essay Stress Out! No One is Innocent by G.V. Loewen is a professor of sociology at the University of Saskatchewan and author of numerous books, including How Can We Explain the Persistence of Irrational Beliefs? Essays in Social Anthropology and A Socio-Ethnographic Study of the Academic Professionalism of Anthropologists


Destination Mutable

by John H. Baillie
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Destination Mutable is the first collection of poetry by John H. Baillie and by this publisher of environmentally-based social and philosophical studies. Baillie demonstrates a secure yet poignant and quite distinctive artistic point of view, moving from the delight of lovers “no longer caring / where i end / and you / begin” (“familiar song”) to an acknowledgement of how beauty is known through its passing, as “smiles lost in dust-filled shyness” (“In the Late Afternoon”). He can smile at himself also, acknowledging in the title poem how “the only stones I have to work with / are words – and words are oh so heavy.”

—Allan Brown, Review in Jones Av. Spring 2010 issue

Facing his own imminent death Russian poet Joseph Brodsky found comfort in the stoic Roman words of Marcus Aurelius. W.B. Yeats spent the long twilight of his life weaving a grand work for the ages. John H. Baillie in his new collection of poetry, Destination Mutable, evokes a down-to-earth and intimate tone while facing a rare and possibly deadly medical disorder; more precisely his work floats just above the earth at the level of the heart…One cannot read Mr. Baillie’s book at one sitting because of its intensity. It is best taken over a few days. Yet the reader will be drawn back to the book again and again because this is the poetic record of a man living with (and eventually conquering) a tumor on the heart. This is the record of life thriving in the fierce glare of death…Admirably Mr. Baillie kept writing poems while bravely searching for meaning in his illness. As part of his struggle he seems to meet Eros in many guises: a magician’s assistant, blocks of marble brought to life, memories of love. The brush with death may be erotic and is often humorous…Eventually the poet seems to work out a type of spirituality (the floating as noted), perhaps in tension between the present life of crisis and that unknown which is still to come. There is in this book much hard-won hope as in “Waking Up Gautauma”:

Enlightened by a dream,
I could not help
but be happy

one day

—R. Romanowski, Amazon review, 2009; 5-star ranking

A beautiful and bold realization, Destination Mutable covers a vast range of stark, intensely realized observations. While true that the threat of mortality hangs at the threshold in almost every precisely realized poem here, these often koan-like gems offer new ways to see, to be inspired, and—yes—to live. Highly recommended. As this is Green Frigate Book’s first publication of poems, they should be applauded as well—for bringing Baillie’s work to surface and for producing such a handsome volume.

—Peter H. Liotta, Executive Director of the Pell Center for International Relations & Public Policy at Salve Regina University, and author of many books including several poetry collections including The Graveyard of Fallen Monuments, Amazon review 2010; 5-star ranking

John H. Baillie is a poet with a rare voice, and in Destination Mutable he reminds us of the singular beauty of poetry as a means of communication. He also deftly reminds us that the most interesting landscapes lie within ourselves…In this dark wood of the mind and body, when he was neither truly alive nor dead, neither here nor there, Baillie discovered that the journey of life endlessly changes through the very act of living, and the choices we make along the way. Through poetry he struck a blow against his, and our, indifference, our ignorance, our inability to consistently pay attention to the world around us…His relationships with people, nature, and most especially, his sense of what it means to be alert and alive in the world – rendered so nakedly on the page – are a potent reminder of the power of poetry to communication essential truths about life – and how to live.

—From the Foreword by Robert M. Abbott, author of Conscious Endeavors: Essays on Business, Society and the Journey to Sustainability


Conscious Endeavors: Essays on Business, Society and the Journey to Sustainability

By Robert M. Abbott
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Business needs resources, and the world’s resources are finite. Conscious Endeavors: Essays on Business, Society, and the Journey to Sustainability is a collection of essays from Robert M. Abbott as he offers his own thoughts and insights on the many subjects that the planet faces today, split into four subjects such as origins, homage, reflection, and renewal. Thoughtful and enlightening, Conscious Endeavors is a choice pick for the environmentally conscious business man.

—Midwest Book Review, 2010 Amazon review; 5-star ranking

One of the most penetrating questions Abbott raises in the book is in his introduction when he asks, “How do organizations form a vision of where they need or want to go?” Seems like a simple question, but sustainability isn’t always considered in a company’s answer to it. And yet, embedding sustainability in the answer can create strategic advantages for a company if its leaders take sustainability into account at every step of the way. This is why Conscious Endeavors is such an apt title for the book; it emphasizes the importance of growing a business, not for the sake of growth, but also to build value for society. The book is geared towards helping sustainability leaders within an organization build their profile by building the case for sustainability as a central part of business strategy. But rather than taking the tried-and-true “how-to” approach that so many business books do, Abbott takes the reader on a journey through the history of environmentalism, the sustainability movement, and the way it has connected with business. He includes in that discussion homages to several individuals that he considers important to the sustainability movement for the work that they have done to help us understand how we interact with nature, and the importance of how we treat our “natural capital.” What’s fascinating about this section is that it isn’t the same old names one might expect: …This is one of the most valuable sections of the book because it offers insight into five people who could explain the sustainability story very effectively. Abbott’s main thrust is to help others create an effective sustainability “story” for their organizations. He feels that this story hasn’t yet been told well or certainly effectively enough. …He offers plenty of guidance within these pages of how an individual can frame that story…Another thing that works in the book’s favour is that when there are case studies presented, they are not the same case studies of Walmart and other large companies that are continuously repeated in so many sustainability books. At no point do you feel like switching off because you’ve heard this story before. Conscious Endeavors is an interesting addition to the sustainability lexicon because it opens up the discussion a bit wider, adds to our knowledge of how the sustainability debate has developed over the past 100 years, and challenges us to reinvent what it will mean in the next few years.

—Robert Colman, in Green Business: Strategies for Corporate Sustainable Development, 2009

Conscious Endeavors is right up my alley and reinforces many aspects of my philosophy. The book is a treasure trove.

—Robert Bateman, noted Canadian artist, conservation icon and author of numerous books including Thinking Like a Mountain, and Vanishing Worlds

It’s 12:10 AM. I just reached page 65 and the 3 or 4 pages about telling the sustainability story linking that to our loss of ability to tell our own stories has hit a nerve. This is where I reside at my most frustrated. Why does the city carve our society into discrete, disconnected neighborhoods? Why can’t we tell our stories and share our common bonds and vital interests? For the same reason that we cannot realize a sustainable way forward when we all agree that what we have (that double wide Costco cart) just cannot go on. Why must we end the wild fish before we miss them forever? I’ve forever been a bureaucratic toiler, but this book is making me wish I had been a radical and is awakening my soul. I love this book. I’ll never sleep tonight as I plot what must come next.

—Dave Day, Director of Environmental & Safety Management, City of Calgary

Rob Abbott’s latest book is very thoughtful. It’s great to see him getting his unique approach in combining the whole person / whole society into the new way of business out into circulation through this book.

—Mark Holland, Principal HB Lanarc and author of Agricultural Urbanism: Handbook for Building Sustainable Food Systems in 21st Century Cities and The Eight Pillars of Sustainable Communities

I devoured Rob Abbott’s latest book it in two days. It was thought provoking and insightful, and I especially enjoyed his personal anecdotes. He is a great “story” teller and writer, and the book as a whole is still percolating in my mind days after finishing it.

—Kristi Peters, business manager

All I can say is there was a great deal of nodding in agreement while I was reading Rob Abbott’s latest book. Very interesting and artfully crafted speeches and prose, while balancing the dark and light green ideologies, not an easy task.

—Christian Schmidt, Stratos Inc., a leading sustainability consulting firm


Wetlands of Mass Destruction: Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq

by Robert L. France (Editor)
Edward L. Ochsenschlager (Foreword)
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Wetland of Mass Destruction: Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq, edited by Robert Lawrence France with a foreword by Edward L. Ochsenschlager, is a small but great volume on the Southern Iraqi marshes that goes back to ancient Mesopotamia. …The volume includes wonderful photos of marsh life taken by Western archaeologists and journalists. The author’s aim in this book is to save and revive, once again, the habitats of the marshland and its people whose lives were destroyed by the drainage of the marshes, especially after the fall of the former oppressive regime in Iraq in 2003. The hope is for the potential revival of al-ahwar (the marshes) in southern Iraq. The book contains many figures of ancient artifacts and writings. It includes over 30 photos taken from the 1934 Field Museum of Chicago expedition, others taken in the nineteenth century, as well as photos from other sources. These photographs give a rich view of marshland life.

Despite the destruction of the marshes, the author is optimistic, although cautious about the future of the marshes, if a sincere effort is made to bring back the material and the spiritual life of the marshland…In the ancient inscriptions, one quote stands out to predict what lately occurred to the marshes and their people: “Revolution, chaos, and calamity will occur in the country. A dreadful man, son of nobody, whose name not mentioned, will arise. As king he will seize the throne, he will destroy . . . the people of the land . . . The marshes and the rivers will fill up with sand” (p. 21). In his final piece, “Postscripts for Tomorrow: The End Is Nay: Eden Restored,” Dr. France hopes for the better because of the promises and opportunities for restoring marshes. He believes that many technical plans exist, led by many world-leading scientists, but wonders if this attention is “either war-guilt appeasement or anti-Saddam rhetoric” (p. 172). He warns of unrealistic expectation of the return of Ma’dan to assume their previous lifestyle. The author concludes his volume by asserting that success will be judged by the sustainable development of marshes.

—S. Hanish, excerpted from a review published in the Spring 2011 issue of Digest of Middle East Studies.

From the 1990s to the present, political discourse on Iraq has linked Hussein’s Iraqi government to weapons of mass destruction. In the book Wetlands of Mass Destruction: Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq, Robert Lawrence France draws upon this same language to address the marshes. The product of a 2004 workshop at Harvard University on the marshes, the book includes several papers describing the recent struggles of the marshland peoples and possible ways in which to support them now and in future.

While preparing for the workshop, France delved into existing historical literature on the region and was ”struck by the seemingly prophetic nature of much of the historic material” (p3). Although he acknowledges that one cannot simply use the texts of many years ago as a direct link to recent events, he includes them alongside the workshop papers. The result is rather fascinating. Texts of different times and genres, from ancient inscriptions to modern speeches, can be read in tandem. While there may not be direct links between the recent events and the ancient texts, what is clear from both is that the river and marshes are of vital importance for human survival. It is not surprising then that the water system became a source of power and a tool of power. Draining the marshes or diverting canals—either to flood cities or stop their water supply—was and is a very strong weapon indeed.

I must confess that I find the book a little confusing—even vague—at times, with all these different parts. At the same time, by positioning the different sources next to each other, one is forced—encouraged—to think about how these ancient sources on water as power reflect (or not) the struggles of the 1990s. As such, although the book was published in 2007, it still stimulates us to rethink how we should understand our historical sources. The present may indeed provide us with interesting questions in our study of the past.

—Maurits W. Ertsen, review published in the March 2011 issue of Water History

Not all books concerning restoration ecology that should be read by practitioners will provide ready-to-use methods or connections to larger ecological theory. Every now and then, we should be reminded of some of the philosophical and ethical matters that underlie this discipline. This short book is very useful in showing that the particular habitats we try to restore are parts of and interact with other systems, both biological and socioeconomic….Generally a very good and important book. The book should be read not only by restoration ecologists and practitioners, but it is suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about this part of the world and how closely connected are human and ecological systems. Again, a book such as this helps to remind us that when we restore an ecosystem, there are underlying threads connecting numerous and seemingly separate entities, especially the biological, human, and historical parts, together into a coherent whole.

—Keith R. Edwards, University of South Bohemia, Czech Republic; excerpted from a review published in the January 2009 issue of Restoration Ecology

Things are far from perfect in the Garden of Eden…If a reader is even marginally familiar with the massive environmental and cultural destruction in Southern Iraq, this book is educational…I enjoyed the great black and white photographs from the 1934 Field Expedition to southern Iraq, which were reproduced from those on display at Harvard’s Peabody Museum. The Bibliography was extensive and the Inscription Sources were esoteric. While the quotes and inscriptions were hard to relate, they were, nevertheless, keenly interesting, and the essays were just great…More books are coming on the Iraq Marshlands from the Harvard Conference organized by Robert France. We should all look forward to them.

—B. Howdy, excerpted from a 2007 review in the Spokane Exchange

Environmental destruction of wetlands and no regard for the place they live – sounds like a modern issue, but it’s not. “Wetlands of Mass Destruction: Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq” is an examination of the fact that environmental destruction, especially in Iraq, is nothing new. Ancient Mesopotamian warlords used to do the same things that would make environmentalists cringe, some of which can be drawn to the line of the most recent Mesopotamian Warlord in Saddam Hussein. An eye opening look that the ancient world wasn’t as innocent in affairs of the green than one would think, “Wetlands of Mass Destruction: Ancient Presage for Contemporary Ecocide in Southern Iraq” is an essential edition to any ecological history shelf.

The Midwest Book Review, 2008; 5-star ranking

Our world in the Twenty-first Century holds the promise of being more than an empty, dry, dusty scrap of earth fought over by armies, generals, and politicians. The terrifying vision of neglect and crass ignorance is countered by the pure joy of a wet verdant floodplain, a lush estuary, a dense interweaving of people, home, and landscape, as illustrated by the wonderful photographs contained in the present book. Yet the future of these places is held in a somewhat delicate and precarious grasp. The tension in our contemporary environment between the forces that may sustain or destroy the very tissue of our living landscape has established a need for constant vigilance. Yet, if we fail to recognize the signals, aided by the lessons from the historical precedents outlined in Wetlands of Mass Destruction, we will see the slow steady erosion of that which is most precious. “Places and possessions, both material and spiritual are appreciated most when we find ourselves in danger of losing them,” wrote Ansel Adams. The united expertise of planners, ecologists, landscape architects, scientists, economists, ethnographers and hydrologists is crucial where resources for recovery are tenuous and vulnerable. In the end, the activity of restoring places such as the marshlands of southern Iraq is humanely credible, with the potential to be beautiful in its outcome, and yet in the end utterly essential.

—Niall Kirkwood, Chair of the Landscape Architecture Department and Director of the Center for Technology and the Environment within the Harvard Design School, and editor of Manufactured Sites: Rethinking the Post-Industrial Landscape.

The passages excerpted and collected in this book are drawn from the cuneiform sources of ancient Mesopotamia—modern Iraq, the land “between the rivers”—and from the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament. All were written well before our era, yet their pathos and passion reveal a range of human emotion readily recognizable today. Their laments remind us forcefully that humankind’s penchant for destruction has little changed since the author of Job wrote: “Man is prone to trouble as sparks fly upward.” The Mesopotamian texts especially reflect direct experience with the floodplain of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a fragile landscape as vulnerable to human devastation in antiquity as it has proved to be today. In bringing together these ancient writings with an account of the ecological calamity besetting the marshlands of modern Iraq, Dr. France evokes the voices of the past to illustrate and explain the present.

—Joseph A. Greene, Assistant Director of the Harvard Semitic Museum and co-editor of The Archeology of Jordan and Beyond: Essays in Memory of James A. Sauer.

As the world wrestles with the threats of desertification, famine, floods, pandemics, water shortages, and pollution, Robert France has given us the opportunity to listen to the voices of past civilizations struggling with similar ecological devastation. These haunting quotes from four thousand years ago leave us to ponder whether today’s civilizations have the wisdom and the vision to avoid a world in which we are left searching for a “single reed marsh” in a “desolate wilderness.”

—Henry Lee, Director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program within the Belfer Center for Science and International Development at the Harvard Kenney School of Government and editor of Shaping National Responses to Climate Change: A Post-Rio Guide.


Ultreia! Onward!: Progress of the Pilgrim

by Robert L. France (Editor)
Matthew Fox (Foreword)
[wpspoiler name=”read the reviews”]
In the inspirational and magnificent collection of quotations Ultreia! Onward! Progress of the Pilgrim, Dr. Robert Lawrence France has truly added a unique and vital work to the rapidly growing canon of Camino literature. Much of the literature in circulation now about the Camino is either historical works or travel narratives. This is, as far as I know, the first book composed largely of quotations.

In terms of the structure of the book, Matthew Fox gives an inspirational foreword as to the relevance and importance of this book. Dr. France then provides a brief and informative history of the Camino itself, some of the reasons that propelled him to compile such a book, and an overall guide on how to read the book. Dr. France has organized the quotes as a Book of Hours. As the author states in his introduction, the book is divided into the thirteen stages of the Camino originally proposed by Amery Picaud and are further separated into the different hours of the “old Christian prayer clock”

With this book one can truly say that good things really do come in small packages. In addition to the plethora of inspirational quotes in the book, the size of the book itself is one of the work’s most salient elements. I don’t know how other pilgrims carry their documents such as their credencial, passport, etc., but I just use a sturdy Ziploc bag to keep excess moisture from getting in. This book is the perfect size to fit in a similar container and would favor a quick retrieval. This quick retrieval goes perfectly with the purpose of the book with regard to the hours during the day in which the quotations should be read.

I can vividly imagine sitting down on a rock or on the side of the path looking at the horizon before me, taking my bocadi’o and fruit out of my pack, saying my blessing, eating the day’s provisions, and then letting some of the quotes from this book motivate me and recharge me for the rest of the day’s walk.

I think I speak for all who read this book in saying a heartfelt gracias! to Dr. France for the time and effort spent in compiling such an inspirational work that will undoubtedly rejuvenate and encourage pilgrims the world over to continue their Camino and keep marching onward!

—Michael Burriss, Review in the August 2010 issue of La Concha, Newsletter of American Pilgrims on the Camino

One of the top spiritual books of the Camino: As a veteran on the Camino for many years, This is the book we read from, between our prayers The book helped focus our spiritual mission and also to uplift us. There are few books on this subject that I could recommend but this is certainly one that comes on top of my list. At the heart of each of us, whatever our imperfections, there exists a silent pulse of perfect rhythm, a complex of wave forms and resonances, which is absolutely individual and unique. This book helped us to resonance with the holy places we visited on the road to Santiago.

—Anon. review on Amazon, 2007, 5-star ranking

This little book is designed to be a devotional aid for pilgrims making their way along the Camino de Santiago…The basic concept is a good one. The book’s size and relatively light weight makes it easy to slip into a jacket pocket or the top of a rucksack. Most of the quotations are very apposite.

—R, Yates; excerpted from a review in the Confraternity of Saint James newsletter, 2008

Ultreia! Onward! Progress of the Pilgrim, not only made me wish I had traveled to Spain, but the entries were so inspiring that I found myself day dreaming about actually taking on the challenge of walking the nearly eight hundred kilometers of the Camino de Santiago…The book contains more than two hundred entries ranging from one line surrenders to full page soliloquies written by a range of individuals from the eminent to the well-known to the regular Joes. I enjoyed the attractive content and variety of the compilations from all the contributors…While many books have been written on the Camino de Santiago, this one is unique as it is compiled by the participants themselves…I am sure it would serve as a source of daily encouragement.

—J. McGregor; excerpted from a review in the Canadian Company of Pilgrims newsletter, 2008


A Wanderer All My Days: John Muir in New England

by J. Parker Huber (Author)
Michael P. Branch (Foreword)
[wpspoiler name=”read the reviews”]
What the author has basically done in A Wanderer All My Days is to use Muir’s “wanderings” as a literary device to give a detailed, thorough explanation of the many literary figures, scientists, artists, and academics that New England has produced. In this, the book succeeds admiringly well. You will meet people that lived in places that Muir visited,even if he never met them; in fact, you will meet people who “used to live” in places that Muir visited, even though they were nowhere near that place when John Muir set foot in their town! So, if you want to learn more about New England’s famous and accomplished people over history, this can be a fine book.

—Harold Wood, 2007 Amazon review; 2-star ranking

Huber, a scholar who has written on Henry Thoreau as traveler, spent nearly two decades tracing John Muir’s visits to New England…Huber attempts to fill in these gaps [in Muir’s writings] with extensive research—and ample speculation. Often this method yields impressive results, as when we read the notes Muir wrote in his editions of Dana, Emerson, or Thoreau. But when the evidence is missing or inconclusive, we must trust to our pilot to keep us on course. Huber has a comprehensive knowledge of the cultural history of New England, which he generously shares at every opportunity…The effect is a bit like following Leopold Bloom through Dublin, and, after a while, one senses that wandering, moving with gentle and casual meanders, is exactly what Huber seeks. A strict constructionist may resist this manner of travel, but Huber uses it, with considerable charm, to explore the vagaries of touring. Through his graceful prose we learn much about New England in the Gilded Age and Muir’s relations to that era…Huber admires that acme of 19th-century observers, le flaneur, the idler who, in Virginia Wolf’s phrase, witnesses “the spectacle of the moment.” And that may be Huber’s role as a narrator, a guide for our less than leisurely era, as he revisits the tradition of vade mecum.

—William Howarth, professor of environmental literature and history at Princeton University and author of many books; excerpted review in The American Scholar, 2007

This is a book full of promise…J. Parker Huber, in a well-researched and detailed account, tells of those visits [to New England] and of the people Muir encountered. The book is , as the publisher Green Frigate Books says, is a hybrid of travelogue and history and portraiture. The writing is skilled and readable. The treatment thorough…Huber dotes on the people and places Muir encountered…I longed to learn more and read more of Muir’s reaction to his wanderings along the trails of the East and his observations about nature there. At times that is offered, but it seems to get lost in the details; details that another reader might find fascinating and engrossing.

—S. Begnoche, excerpted review in the Ludington Daily News, 2008

A Wanderer All my Days” is a rich cultural history of New England as it is a careful document of Muir’s travels in the region. I’m fascinated by all the lives that Muir’s intersected. Parker Huber’s research is impressive, and he does an eloquent job of weaving together so much into a strong narrative.

—S. Pollack, review on Amazon, 2008; 5-star ranking

Written with the patience of a true scholar and the pleasure of an aficionado, J. Parker Huber’s A Wanderer All My Days: John Muir in New England is a delightful and deeply informative book. Huber is steeped in the lore of Muir’s life and travels. As a result, he has uncovered and delineated the vast network of Muir’s associations with the literary and naturalist luminaries of America’s early era of conservation, including many highly accomplished women. For the modern pilgrim, Huber’s book offers the added bonus of maps and geographical commentary. From years of assiduously tracking Muir’s footsteps throughout New England—much of it hallowed ground—the author preserves Muir’s intriguing trail from vanishing into the ever-diminishing past. Richly detailed and informative, composed out of Huber’s hard-earned intimacy with its subject, A Wanderer All My Days illuminates as never before John Muir’s connection to the New England landscape.

—Robert J. Begiebing, Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and author of many books, most recently Rebecca Wentworth’s Distraction

John Muir will always be primarily associated with the sublime wilderness of the Sierra Nevada and Alaska. But Parker Huber now offers an engrossing account of Muir’s five pilgrimages to New England, over the two decades starting in 1893. A Wanderer All My Days skillfully incorporates the landscape and culture of the East into the larger map of Muir’s achievement in a way that is thoroughly enjoyable.

—John Elder, Professor of English and Environmental Studies at Middlebury College, and author of many books including Imagining the Earth: Poetry and the Vision of Nature and Reading the Mountains of Home

A luminous contribution to Muir scholarship, A Wanderer All My Days artfully reconstructs the Great Man’s five trips to New England between 1893 and 1912. But this is so much more than a simple chronicle; J. Parker Huber effortlessly places us in the culture of that time in America, acts as our guide in retracing Muir’s steps, and most helpfully, includes a series of wonderful maps (lovingly rendered by Jennifer Irion) that light the way for those of us eager to recreate one or more of Muir’s sojourns. Muir is revered on the west coast as the founder of the Sierra Club, and students of environmental history will be familiar with his famous oratory battles in Washington, D.C. with Gifford Pinchott over the flooding of the Hetch Hetchy valley in Yosemite National Park. What is less well known, and what ultimately makes A Wanderer All My Days such a welcome addition to the Muir canon, is the sense of Muir as a private citizen, indulging his passion for relaxed travel. In placing us beside Muir in his saunters through the New England towns and countryside of turn-of-the-century America, Huber reminds us, as Muir would have wanted, that if we take the time to experience the land, we will learn much from it.

—Robert M. Abbott, founder of Abbott Strategies, and editor of Uncommon Cents: Henry David Thoreau and the Nature of Business

J. Parker Huber’s absorbing and prodigiously researched narrative of John Muir’s five trips to New England will fascinate those who admire Muir and want to know more about the scores of people and places he encountered. This many-layered book conveys Muir’s love of nature and his “passionate caring” about everything he saw. Along the way, Huber takes note of the overlapping paths followed by others like Thoreau and Emerson, and carries the reader with him as he follows in Muir’s footsteps.

—Rita K. Gollin, distinguished Professor of English, Emerita and SUNY Geneseo, and author of many books, including Portraits of Nathaniel Hawthorne: An Iconography and Annie Adams Fields: Woman of Letters

A rich banquet for anyone interested in John Muir or New England. Parker Huber shows that the two subjects, not often linked, belong together. Though usually identified with California’s Yosemite Valley and Sierra Nevada, Muir was first published in Boston, and most of his major intellectual enthusiasms and connections were New Englanders. Huber’s stupendous research and passionate engagement with his subject have produced an implicit re-visioning of Muir’s ties to the human world. The book also tracks the living connections between Muir’s New England and today’s, bringing the past forward to the present. When we go into nature, Muir liked to say, the clock stops and experience becomes timeless. After fifteen years of scholarly love and well-steeped devotion, Huber has absorbed Muir’s New England essence and brought him back alive.

—Stephen Fox, writer and author of many books, including John Muir and His Legacy: The American Conservation Movement

John Muir has been described as a “wilderness saint,” and the commentary devoted to him often seems to have extracted every possible meaning from his life and work. J. Parker Huber nevertheless illuminates an essential and underappreciated dimension of Muir’s personality and intellect. Muir’s many cultural and personal connections to New England are assiduously researched. Huber allows us to make the same journeys, see the same places, and meet the many eastern cultural figures that Muir knew well. The author demonstrates, with amazing detail, how both the landscapes and the cultural life of New England were indeed “part of Muir’s soul.”

—Ethan Carr, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Visiting Professor, Bard Graduate Center and author of Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture and the National Park Service

J. Parker Huber’s book, A Wanderer All My Days, is truly humbling in its degree of scholarship displayed. At the same time, the reader is happily drawn into the world of New England letters and landscapes with an intimacy so detailed that it almost feels as if one is a voyeur looking over John Muir’s shoulder as he saunters along with his characteristic curiosity about all that he encounters. We tend to delineate our world into elements that are either of “nature” or of “culture.” In contrast, this important book clearly demonstrates that at least for Muir, the master integrator, such a dichotomization is a false way in which to view our cultural landscapes.

—Robert France, Associate Professor of Landscape Ecology at Harvard University, and author or editor of many books, including Handbook of Water Sensitive Planning and Design

A meticulously researched and highly readable narrative of Muir’s five journeys to the Northeast.

—Lawrence Buell, professor at Harvard University and author of many publications and books, including The Environmental Imagination and Emerson


Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships: New Perspectives on Restoring Ecological Spaces and Consciousness

by Robert L. France (Editor)
[wpspoiler name=”read the reviews”]
Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships presents an interdisciplinary conversation on ecological restoration and design, described by editor Robert L. France as “procedures for achieving environmental integrity through remediating and restoring degraded terrestrial and aquatic landscapes”. This conversation emerged in an innovative and intentional fashion out of the 2001 conference “Brown Fields and Gray Waters,” sponsored by Harvard University’s Department of Landscape Architecture…The result is a collection presenting a good deal of consensus concerning the value of restoration as a social and ecological process, and a diversity of views on the values behind restoration. Examples and perspectives in the text are primarily American, although many of the issues, questions, and concepts discussed are relevant to global transnational restoration projects funded by environmentalist NGOs and international agencies.

The book makes useful contributions by articulating how restoration can be a process of healing-oriented interaction with/in living nonhuman communities, and exploring several practical dimensions of that “how,” such as the important roles that local communities and creative disciplines play in effective restorations. This focus on restoration as a socially embedded and healing-oriented process may avoid some of the pitfalls highlighted in Robert Elliot’s influential work on the dangers of restoration as “faking nature,” for the question on the table is how best to restore health after clear harm, not whether the existence of worthwhile healing strategies could somehow justify imparting harms. These theorists see well-executed ecological restoration as a process that necessarily involves human communities who come to the process with diverse values and priorities, but who can effectively be encouraged to have meaningful interactions with nonhuman species and communities through their participation in restoration projects, or by appreciating the results of restorations. Whether these potentially meaningful interactions with non-human nature tend to lead to “greener” ecological consciousness and therefore less future damage to nature is a complicated empirical question. With one or two exceptions the essays in this collection are optimistic about the role of appropriately executed projects, and especially projects with artful or ritualistic components, in raising ecological consciousness in the general
human-centered public.

—Chris Cuomo, University of Georgia, excerpted from a review published in the July 2011 issue of Environmental Philosophy

The essays by Light and Kidner are the most interesting…Overall, the book serves to validate many of the Elliot and Katz criticisms of the meaning and moral value of ecological restoration…The book advocates a new “paradigm of restoration design” rather than restoration ecology, thus admitting that what is involved in this process is the human intentional design of artifactual landscapes and spaces: the creation of “cultural entities.”

—Eric Katz, Dept. of Humanities, New Jersey Inst. of Technology; excerpted from a review in the Fall 2009 issue of Environmental Ethics

Robert France’s edited volume, Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships: New Perspectives in Restoring Ecological Spaces and Consciousness, attempts to fill knowledge gaps in a third type of literature on ecological restoration, that which aims to answer key theoretical “why” questions about how restoration affects our engagement and relationships with nature…While the “new perspectives” claimed in the book’s subtitle may not be entirely new, they are sufficiently fresh and different for the book to be a significant contribution to the literature on restoration theory…But these criticisms are minor compared to all the good things I feel about Healing Natures, and I would recommend it to students, practitioners, and scholars who wish to know more about the “whys” of restoration.

—P. Gobster, co-editor of Restoring Nature: Perspectives from the Social Sciences and Humanities; excerpted from a review in the March 2009 issue of Ecological Restoration


Healing Natures, Repairing Relationships was the grand prize winner in the Compilation/Anthology category of the 2009 International Green Book Festival, based on books that “contribute to greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing worldwide environment.”

Listed as one of the “Top Ten Relationship Books” on

“Given the current state of the science, the term restoration, taken literally, offers false promise. Although one view is that humanity has a moral responsibility to try to restore damaged areas, there is also a moral hazard in promising to do the impossible (e.g. France 2008).

—cited in Hobbs, R.J. et al. “Intervention ecology: Applying ecologic al science in the twenty-first century.” In BioScience 61:442.


Deep Immersion: The Experience of Water

Edited by Robert Lawrence France
Forewords by Herbert Dreiseitl and by Laura Sewall
[wpspoiler name=”read the reviews”]
Deep Immersion: The Experience Of Water by environmental studies respected academician and water management expert Robert Lawrence France (Harvard Design School) is a meditation on the power and profundity of water, and what it means for those individuals who embrace a close relationship with it. A spiritual reflection that is both informed and informative, Deep Immersion is an immensely moving, thoughtful, and thought-provoking postulation on the human condition and connection to the essential substance that brings life to our planet. Deep Immersion is enthusiastically recommended reading for academia as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in nature, the environment, and the contribution of water to diverse forms of outdoor recreations.

—The Midwest Book Review, 2004, 5-star ranking

As Father Teilard de Chardin is to the noosphere and Gaston Bachelard is to reverie, Robert France is to water—an oracle of agua. With the mastery of a Carlos Castaneda and the passion of a Joan Halifax demanding that the world change, this unabashed nature lover with a Thoreauvian intelligence and a sweeping frame of reference delivers a pagan-positive message: embrace whatever we most value in nature. Through us the world becomes able to see itself at last . . . a wonderful book!

—Lewis MacAdams, founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River and author of The River: Books 1 & 2

I’ve often wondered why I’m attracted to water—why I like to sit by it, contemplate it, plunge into it. Deep Immersion tells me more about my aquatic obsession than any other book I’ve ever read. But Robert France’s book is not just about water. It’s also about our unhealthy, indeed our perishing environment: I recommend it to anyone who cares about life on this beleaguered planet.

—Lawrence Millman, explorer and author of numerous books, including Last Places and Lost in the Arctic

There are few more important disconnections to heal in today’s world than humanity’s rift with life-giving water. Deep Immersion is rich with insight into water’s fundamental place in culture, history, the human spirit, and our individual souls. It offers a deep well for thirsty minds.

—Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and author of Last Oasis and Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?

The directionality of moving water is powerful, yet creates a peace. With water we can visit the world, learn to move with it, and be part of its moments. Through vivid depictions of the tactile experience of water, Robert France reminds us of the spiritual senses that proximity to water can awaken. Just as a knot in water loosens and untangles with time, our hearts and minds can likewise be loosened and untangled by the presence of water. Frozen, still, flowing, or as vapor in clouds, water has the ability to heighten the focus of the human spirit. Deep Immersion offers us—as no other book has—instruction in how to engage our planet’s water. Whether dipped into here and there or plunged into completely, this book celebrates a hymn to humankind’s grand aquatic dance. For as Thales—Thoreau’s favorite philosopher—wrote over two millennia ago: ‘Everything is water; water is all.’

—John Middendorf, professional river guide, international big wall climber, equipment designer and author of Big Walls

These essays eloquently capture the arguments against hardened, technical solutions to ‘manage’ water—they convincingly steer the reader toward connecting and interacting with water in its determined fluid form and unconstrained boundaries. This is a wonderful and inspirational book—It should be prerequisite for all students entering any learning program associated with studying, modifying, or for that matter living in the natural world. My, I’ve just said that everyone should read it!

—Carolyn Adams, director of the Watershed Science institute of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

What can one say about Deep Immersion, whether in print or in life? As Robert France draws upon a flood of creative writings in this book, it seems apt to compare his project with that of another distinguished scientist, Yi_Fu Tuan, whose writings cascaded from arid zone geomorphology to The Hydrologic Cycle and Wisdom of God, Topophilia, and beyond. But while Tuan turned from a focus on philia to more turbulent emotional questions, France offers an exuberant aquaphilia for those who are or might become lovers of water.

—James L. Wescoat, Jr., MIT professor and co-author of Water for Life: Water Management and Environmental Policy and Mughal Gardens: Sources, Places, Representations, and Prospects

Running deep through us, water is an element essential to life. Acknowledging the biological and spiritual life energies that embrace us like the two banks of a river is easy; capturing or providing that essential experience to enable or reinvigorate the connection and dependency we have with water is much harder. In his comprehensive and fully integrated synthesis, Harvard’s Robert France has provided us with a deep and thoughtful mind-body experience of the elemental strands that bind us to water. No one who reads Deep Immersion can remain untouched by the fundamental need to reconnect with our aqueous heritage. This book will not only expand your experience of the world to more fully include the interconnection between earth’s elements and our souls, but also why the need to cross over between disciplines is necessary to gain a fuller appreciation of life itself.

—Mark Chandler, international conservation director at Earthwatch Institute

In Deep Immersion, Robert France immerses us in water, its meaning and history, its literature and legacy, is spirituality and ecopsychology. Redolent of Thoreau, the book tells us how water is used, abused, and wasted; its importance to all life and to life processes. Deep Immersion also tells us what we must do to protect water as our most precious resource. France evokes all things ever said or thought or written about water, and offers us an exhaustive bibliography for yet further immersions on our own.

—Verne Huser, environmental mediator and author and editor of River Reflections: A Collection of River Writings and Down by the River: The Impact of Federal Water Projects & Policies on Biological Diversity

Requires imagination and willingness to take the journey: A fascinating book that makes you rethink water and its role as essential to our existence — physically, spiritually and aesthetically. A wonderful study of ways in which we think about water while taking it for granted. When I tell my students now that buying bottles of water would have been unthinkable when I was a child, they are astonished. France makes us think deeply about our relationship to water as a right or a commodity. Read it if you have patience with or affection for that which is not always linear.

—J. Swift, review on Amazon, 2005; 5-star ranking

In a time where we as an urban society are fundamentally detached from the natural process and life of water, Robert Lawrence France writes a refreshing work of reattachement and understanding. If you enjoy drinking water or looking at the horizon, maybe it is time to understand Water. Deep Immersion puts it all on the table by recognizing waters ephemeral qualities as the substance of life.

—C. Slater, review on Amazon, 2005; 5-star ranking


Profitably Soaked: Thoreau’s Engagement with Water

Edited by Robert Lawrence France
Foreword by Ann Haymond Zwinger
Afterword by Roderick Frazier Nash
[wpspoiler name=”read the reviews”]
Exhaustively researched and deftly edited by Robert Lawrence France (Associate Professor, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts), Profitably Soaked: Thoreau’s Engagement With Water compiles quotations by Henry David Thoreau from all of his many works, and arranged them under the headings “Adventure,” “Joy,” “Contact,” and “Contemplation.” Dwelling in particular on water as a medium that Thoreau used to immerse himself in nature and live life to the fullest, Profitably Soaked is an expressive and thoughtful collection that reveals a shining window into the life of a great writer and thinker. Profitably Soaked is a welcome and innovative contribution to Thoreau Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

—The Midwest Book Review, 2003, 5-star ranking

As Robert France shows us in this exhilarating and thought-provoking book, Thoreau’s visionary transcendentalism has its boots deep in the mud of experience; and it is this embodied vision that makes him so significant a seer for our dissociated times. Thoreau’s deceptively gentle style belies a profound radicalism that invites us to cast off from our islands of imposed intellectual order and to immerse ourselves fully in nature’s vitality and variety, inspiring us toward a fuller engagement with the natural world.

—David Kidner, professor at Nottingham Trent University and author of Nature and Psyche. Radical Environmentalism and the Politics of Subjectivity

Thoreau knew that water can change the focus of the spirit. Thankfully, Robert France has perfectly captured and consolidated the Master’s timeless work to bring Thoreau’s essence alive. This handy volume can be opened and read at random while visiting Mother Earth’s lifeblood, when we find the opportunity to connect with water, and be a part of its moments, whether it be a pond, river, or ocean. It is a collection of quotations that may offer surprise of the precise appropriateness of the casually chosen quotation. A reading from Profitably Soaked in the presence of water can spark a spiritual epiphany in ourselves, such as those that Thoreau himself sought and described with such commitment.

—John Middendorf, professional river guide, international big wall climber, and equipment designer

Again I am impressed with how alive Thoreau was – and after one hundred and forty years – still is. How still and focused he could be. How much of his communion, recreation and travel involved being with ponds, lakes, rivers, and the ocean. How often wet he was! How in love with the world he was. And I thank Professor France’s stimulating presentation “Profitably Soaked” for this gift.

—J. Parker Huber, author of The Wildest County; A Guide to Thoreau’s Maine

In terms of intervention, what knowledge, per chance would Thoreau have us bring to a cycle of culturally conditioned experience and the actions that arise from such conditioned states? And what knowledge would we descendents of Thoreau, the contemporary lovers of land and water, have to bring to the conscious construction of our sensibilities? My guess is that Thoreau would emphatically suggest knowledge born out of bodily experience with the natural world. In the present compilation of quotations, Thoreau charges us to walk, listen, look, and immerse ourselves. This is how we know. It is only with experience, with sincere immersion in the sensible world, that our bodies begin to know – and thus to inform our every step.

—Laura Sewall, professor at Prescott College and author of Sight and Sensibility. The Ecopsychology of Perception.

One would expect that an inveterate pondside dweller such as Henry Thoreau would have something to say about water. But who would have thought that he could be so ecstatic about the subject. And so eloquent. A fine assembly of Thoreau’s thoughts.

—John Hanson Mitchell, editor of Sanctuary Magazine and author of Walking Towards Walden, A Pilgrimage in Search of Place