April Read: Mary Pipher’s The Green Boat

By Olivia Dorothy

This month, the book club will be reading and discussing The Green Boat by Mary Pipher, an acclaimed clinical psychologist.  In The Green Boat, Pipher writes about the psychology behind environmental conflicts and the need to find hope in so much despair and loss.  Which, in choosing my career as an environmental advocate, I have found can sometimes feel overwhelming.  A fellow colleague once told me, “in the environmental field, every victory is temporary… every loss is permanent.”

There are many days that I feel like I’m trying to tear down a brick wall and I wonder, how can I keep going?  Most days, I’ll look for ways to just blow off the steam, hit the gym, try to find and pull every single weed in my yard, etc.  If I have time, I’ll find a quiet place to find some piece and beauty in nature, like drinking tea in front of the bird feeder or visiting a favorite park.  But these are quick fixes.

What really helps are the rare days that I get lucky.  Because on some days, I win.

And what keeps me going is that hope that I can eventually win the fight.  Stop the next levee, remove this dam, protect the forest, save that species.  I’ve just got to keep working.

But me, I’m the choir.  When we deal with an environmental crisis as big as climate change, it can’t be a one-person army.  The causes are too complex and entangled with the day to day life of everyone.  Fixing climate change means changing our way of life, which Pipher sums up in her book,

“We can deal with our cultural and environmental crises only after we deal with our human crisis of trauma, denial, and emotional paralysis.  This will require the most difficult of all human endeavors, facing our own despair.  This involves waking up from our trance of denial, facing our own pain and sorrow, accepting the world as it is, adapting and living more intentionally.”

This may be easy for those of us environmentally-minded folks, but for many facing the realities of climate change, our own contributions to it, and the consequences is just unbearable.  In her book, Pipher explains strategies and approaches to remedy the various stages of climate denial (or despair) and talks about her own experience working to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline.

The book is fascinating, educational, and a surprisingly quick read.  Pick up a copy today and join us for discussion on April 18 at 5:45 in the Moline Public Library.


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