Environmental Themes of our Times Virtual Book Club

Photo: Chapleau, Ontario. Linda Pim.

CELA and the CELA Foundation (Resource Library for the Environment and the Law) are launching an “environmental themes of our times” bookclub. Join our virtual gatherings for a chance to delve into classic and contemporary works of fiction that cast a new light on topics we grapple with daily.

Led by one of our students, Flavia Zaka, these meetings are open to anyone to join, and will take place every third Tuesday of the month, at 7pm, Eastern Standard Time via zoom. Registration is required.

December’s Selection – Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape, by Lauret Savoy

CELA’s virtual book club Environmental Themes of our Times has decided on one more “encore” meeting for December 15th.  We will be reading “Trace:  Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape” by Lauret Savoy, a professor of environmental studies and geology at Mount Holyoke College.

From the book jacket is this line, “One life-defining lesson Lauret Savoy learned as a young girl was this:  the American land did not hate…. she has tracked the continent’s past from the relics of deep time; but the paths of ancestors toward her – paths of free and enslaved Africans, colonists from Europe, and peoples indigenous to this land lie largely eroded and lost.”

Join us in reading Trace for our final virtual book club meeting – Tuesday, December 15th, at 7pm. Registration is required.

November’s Selection – The Rights of Nature, by David Richard Boyd

In Canada and around the world, citizens are suing their governments for failing to adequately protect our environment. These lawsuits often allege such failure violates citizens’ rights to life, liberty and a healthy environment.  Some lawsuits, however, are alleging such failure also violates the legal rights of animals and other species – and they’re succeeding.

Canadian environmental law and policy expert David Boyd examines this new legal landscape in his book The Rights of Nature, which considers that if nature has legal rights, humans have legal responsibilities.

Join us for a conversation on Tuesday, November 17th, at 7pm.  Registration is required.

October’s Selection – Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler

A novel set in the 2020s where climate change has led to society’s collapse. A young woman starts a community and movement called “Earthseed” which believes it’s mankind’s destiny to spread life to other planets. Amazingly, though published in 1993, it managed to hit the New York Times Bestseller list for the first time in September 2020, although it is also considered a classic in certain Sci-fi circles.

Join us for a conversation on October 20th, at 7pm.  Registration is required.

September’s Selection – Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer

“Braiding Sweetgrass” is a collection of essays written by Robin Wall Kimmerer—a mother, grandmother, and celebrated botanist, professor, as well as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “Braiding Sweetgrass” combines scientific knowledge with Traditional Indigenous Knowledge to explore the teachings of plants. Kimmerer’s writing reveals that the plants around us are more than just stationary, photosynthesizing organisms—they are complex relatives that have many teachings and gifts to give, if we are willing to listen and give in return. This book encourages the reader to slow down and reflect on their relationship with the plants that they encounter—but may not even notice—on a daily basis.

Join us for a conversation on September 15th, at 7pm. Registration is required.

August’s Selection – Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

The next text for the CELA book-club gathering will be Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.

It is both meditative and exalting; it finds richness in solitude while embedded in nature. His reflections on society and the environment have become a model for deliberate and ethical living. Thoreau spent merely two years by Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, and ten years writing Walden. The themes in this work, however, permeate the rest of his writings.  It’s an invitation to deepen our thinking by reflecting on our environment: “[w]e need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.”

Join us for a conversation on August 18th, at 7pm. Read a few chapters of your choice or the whole (short) book at your option.  

July’s Selection – Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

Our enviro-themed CELA virtual book club selection for July is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

Widely cited as the book that sparked the modern environmental movement, Silent Spring was lyrically written while revealing shocking facts about the impacts of pesticides on the living ecosystem.  It was published in 1962, and by 1970, Earth Day was established, environmental protection laws were enacted in many jurisdictions, and organizations like the Canadian Environmental Law Association were founded.

Silent Spring was a wake-up call for a generation.  If you’ve been meaning to read Silent Spring someday, now is your chance!  While we will encourage people to read the whole book, we will focus our discussion on one chapter, “And No Birds Sing,” at our next virtual book club meeting on July 21.

If you don’t have a copy of the book or can’t obtain it from your library, contact us once you register and we will arrange to get you a copy of the chapter we’re discussing.

Our first virtual book club meeting in June was a resounding success, exploring themes from Henrik Ibsen’s noted 19th century play An Enemy of the People.  One of those themes was “speaking truth to power”, and now with Silent Spring we will be considering another author from the 20th century, again speaking truth to power, and again facing the wrath of people who didn’t want to hear her message.  Please join us!

June’s Selection – An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen

The first selection is Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, An Enemy of the People. This play has new relevance today in the context of the pandemic, and is a classic on the theme of speaking out on unpopular or inconvenient truths. You’ve seen it referenced in media over the last couple of months but have you ever read it? Here is your chance.

Access an online version of the play from Project Gutenberg

About An Enemy of the People
Henrik Ibsen was a renowned Norwegian playwright (1828-1906) and An Enemy of the People was composed in 1882. He left Norway and moved to Italy, and worked there, and in Germany before returning to Norway later in his life. He wrote twenty-six plays. An Enemy of the People deals with a medical doctor trying to tell the truth about a health emergency that people don’t want to hear. It deals with themes of censorship, liberty, and speaking truth. After one violent reaction to a speech, the main character says to his wife, “One must never put on a new coat when one goes to fight for freedom and truth.”

Many of the themes of the play ring especially true as we find ourselves coping with the current global pandemic, as well as on the anniversary of the Walkerton drinking water tragedy of 2000. The concept of “speaking truth to power” is one that underlies the work that we do as legal aid clinics where we are often representing vulnerable and at-risk clients who have been negatively impacted by government and official decisions.