We’re excited to share a selection from the wonderful books that grace the shelves of EEI’s beloved bus library. We hope to make this a semi-regular feature. To start, we’ve chosen to highlight some of the authors that bus groups have met with while travelling recently on Pacific Northwest semesters (we’ve met with five of the authors mentioned below recently and a couple others further in the past), as well as books often plucked off the shelves by students.
We want to offer this one aspect of bus learning to everyone — a way to share in the experience without leaving your home or chair! To bus alumni, it will be a reminder of the power of a book to be a catalyst in changing one’s worldview as well as a glimpse into some of the life-changing books for a new generation. For new and potential students, it will be a taste of the education that is available through the on-bus library and the depth that is added in meeting with their authors.
Recent students found Derrick Jensen’s Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution, though published in 2004, current and stimulating. Jensen is a teacher of writing and a writer, social critic, and environmentalist, who has been an inspiring resource person for bus students and faculty alike. His critique of the current educational system resonates with EEI’s philosophy. In person he is straight talking, funny, a bit profane, and radical. Some would say he “pulls no punches,” but at the same time he takes student ideas and concerns to heart and engages them with complete respect. His conversations often challenge the norms, even those progressives love, as does the way he speaks. He challenges us to think. Jensen asserts that we tell lies to ourselves (and others) in order to keep on living like we do. His writing intertwines his passion for the natural world with his critique of the educational system that often causes us to recognize, but not feel, the impacts of our choices.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants by botanist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer, served as a guiding light for the recent Pacific Northwest semester. It was assigned as a pre-semester reading and led to a shared value of being grateful together as a community. This then evolved into a daily practice of sharing gratitudes before dinner. It’s a beautifully written book that calls us to awaken to our reciprocal relationships with the rest of the world through the lenses of science and indigenous ways of knowing and poetic storytelling.
South Asian social justice activist Harsha Walia spoke in Bellingham, WA, at a 2017 International Day of Peace event that the bus community attended. Students were inspired as she shared her work with Canada’s No One is Illegal organization for migrants and their allies. You can explore this work and more through her book, Undoing Border Imperialism. Vijay Prashad, author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (also worth exploring), recommends this work, which brings together short contributions of over 20 writers and activists, saying: “This is both a manual and a memoir, a guide to the world and a guide to the organizer’s heart.”
Leadership Can Be Taught: A bold approach to a complex world by Sharon Daloz Parks acknowledges the complex interrelationships that 21st century leaders are being called to explore, including what is known about the self. Daloz Parks regularly illuminates the “learning by doing” approach of Harvard educator Ronald Heifetz who crafted classes where students were learning and practicing leadership within a social group – the group being the class in which they were enrolled. His assumption was that each group generates its own set of issues grounded in the content and context of the “class.” Navigating issues in the real time and space of the class, offers experience in engaging real world problems with unclear solutions. Capitalizing on what we often refer to in bus life as “teachable moments,” connections can be made between course content and our lived experiences. Opportunities emerge that highlight our own and others biases and assumptions. This is deep work about how we know what we know and what our relationship is with power and authority, with a potential outcome being “…helping a group make progress on the toughest issues that lie in the space between known problems and unknown solutions.”
Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World is a great read for connecting to the wet environments of the Pacific Northwest, but goes far beyond them in scope. Stamets has travelled the world learning about and sharing the many contributions of mushrooms. His ideas about “mycorestoration” are applicable almost anywhere and accompanying research has demonstrated the effectiveness of mycelium in filtering biological and chemical pathogens, in decomposing toxic waste, in controlling erosion, in eradicating carpenter ants and termites without pesticides, in renewing soils, to name just a few of their benefits. Stamets also speaks about mushrooms aiding human health and nutrition and gives detailed information about more than 25 species.
The musician Dana Lyons is beloved by bus groups for his caring, enthusiasm, and dedication, and for his ability to entice students to share their musical talents around a campfire. His lyrics to the song The Tree are paired with illustrator David Danioth’s extraordinary images in the book of the same name. This is a wonderful, moving book for reading aloud for all ages and calls us to action for the ancient rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, in particular, and imperilled environments everywhere.
Cindy Milstein’s, Rebellious Mourning: The collective work of grief, carries forward, to a new generation, through essays and stories, the recognition of the role of grief experienced by social and environmental justice activists. These concerns first came to the bus through Joanna Macy’s pioneering work in Coming Back to Life along with her other books and workshops. They make a powerful pair for recognizing, addressing, and living through loss, suffering, and feelings of hopelessness to collective empowerment and the ability to put passion into action. This work is never more important than in today’s political climate.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is just a book about gardening! Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren brings together nearly 25 years of exploring the practices of permanent agriculture and how the idea progressed beyond this original conception to explore more deeply a larger sense of the systems that make up the world around us. Drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems, permaculture practitioners seek to design homes and communities with awareness and intention that are in harmony with the place they inhabit. Permaculture is in alignment with the work of Janine Benyus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature, which illustrates the benefits that engineers, product designers, businesses, architects (notice the range of application of these ideas) have reaped from emulating nature, rather than working against it.
It’s obvious from this tiny glimpse into the shelves in the back of the bus that the library is a treasure trove of learning, touching on all of the curricular themes in a semester. Baseline reading helps EEI bus students become informed about and immersed in the regions we are exploring as well as larger social and global issues. They can help you too, so enjoy exploring!
For visuals of the bus library check out our post about the bus as a tiny house.