Future Home of the Living God: A Masterpiece

Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God is a masterpiece of contemporary  American literature. After 16 novels, books of poetry, and memoir, and nominations for the Pulitzer, and winner of the National Book Award, this novel is a culmination of her storytelling, use of language, and imagination.

I’ve read and studied Erdrich’s works for at least 15 years, eagerly awaiting each new novel. Some have exceeded my expectations, others have not but are still excellent reads. But this one, THIS is an achievement — not just for her as a writer and artist — but for our times.

The writing is beautiful and flows with such ease, concise yet vivid description, that reading is seamless. The plot moves with tremendous pace and at times I was so full of suspense that I had to put my hand over the next sentence to keep myself from jumping ahead. As a woman with a daughter and sisters, and nieces, I was drawn to the main character, Cedar, who writes a diary for her unborn child — a record of a time when all that people assumed would never change was upended overnight.

If you are a woman of child-bearing age or a woman concerned about protection of women’s rights, if you are a a man who values women, a person of faith, or a citizen who wishes to understand this age, this time on earth, then you need to read this book. The earth is changing, we are changing.

In the dystopian tale, so prescient for today, she manages to still uplift the reader. She is a weaver of legend, personal destinies, and her own cultural perspective. Louise Erdrich manages to show us there is still hope, still good to be cherished and brought forward in all of us. Yet, Erdrich bravely portrays a potential future that threatens all we hold as good and right in human behavior, and the fate of the earth.

Hildegard of Bingen, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, scripture from the Bible, and Ojibwe elders all find voice in this story.

Find it at Birchbark Books, Erdrich’s independent book store; Indie Bound, or other online book vendors. Read the New York Times book review.

A Bountiful Land

Painting by Heather Hufton

For our national Thanksgiving holiday, I want share what I am learning about Kentucky farms, farmers, and the New Agrarians.

There are many young farming families starting new ways of farming that build the soil communities for richer top soil, healthier produce, and (whether they may know it or not) solving global warming by their practices.

With no till or low till farming, crop rotation, and companion planting, more carbon ends up in the soil. That improves nutritional value of the food but also takes carbon out of the air. A new movement is slowly happening around the world — The New Agrarians. You can get a true idea of what it is by visiting The Land Institute website and listening to their videos. You can learn about Perennial Farming — planting seed varieties that do not need to be replanted from year to year. This is the true revolution that is under research in the U.S. and Africa. It is the front end of the next revolution in farming! Its promise also gives us one of our best win-win strategies for a sustainable way of life.


COP 23: No Nation Should Be Allowed to Exit

COP 23 November 7, 2017

Jim Hansen addresses Making the Carbon Majors Pay for Climate Action:

In this short but profound address, Dr. Hansen calls out the U.S. and China, the two largest emitters of CO2, to fund critical climate action (carbon draw-down). The scientific and ethical basis of this action is described.

Hansen states: No nation should be allowed to exit.  

  • The U.S. is historically the largest and longest polluter;
  • Countries are already dealing with the impacts of climate change;
  • Since actions by a few affect all, and since life on earth hangs in the balance, no nation should be allowed to exit from its responsibility.

Hansen warns: The loss of island nations and coastal cities across the planet may already be locked in: green house gas (GHS) forcings are accelerating, not slowing.

From the Pachamama Alliance, listen to another cultural perspective about protecting the health of the planet for future and present generations of human beings:

Paean for the Earth: COP 23

Watch video presentations on solutions to climate change.  Be sure to listen to the report on soil sequestration of carbon as an important mitigation of [CO2] in the atmosphere. The two speakers describe the key role of agricultural practices, and how new management of soil not only will capture new carbon and invigorate microbial communities in the deep soil structure, but also provide new income and greater food security:


Teenage friends spending time togetherHere again the critical voices of young people speaking to us adults about protecting their futures in the decisions we make today.

Monday, November 6: Young People’s Burden :


This is also the general COP 23 LIVE Broadcast link.

Oh, Ring, Ye Bell of Clarity


Liberty Bell – oh ring, ring clear!

David Orr and Erik Assadourian discussed the challenge to reform education to meet the demands of failing natural systems on our planet and the prospect of 9.6 B people by 2050. See Security and Sustainability Forum and scroll down.

How do we prepare our children today for the awesome challenges that lie ahead?

Eric Assadourian noted we need two kinds of education, simultaneously: education for sustainability and education for resilience.

In their new book, EarthED, these two leaders in environmental education address six major areas that form the backbone of educational reform:

  1. EARTH DEPENDENCE – we are utterly dependent on earth’s natural systems to live; to be healthy, and to make a living, and for safety and inspiration. Most children today are disconnected from the planet under their feet, more than any other generation. Basic earth literacy must be taught.
  2. INTERDEPENDENCE – We are interdependent on each other and the earth. Social/emotional intelligence and moral education must address how we live together and the values we must share to assure life will go forward on Earth.
  3. CREATIVITY – Play is fundamental to developing and cultivating our imaginations; arts and humanities, dance and music – all develop higher cortical function (long term planning, critical thinking, novel ideas). In a problematic future with unpredictable events, the ability to create novel solutions will be a hallmark of generations growing into adulthood today.
  4. DEEP LEARNING – Learning how to learn, learning how to apply ideas that work in one area to another — to see connections, patterns; to think critically about tools such as digital communication and platforms. New Americans should ask: What kind of world do we want to build? We can be manipulated by digital platforms like Facebook; how do we account for and protect ourselves from intrusion? How can we think and act clearly? Learning to use systems thinking will be fundamental to a sustainable future for our coming generations.
  5. LIFE SKILLS – New Americans should be skilled in home economics by learning how to grow, harvest and store, and prepare good food. All should know about renewable energy, conservation of materials by reusing them and developing new materials that are more mobile – to be able to relocate communities with changing conditions in the environment such as flooding. New students learn how to create beauty around them while being conservative in their use of resources. Innovation is critical and related to working together to innovate and create new ways of living.
  6. EARTH-CENTRIC LEADERSHIP – Americans need to see the connections between our democratic life and the protection of the environment. Our forefathers recognized the fundamental requirement of education and maintenance of a democracy:

There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves, nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to readall is safe. …. John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817) .

The fact that the political apparatus for environmental protection has been dismantled in the last few months of the new administration should be of great concern to all of us. Decades of work to create the Environmental Protection Agency and the protections for human and wild life (Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, etc.) have all been cleaved to the ground. This requires the coming generations to determine how our democracy can create anew (reframe) the laws that represent us and protect life and limb.

How Fragile and Precious, Our Democracy

History and Justice

We Americans are in a world of hurt. The moral life of the country is teetering in the wake of a leader without a moral compass. The morality I write out is not related to personal morals but to civic morals–the shared values, ways of being and acting, that have given rise to a great country that once inspired other nations to follow our example. Well, that was true after WWII but has gradually diminished over the last 70 years. Robert Reich has eloquently outlined “How It Happened” — how the likes of Donald Trump came to occupy the White House.  Its worth, shutting your office door and having lunch at your desk, to listen to this presentation. It most clearly outlines the answer to that question. Its not about one party being better than another; no, its about how both parties are stunned, and have come to realize that Donald Trump as President is a “clear and present danger” to our democracy.

As I write and think about the country I have loved deeply all my life, and whose principles have been the standard by which I’ve tried to lead my civic life, my daughter, after a long 60-70 hour work week, finds the time to still get out on a Saturday to canvass for a candidate she believes in and spends more time signing people up to vote. Her husband was the chair of their voting precinct in the last election and is a leader in his union. These young Americans are making the system work. I admire and love them for it.

We have all got to get out of our normal routines, to stop and consider our situation for what it truly is: we are on the cusp of losing our democracy. At its basis, as Reich points out, is the assault on TRUTH. We have a leader and his cohorts who divert attention from the truth, and tell lies until the public in its confusion begins to question the very foundations of our shared republican life. We must act together–together–to step back from the brink.

For us: 1963 Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a Changin





A Good Book

A Good Book
A good book

There are few pleasures that reward better than a good book. I read both for pleasure and to learn how authors develop characters and move their plots along. One of my hobbies is reading the first and last lines of books. How does the author grab the reader’s attention, then hold it? How does he or she use language?

Yesterday I stumbled on a $6 copy of Ken Follett’s Edge of Eternity. Many of you may know Follett from his long lasting historical thriller, Eye of the Needle. Follett bases his fictional tales on assiduous research. Edge of Eternity is a contemporary suite of stories happening on several continents. Follett weaves characters active in the Freedom Bus Rides and civil rights movement with characters in East Germany when Khrushchev decides to build the Berlin Wall. It begins in the year 1961 and moves through the ’80s encompassing the civil rights movement, assassination of John F. Kennedy, and our fears and efforts to prevent a nuclear war with Russia. I stayed up very late last night reading.

What are you reading?


The Power of Stories to Foster Empathy

Research from Loris Vezzali, social psychologist, points to the power of storytelling, to fiction, in shaping attitudes. This NPR program features a recent study that Vezzali, et al, conducted to determine whether children who read Harry Potter novels change how they relate to stygmitized groups of people (disabled, immigrants, or “other”).

Recent research shows that extended contact via story reading is a powerful strategy to improve out-group attitudes. We conducted three studies to test whether extended contact through reading the popular best-selling books of Harry Potter improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups (immigrants, homosexuals, refu-gees). Results from one experimental intervention with elementary school children and from two cross-sectional studies with high school and university students (in Italy and United Kingdom) supported our main hypothesis. Identification with the main character (i.e., Harry Potter) and disidentification from the negativcharacter (i.e., Voldemort) moderated the effect. Perspective taking emerged as the process allowing attitude improvement. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed in the context of extended intergroup contact and social cognitive theory

Here’s the link to the NPR story below:


Loris Vezzali ResearchGate

The Wisdom of Kentucky Farmers

When confusion reigns, I turn to voices of clarity to reset my “compass”. Wendell Berry is a wise Kentucky farmer, prolific author and poet, and activist for conservation of nature. Find a quiet time to enjoy this lively discussion full of nuggets of knowledge from a man whose vision provides direction for millions.