Talking on the Water

Conversations about Nature & Creativity

Available at Bookstores Everywhere - October 2016

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Jonathan White
Trinity University Press
Publication date : October, 2017
ISBN: 9781595347862

During the 1980s and 90s, the Resource Institute, headed by Jonathan White, held a series of “floating seminars” aboard a sixty-five-foot schooner featuring leading thinkers and writers from an array of disciplines. Over ten years, White conducted interviews, gathered in this collection, with the writers, scientists, and environmentalists who gathered on board to explore our relationship to the wild.

White describes the conversations as the roots of an integrated community: “While at first these roots may not appear to be linked, a closer look reveals that they are sustained in common ground.”

Beloved fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin discusses the nature of language, microbiologist Lynn Margulis contemplates Darwin’s career and the many meanings of evolution, and anthropologist Richard Nelson sifts through the spiritual life of Alaska’s native people. Rounding out the group are writers Gretel Ehrlich, Paul Shepard, and Peter Matthiessen, conservationists Roger Payne and David Brower, theologian Matthew Fox, activist Janet McCloud, Jungian analyst James Hillman, poet Gary Snyder, and ecologist Dolores La Chapelle.

By identifying the common link between these conversations, Talking on the Water takes us on a journey in search of a deeper understanding of ourselves and the environment.

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An excellent introduction to cutting-edge thinking about the interrelationships between nature and human society . . . accessible and pertinent.

In 1983 writer Jonathan White, founder and president of the Resource Institute, a nonprofit educational organization in Seattle, transformed a dilapidated schooner into a floating classroom to which he invited environmentalists, writers and scientists to discuss humanity's place within nature and the vital spiritual and ecological lessons we can learn from animals, the land and indigenous peoples. Here, White draws on these seminars to pose new questions to the likes of Gretel Ehrlich, David Brower, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, and eight others. The resulting dialogues knock down walls to widen the floor of discussion. Rather than outline an answer to the ills of modernity and over development, they demonstrate the complexities of the problem. Although serious and informative, the interviews are highly accessible and, at times, even amusing. By sharing their knowledge, research and personal anecdotes, the participants accent common themes, like the the reality of an interdependence between nature and humanity rather than a romanticized independent natural world. Infused with passion and spirituality, Talking on the Water reminds us that if we abuse nature, we're ultimately abusing ourselves.