Incredibly beautiful, incredibly wise. We want to read it again and again.
Co-presented with Orion Magazine, this Climate Reads discussion took place on June 29, 2021. Professor Leah Stokes moderated this conversation with transnational Indigenous scholar Dr. Jessica Hernandez, and philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore.
Missed the live event? Watch the recording!
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise” (Elizabeth Gilbert).
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Praise for Braiding Sweetgrass
A New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times Bestseller
Named a “Best Essay Collection of the Decade” by Literary Hub
A Book Riot “Favorite Summer Read of 2020”
A Food Tank Reading Recommendation for Fall 2020
“BRAIDING SWEETGRASS IS INSTRUCTIVE POETRY. [SHE] HAS PUT THE SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP THAT CHIEF SEATTLE CALLED THE ‘WEB OF LIFE’ INTO WRITING. INDUSTRIAL SOCIETIES LACK THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE INTERRELATIONSHIPS THAT BIND ALL LIVING THINGS–THIS BOOK FILLS THAT VOICE. I ENCOURAGE ONE AND ALL TO READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS.”
– Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Onondaga Nation and Indigenous Environmental Leader
“ROBIN WALL KIMMERER OPENS A SENSE OF WONDER AND HUMILITY FOR THE INTELLIGENCE IN ALL KINDS OF LIFE WE ARE USED TO NAMING AND IMAGINING AS INANIMATE” – Krista Tippett, host of On Being
Dr. Jessica Hernandez is a transnational Indigenous scholar, scientist, and community advocate based in the Pacific Northwest. She has an interdisciplinary academic background ranging from marine sciences to forestry. Her work is grounded on her Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing. She advocates for food, climate, and environmental justice through her scientific and community work and strongly believes that Indigenous sciences can heal our Indigenous lands. Her book, Fresh Banana Leaves: Healing Indigenous Landscapes through Indigenous Science, is forthcoming this Spring ’22.
Kathleen Dean Moore is a philosopher and writer from the Pacific Northwest. For many years Distinguished Professor of environmental ethics at Oregon State University, she left the university to write and speak about the moral urgency of the climate and extinction crises. Her recent books are Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril; Great Tide Rising: Toward Clarity and Moral Courage in a Time of Planetary Change; Earth’s Wild Music; and Bearing Witness: The Human Rights Case Against Fracking and Climate Change.
With her colleagues at the Spring Creek Project, she has made a number of films, including “The Extinction Variations” (a words and music collaboration with classical pianist Rachelle McCabe), “Music to Save Earth’s Songs” (twenty tiny concerts celebrating frogsong, wolfhowl, and others), and “Bedrock Rights: A New Foundation for Global Action Against Fracking and Climate Change.” She writes from Corvallis, Oregon and from a small cabin where two creeks and a bear trail meet a tidal cove in Southeast Alaska.
Leah Stokes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and affiliated with the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). I work on energy, climate and environmental politics. Within American Politics, my work focuses on representation and public opinion; voting behavior; and public policy, particularly at the state level. Within environmental politics, I research climate change, renewable energy, water and chemicals policy. My book, Short Circuiting Policy, examines the role that utilities have played in promoting climate denial and rolling back clean energy laws. It was named the Best Energy Book of 2020 by the AES and listed as a top 5 climate book from 2020 by the NYT. I also contributed to the anthology, All We Can Save, which is a collection of essays written by influential women in the climate space. I co-host the podcast “A Matter of Degrees.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability. From www.robinwallkimmerer.com.