The Green Boat

Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture
, by Mary Pipher (New York: Riverhead Books,

ago when my daughter and every daughter I knew were enduring middle school, several
of us mothers read Mary Pipher’s remarkable book Reviving Ophelia: Saving
the Selves of Adolescent Girls,
and then passed it to our girls. It changed
their lives and ours, offering tools to filter out destructive media and social
messages about beauty, and to find deep resilience even in the tumultuous world
of advertising-infested puberty.

psychologist, grandmother, and reluctant activist Mary Pipher continues to
write books that challenge and change the world. The Green Boat is part
information about our collective environmental situation, part meditation on
resilience for environmental champions, and part narrative, describing how her
small group of allies formed a statewide coalition of ranchers, farmers, city
folks, singers, grandparents, and children, Democrats and Republicans,
conservatives and progressives, that together stood up to TransCanada
corporation and their own state governor and legislators to oppose the Keystone
XL Pipeline’s intended route through the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills
and Ogallala Aquifer.

The book
is filled with human sense-making and wisdom, love for animals, beauty, and
place, and most of all hope. Toward the end Pipher quotes Czech dissident and first
post-communist president Václav Havel, who said: 

“Hope is not the conviction that
something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it will turn out.”

After their group organized a series of events and campaigns leading to what
seemed like a secure victory, TransCanada urged, and got, legislation that overturned
environmental hopes. The story ends in May 2012, as citizens describe to one
another what keeps them going in the face of defeat. The book ends, that is, before’s KXL march in Washington in February 2013 brought the pipeline to
widespread national attention.

This book is hopeful reading for environmental
leaders, and for anyone wondering if, in Margaret Mead’s words, “a small group
of thoughtful, committed citizens” can still change the world. 
It encourages all who find ourselves wondering about the value of personal
efforts on behalf of causes that seem unimaginably larger than ourselves. As we persist
in healing the world, Pipher explains, we are also healing ourselves, and one

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