Hope is an Imperative (Book Review)


The Essential David W. Orr
First, a quick bio for those of you who might not be familiar with David W. Orr: He the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College and a James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont, as well as a trustee for the Rocky Mountain Institute, among other things. Around 15 years ago, he organized the construction of one of the greenest buildings in North America, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College (it would have qualified for LEED Platinum back then if the LEED standard had been established - photo below).

Hope is an Imperative: The Essential David Orr is a collection of essays, a kind of "best of". The book is not structured chronologically, but rather thematically. The first section contains essays on "The Fundamental", including an interesting essay on the role that love has to play, and how "we will not fight to protect what we do not love" (a Stephen J. Gould quote). The second section contains essays that try to define and explain the dilemmas of "Sustainability". The third section is on "Ecological Design", the fourth on "Education", and the fifth is on "Energy and Climate". The essays span 3 decades, but they are still very current and many are from the past few years.
Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College, a project of David W. Orr. Photo: Public domain.

The 33 essays in the book cover a pretty wide range of topics, but professor Orr mostly stays at the high level, identifying problematic trends, suggesting the kind of direction we could go in to improve things, and giving us glimpses of a different path, what could be called The World According to Orr.

If you've ever read anything by David W. Orr and liked it, you'll like almost everything in this book. The style and quality is very consistent over the years, and some essays seem to have been slightly updated (references to websites and technologies, for example) so that they don't feel dated.

I have to admit that I didn't agree with everything in the book, but that's fine. We shouldn't just read books that we know we'll agree with; it's healthy to be exposed to all kinds of viewpoints (so today, go get your news from a source that you wouldn't ordinarily go to, or get a book from an author you disagree with at the public library). David W. Orr is obviously a very intelligent man and his essays provide rich food for thoughts for those of us who want to steer the world in a more sustainable direction.

Update: Here's an interview that I did with David W. Orr.

To get the book at a 30% discount, visit Island Press via this link and use the coupon code 2HUG.

Then, join David Orr for a live chat on May 24 at 3pm Eastern.

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