Book Club Highlights Natural World, Conservation Action

mhcbc-graphicA new book club is bringing together individuals with an interest in conservation, sustainability topics and the natural world.

The Mississippi Hill Country Book Club, which meets monthly, is facilitated by Strawberry Plains Audubon Center (SPAC) and is free and open to the public. The club meets the first Tuesday of every month, and the second meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7 in the library of the historic Davis House at Strawberry Plains in Holly Springs.

“[Through the book club] we wanted to get people more aware of issues in our area and use whatever the topics of the books might be to get people engaged in local conservation action,” said SPAC Education Manager Mitch Robinson, who organized the book club.

The club convened for the first time in February to discuss selections of David George Haskell’s “The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature,” which explores the local diversity in one square meter of the forest floor in Shakerag Hollow, atop the Cumberland Plateau in Sewanee, Tennessee over a calendar year. Haskell will deliver the University of Mississippi’s Earth Day Keynote Address on at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 as part of the annual Green Week celebration, following the April 4 release of his second book, “The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature’s Great Connectors.”

For March, the book club will finish reading and discussing “The Forest Unseen,” as well as selected poems by Mary Oliver and “Transpersonal Psychology and the Ecological Conscience,” an article from the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology by James A. Swan, which focuses on Aldo Leopold’s “Ecological Conscience” through cultivating an affinity with the natural world.

The most enjoyable part of our first book club meeting, for me at least, was meeting such a wide variety of people from all over North Mississippi and getting to hear about their lives,” said Maggie Smith, a University of Mississippi English major and book club member. “It’s a chance to learn about our environment, perhaps a little more about science and spirituality, and most definitely a little more about the wide variety of people who make up Mississippi.”

The first meeting drew 12 participants, ranging from UM students and a young professional from Oxford to a homesteading couple from Olive Branch and a wildlife biologist. Participants cited several reasons for why they were interested in the book club, from the topics the club will discuss to the setting of the club meetings.

“The topics we will cover in MHCBC—changing land use practices’ effects on the environment, nature observation enlightenment, the importance of co-existing with the natural world using sustainable practices—are so basically important to experiences we encounter daily in our life,” said wildlife biologist and book club member Kristina Mitchell. “There is no pressure at the meetings to speak either, if one may feel uncomfortable about that. Participating just by reading and showing up is good enlightenment with a very warm and accepting group.”

To learn more or join the club, contact Mitch at mrrobinson@audubon.org.

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