Book Review: The Green Boat

The Green Boat, by environmentalist and psychologist Mary Pipher, is a meditation on activism and political engagement, climate change, trauma, burnout, and hope and healing. In my opinion, environmental activists do not acknowledge the very real possibility of burnout and the emotional consequences of our work often enough. As Barbara Kingsolver, the novelist and poet, said“Do you think we can keep doing this without paying a price?”

In Pipher’s words: “The Green Boat posits a trauma to transcendence cycle that begins with awareness and leads first to resilient coping and then in many people to what I call a transcendent response.” She details her personal journey through this cycle, finally finding healing and community in a local Nebraskan group that is fighting the Keystone XL pipeline.

Pipher ultimately posits that to heal the planet we must heal ourselves – our bodies, our minds, our emotions. The inner and outer worlds are interwoven, and without sanity within, we cannot hope for the sanity to deal with climate chaos, species extinction, environmental degradation, systemic injustice, economic inequality, corporate control, immigrants’ rights, endless war and propaganda…

Environmental and climate psychology are important emerging fields. If you’re feeling out of control and overloaded with terrible news, I’d recommend picking up The Green Boat. At the very least, you will know you are not alone in your worries about the fate of the world.


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