Northfield book, film discussion group grapples with environmental issues

  • Members of an environmental discussion group, from left, John Nylander, Mike LaRue and Judy Wagner, discuss works by author Wendell Berry while meeting Thursday night at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mike LaRue discusses works by author Wendell Berry with members of an environmental discussion group while meeting Thursday night at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of an environmental discussion group, from left, Laura Kaye, Julia Blyth, John Nylander, Mike LaRue and Judy Wagner, discuss works by author Wendell Berry while meeting Thursday night at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Books by Wendell Berry were discussed by members of an environmental discussion group during a meeting Thursday night at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Julia Blyth discusses works by author Wendell Berry with members of an environmental discussion group while meeting Thursday night at Dickinson Memorial Library in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/13/2020 5:53:46 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 5:53:00 PM

NORTHFIELD — Two things have always been close to Northfield resident Emily Koester’s heart: supporting children and the environment.

Though she pursued a career in early childhood development, Koester has been able to focus on her other passion, too, helping to found an environmental discussion group five years ago.

“In my mind, climate change is the fundamental issue,” Koester said. “I’ve been passionate about the environment most of my life.”

The discussion group meets monthly, currently on the second Thursday of the month, at Dickinson Memorial Library to read books or watch films about ongoing environmental issues. The group’s next scheduled meeting is Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.

Since it was formed, the group has read, watched and discussed more than 50 books and movies, with 100 more in their list of “suggested” titles, Koester said. Each book is read and discussed “in chunks” to ensure each member can keep up and fully digest the information.

Koester has helped facilitate the meetings for the past five years, though she is stepping down from the leading role. In 2013, she approached Dickinson Memorial Library’s Programming Librarian Matt Atwood with the idea of starting the discussion group, having been inspired after taking part in a similar Hampshire County group and reading “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” by Naomi Klein.

The initial group enjoyed the book and topic, Koester said, leading them to brainstorm other books and movies in the theme of climate change and environmental issues. The list has continued to grow with each meeting, though more members are welcome.

“We want to welcome a diversity of opinion and thought around what would be a solution to the climate crisis because it will take all of us to solve it,” Koester said.

For the group to be hosted at the library, the library needs enough copies of the books for each member of the group. The number of attendees changes, but ranges from eight to 12 people coming from neighboring communities. Around 20 people are on a mailing list to keep up with the group’s activity.

Sometimes, the group “gets creative” when choosing media items to discuss. Once, they read the pope’s environmental encyclical.

“It was really powerful,” Koester said.

After organizing the monthly meetings for years, Koester said the facilitator role will rotate so the responsibility of organizing and running the meetings is a shared effort. This may also open the door for more creative endeavors, she said. In past, the group has invited authors and guest speakers, which its members hope to continue.

Books for future discussion include “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman, “Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities” by Mindy Fullilove and “Arctic Dreams” by Barry Lopez. Several films and visits from guest speakers are also planned.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.


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