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We invite our Environmental Law Section (ELS) members to stay connected and inspired through our new ELS Book Club.  Our book selections below touch upon environmental law issues through a range of styles and topics.  We encourage you to pick up one or more of the selections below and start reading along with us!  Register for an online discussion below (even if you don’t finish the book).  Additional selections for 2021 will be announced soon.


Thursday, January 21, 2021 at 4 pm

The Control of Nature
By: John McPhee (1989)

Register Here

The Control of Nature details the strategies and tactics in three places where people have been engaged in all-out battles with nature: Louisiana, Iceland, and Los Angeles

The Control of Nature is a collection of three essays, reporting three deep and engaging stories about our attempts to engineer our way out of the constraints nature imposes on us. McPhee’s writing blends a carefully-researched and lively mixture of historical and scientific facts, accounts of embedding with technologists and managers who are charged with “solving” the challenge of allowing people to live safely in harm’s way, and stories from the people who live with the resulting challenges and uncertainties. His three essays cover (1) the inevitably-flooding lower Mississippi River and the Army Corps’ efforts to contain it; (2) Southern California’s San Gabriel mountain foothills, where residents may not understand their vulnerability to wildfire and mudslides and the massive infrastructure that has been built to contain them , and (3) Icelandic efforts to deal with volcanic activity that threatens a crucial port.


Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 4 pm

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
By: Robin Wall Kimmerer (2013)

Register here

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers.  Through this essay collection, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. 


Thursday, March 18, 2021 at 4 pm

To be announced.


Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 4 pm

The Dreamt Land: Chasing Water and Dust Across California
By: Mark Arax (2019)

Register Here

Californians have redirected rivers, drilled ever-deeper wells, and built higher dams, pushing the water supply past its limit.  The Dreamt Land weaves reportage, history, and memoir as Arax travels California to explore the one-of-a-kind water distribution system, built in the 1940s-1960s, that is straining to keep up with the state’s relentless growth.  Arax describes the land and the people who have worked it – from gold miners to wheat ranchers to small fruit farmers and today’s Big Ag. Co-sponsored by the Sacramento County Bar Association.


Past Book Club Selections

  • Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (1962) (discussed May 7, 2020)
  • The Snail Darter and the Dam, by Zygmunt J.B. Plater (2013) (discussed May 28, 2020 with the author)
  • That Wild Country: An Epic Journey through the Past, Present, and Future of America’s Public Lands (2017) (discussed June 18, 2020 with the author)
  • As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock, By: Dina Gilio-Whitaker (2019)(discussed July 9, 2020 with the author)
  • Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson (1992)(discussed July 20, 2020 with the author)
  • Epitaph for a Peach, by David Mas Masumoto (1995)(discussed August 20, 2020 with the author)
  • Erosion: Essays of Undoing, by Terry Tempest Williams (2017) (discussed September 17, 2020 with the author)
  • The Rule of Five: Making Climate History at the Supreme Court, by Richard Lazarus (discussed Sept 29, 2020 with the author, co-hosted by UC Davis)
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How the Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein (2017)(discussed October 15, 2020 with the author, co-sponsored by the CLA Racial Justice Section)
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (discussed November 19, 2020)
  • Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility, by Dorceta E. Taylor (discussed December 17, 2020)

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