Green Books Campaign*: The Texas Legacy Project

10th November 2010

This review is part of the Green Books campaign.Today 200 bloggers take a stand to support books printed in an eco-friendly manner by simultaneously publishing reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using eco- friendly paper, we hope to raise the awareness of book buyers and encourage everyone to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books.
The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable. We invite you to join the discussion on “green” books and support books printed in an eco-friendly manner! A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

One of my favorite childhood memories is going to meet my grandparents at Dam B, Texas. They had an RV and would travel extensively when I was young. It was always a treat to go to this mystical place with cypress knees, green water (it was covered with algae), and all sorts of wildlife. PawPaw would bring bamboo fishing poles, made from his crop in the back yard, and I would fish, most often catching turtles. I’d break into tears, devastated for the poor little turtle, still not wanting to touch it. In the evenings we’d make s’mores, and I’d crawl up into the bunk space above the driver and passenger seat in the RV, cuddled with old quilts whose smell I can still remember if I try hard enough.

We weren’t the most outdoorsy family – my mom, dad, brother, sister, and I – but those early trips and the mysticism of East Texas stuck with me. The Texas Legacy Project edited by David Todd and David Weisman is a celebration of the people who allowed me to enjoy those woods and ponds, lakes and trails. The introduction begins:

The stories in this book are excerpts from informal and unscripted interviews with Texas conservationists, collected from 1997 through 2008 by the Conservation History Association of Texas. We see value in them as personal reminiscences, as citizen journeys, and as first-hand histories of conservation in Texas during the past sixty years.

Texas is a mythical place – it’s vast. It has 11 different ecological regions. Texas is the land of endless plains, mountainous regions, swamps, and beaches. Home to cowboys, oil riggers, fishermen, tobacco lawyers, and larger-than-life country music stars, Texas is a wonderful place to live.

The interviews, many of which are fascinating, suspenseful accounts worthy of a John Grisham or Steve Martini legal thriller, are divided by topics such as law enforcement, exploration, government, wildlife, religion and philosophy, education, policy, agriculture, communication, community politics, and sustainability.

Most notably for me, there was an interview with Geraldine Watson, who is legendary in my part of Texas. I live 20 minutes from the Big Thicket, one of the most fascinating ecological regions in the nation. Termed a “biological crossroads,” the Big Thicket National Preserve is home to “south eastern swamps, eastern forests, central plains, and southwest deserts. Bogs sit near arid sandhills. Eastern bluebirds nest near roadrunners.” (National Parks Service site)

It is truly an unbelievable place, and I feel lucky to be so close to it. Geraldine Watson is a large part of why I am able to enjoy this beautiful area of Texas. As many of those interviewed confess, the fight came to Ms. Watson’s front door. Literally: “We wanted a little bit of woods for [the children]. And I put trails through it and planted azaleas and ferns and all that sort of thing. Then they decided to make a big bypass of Highway 96,and guess where they took the bypass? Right across my woods!” So Ms. Watson joins the Big Thicket Association and becomes a force to reckon with.

It is this spirit, this die-hard characteristic that struck me again and again as I read these accounts. Similar to the Erin Brokovich movie and story, this group of people goes into the underbelly of big Texas corporations and does what it must to ensure the people are safe and healthy but also that the land stays safe and healthy and productive.

The book, of course, is a niche book. It’s not for everyone, but I don’t think it’s intended to be. The book mentions several times the desire for readers to pick it up, relate to it, and maybe take away the desire to preserve this place we call home. I’ll certainly be paying attention, and in that, and in its execution, the book is a great success.

A big thanks to Holli with Texas A&M Press for getting this great book to me!

*One of the most horrifying aspects of this book was reading about clear-cutting, when companies go in and clear the land completely, selling whatever is salvageable and often leaving the land barren. It is important to note that this book is certified as Mixed Sources paper, a product group from well-managed forests, and other controlled sources. Learn more at www.fsc.org.

  • Oh I am so glad you picked this book. I met Mr. Todd at the Texas Book Festival and when I found out a few days later that you were reviewing this book I passed your information on to him. I hope he’ll check out your review! He was incredibly nice.

    I am glad that you picked this book because you have memories of Texas that I definitely do not have. You did this book much better justice than I ever could have done. It sounds like a really interesting read. I hope to pick it up at some point and become a little better acquainted with the state that I’ve lived in for the last 12 years. I have to admit that I haven’t traveled much in Texas, but your review makes me want to see more of it and read about the people who have contributed to the conservation of some of the prettier areas in the state beautiful and accessible to us. Nicely done, Jenn! Love your review!

    • Carin! Thanks so much for your sweet words. It really was interesting, the number of people (ordinary people) who sort of fell into different areas of conservation. One woman in San Antonio (I think) ran solely on water issues because big companies wanted to build a new reservoir instead of using the existing one, and the old one would have ruined the area and been built on toxic land. She won and lost elections just on that one platform. I love real-life stories like this.

      My one gripe – and I guess I should have included this – was the format. It is like a coffee table book, but I think it would be more readable in a different format. I think it does it injustice to make it into a coffee table book because often people buy them just for the look, and it’s certainly not one I think I’d lay out in terms of aesthetics.

      You should definitely(!) do some exploring. A friend of mine has a show, The Austin Daytripper, and he shows all sorts of cool places to go in a day’s drive around Austin and beyond. Check it out. I think you might enjoy it.

      • Oh I will. I think I’ve heard of that Austin Daytripper too.

        I am feeling the same way about my book. I haven’t finished it yet because it’s a history book and SO dense, but I am loving it. I’ve reviewed what I read so far. I think it also would work much better as a regular sized book, but I have to admit that the aesthetics are quite nice. I just typically look at coffee table books as picture books and this one has some great information in it! So, yes, I feel like you exactly. Maybe we just need to view coffee table books as having valuable information instead of as something people just look at? Hmmm…I find that interesting that I really never read coffee table books because I see that as being for pretty rather than for information. Should I admit that? Probably not! LOL!

        • I did think about that, but I think it’s a bit much to expect suddenly this format to change the way people think about medium-format books. I’d like it to be more portable, that’s for sure. If they were going for coffee table book, I think the cover should have been much more eye catching. Ah, picky. It is what it is.

  • Eva

    I think I’m this book’s niche audience! lol

    • Yea! It’s worth it and made me very conscious. I want to join the Sierra Club, but I am NOT a camper. I love the outdoors, but at night I want my bed, or at least, “a” bed. 🙂

  • I want to do more, but for now I’m trying to remind myself that anything is better than nothing.

    Thank you for sharing this book. I’m a Texan, too, and I should learn more about my state.

    Here’s the Green book I reviewed. Hope you will stop by.

    http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2010/11/green-books-campaign-stuff-reduce-reuse.html

  • Great review! I love the personal elements and your love for Texas that is clear from your post. It’s nice when you come across a book like this that seems to be written for you!

    • Thank you! I think many people have a love-hate relationship with their hometowns/areas, but I do love my state.