Chelsea Green Publishing

Angels by the River

Pages:224 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603585859
Pub. Date October 31, 2014
Paperback: 9781603586320
Pub. Date September 23, 2015

Angels by the River

A Memoir

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 31, 2014


Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
September 23, 2015


Angels by the River follows James Gustave Speth’s unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism.

In this compelling memoir, Speth explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone willing to be arrested in front of the White House.

Born and raised in a town where both the best and worst of the South shone through—a town that eventually became the scene of South Carolina’s horrific Orangeburg Massacre—Speth explores how the civil rights movement and the South’s agrarian roots influenced his academic career at Yale and later work in the heyday of the environmental movement, when he helped launch two landmark and influential environmental groups—the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Resources Institute—advise the White House on climate and other emerging issues, and lead the UN’s development efforts around the globe.

Speth fought to create and uphold the nation’s toughest environmental laws, but now believes a new environmentalism is needed to confront today’s challenges. The advancing climate crisis cannot be addressed, he warns, as long as we remain fixated on endless growth and consumption, corporate profits, increasing the incomes of the well-to-do, neglecting those just getting by, and helping abroad only modestly.

An American tale, in all its complexity, Speth’s memoir is an inspiration—especially for readers contemplating how to make a difference in an increasingly complex world.


"I have been fortunate to know this remarkable man, and now readers can, too. I urge you to accompany Gus Speth through his early life in the segregated South, the liberal North, the heady days of the environmental movement and his disenchantment with inside-the-system fixes. You will find the journey engrossing, eye opening, inspiring, and deeply moving.”--Juliet Schor, co-founder of the Center for a New American Dream and author of True Wealth

Kirkus Reviews-

"Speth—the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Resources Institute—tells of his nearly idyllic boyhood in segregated Orangeburg, South Carolina, in the 1940s and 1950s, of his awakening to the evils of racism in the 1960s—he was away at Yale Law School during the infamous Orangeburg Massacre of 1968—and of his growing awareness of the power of social movements. He chronicles how he poured his youthful energy into environmental advocacy because he believed that he 'had largely missed one great American struggle, civil rights, and…did not want to miss another.' The author writes modestly of his distinguished career, explaining the jobs he held and the ones he didn't get, offers generous praise to those who taught him and helped him along the way, and gives a nod to the role played by sheer good luck. Beyond the biographical data, though, Speth is using his memoir to send a message developed in his earlier books: Red Sky at Morning, The Bridge at the Edge of the World and America the Possible. The author pulls no punches in charging that the environmental movement, working within the system, is facing failure, and he asserts that lack of leadership on the issue of climate change 'is probably the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the Republic.' In Speth's view, the only option left is to change our political economy from one that gives top priority to profit, production and power to one that values people, place and planet. Both a personal account of a long career dedicated to the environment and a fervent plea for major reform.”

"Angels by the River does what the best memoirs hope to do—launch the reader into a larger collective story. Gus Speth,  a native son of the Deep South,  has spent his life in the service of justice.  He has not only been part of America's social and environmental history, but his leadership has helped shape it. This book is a testament to spirited engagement, showing us how 'the gift of having a cause beyond ourselves' can translate to personal and political transformation. Angels by the River is an antidote against despair and a prayer for action."--Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy

"This book is a true gem. While guiding us through the remarkable currents of his life, Gus Speth thrills us with the breadth of his thinking and the depths of his insights. His voice is absolutely essential when it comes to the environment. And he is never less than compelling as he makes the case for transformational change on any number of other important issues, from our obsession with economic growth to US policy in the Middle East."--Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at Demos and former Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times

"Angels by the River is a personal look at the forces that shaped one of America’s great environmental leaders and climate activists. Gus doesn’t shy away from the dangers of climate change, but he maintains an enduring faith that people can and will make the difference. This book will engage, enlighten, and spur readers to action—just as Gus has inspired so many of us with his commitment and drive."--Frances Beinecke, president, Natural Resources Defense Council

"Speth's story is a moving, well-told tale of transcendence: from a segregated southern town, to the forefront of the environmental struggle, to a new understanding of the deep changes we need to put our nation on a just and livable path. A critical book for change agents, young and old."--Van Jones, author, Rebuild The Dream and The Green Collar Economy

“A longtime friend and ally, Gus Speth is a tireless advocate for the environment. His accumulated stories and knowledge, the kind that could only come from decades of experience at the highest levels, provide a unique and insightful look into our history, and the way forward from here.”--Al Gore, former vice president of the United States 

"You will not soon read a better or more instructive memoir–a profoundly wise reflection on a life dedicated to solving the largest challenges of our time written by an insider who grew into a radical in the best sense of the word."--David W. Orr, counselor to the president of Oberlin College, and Steven Minter Fellow, the Cleveland Foundation

"Gus Speth is the great environmentalist of our age, and this book chronicles not just his life's journey, but his mind's.  It will make you think anew about many things, including where change comes from!"--Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home and founder of

"Gus Speth offers the gift of his own struggle to confront the systemic challenge we face as an example to anyone, young or old, seeking to find a new and possible way forward. His deeply thoughtful book is marvelous, hopeful, and above all life-affirming."--Gar Alperovitz, cofounder of The Democracy Collaborative and author of What Then Must We Do? 


James Gustave Speth

James Gustave "Gus" Speth is the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, founder and president of the World Resources Institute, and cofounder of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He has also been administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, chair of the U.N. Development Group, professor of law at Georgetown University, and chair of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality in the Carter administration. He currently teaches at Vermont Law School, and is a senior fellow at the Democracy Collaborative where he is co-chair of the Next System Project. He is also distinguished senior fellow with Demos, associate fellow with the Tellus Insitute, and the recipient of numerous environmental awards. His previous books include America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, and the award-winning The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability and Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment.


Conversations with History - James Gustave Speth

James Gustave Speth - "System Change Not Climage Change: Manifesto for a New Economy"


Killing the Cranes

Killing the Cranes

By Edward Girardet

Few reporters have covered Afghanistan as intrepidly and humanely as Edward Girardet. Now, in a gripping, personal account, Girardet delivers a story of that nation's resistance fighters, foreign invaders, mercenaries, spies, aid workers, Islamic extremists, and others who have defined Afghanistan's last thirty years of war, chaos, and strife.

As a young foreign correspondent, Girardet arrived in Afghanistan just three months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Over the next decades, he trekked hundreds of miles across rugged mountains and deserts on clandestine journeys following Afghan guerrillas in battle as they smuggled French doctors into the country, and as they combated each other as well as invaders. He witnessed the world's greatest refugee exodus, the bitter Battle for Kabul in the early 1990s, the rise of the Taliban, and, finally, the US-led Western military and recovery effort that began in 2001.

Girardet's encounters with key figures-including Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famed "Lion of Panjshir" assassinated by al Qaeda two days before 9/11, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic extremist massively supported by the Americans during the 1980s only to become one of today's most ruthless anti-Western insurgents, and Osama bin Laden-shed extraordinary light on the personalities who have shaped the nation, and its current challenges, from corruption and narcotics trafficking to selfish regional interests.

Killing the Cranes provides crucial insights into why the West's current involvement has turned into such a disaster, not only rekindling a new insurgency, but squandering billions of dollars on a recovery process that has shown scant success.

Available in: Paperback

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Killing the Cranes

Edward Girardet

Paperback $19.95

The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor

The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor

By Les Leopold

A CIA-connected labor union, an assassination attempt, a mysterious car crash, listening devices, and stolen documents--everything you'd expect from the latest thriller. Yet, this was the reality of Tony Mazzocchi, the Rachel Carson of the U.S. workplace; a dynamic labor leader whose legacy lives on in today's workplaces and ongoing alliances between labor activists and environmentalists, and those who believe in the promise of America.

In The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, author and labor expert Les Leopold recounts the life of the late Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union leader. Mazzocchi's struggle to address the unconscionable toxic exposure of tens of thousands of workers led to the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and included work alongside nuclear whistleblower Karen Silkwood. His noble, high-profile efforts forever changed working conditions in American industry--and made him enemy number one to a powerful few.

As early as the 1950s, when the term "environment" was nowhere on the political radar, Mazzocchi learned about nuclear fallout and began integrating environmental concerns into his critique of capitalism and his union work. An early believer in global warming, he believed that the struggle of capital against nature was the irreconcilable contradiction that would force systemic change.

Mazzocchi's story of non-stop activism parallels the rise and fall of industrial unionism. From his roots in a pro-FDR, immigrant family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, through McCarthyism, the Sixties, and the surge of the environmental movement, Mazzocchi took on Corporate America, the labor establishment and a complacent Democratic Party.

This profound biography should be required reading for those who believe in taking risks and making the world a better place. While Mazzocchi's story is so full of peril and deception that it seems almost a work of fiction, Leopold proves that the most provocative and lasting stories in life are those of real people.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor

Les Leopold

Paperback $24.95

A Sanctuary of Trees

A Sanctuary of Trees

By Gene Logsdon

As author Gene Logsdon puts it, "We are all tree huggers." But not just for sentimental or even environmental reasons. Humans have always depended on trees for our food, shelter, livelihood, and safety. In many ways, despite the Grimm's fairy-tale version of the dark, menacing forest, most people still hold a deep cultural love of woodland settings, and feel right at home in the woods.

In this latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees, Logsdon offers a loving tribute to the woods, tracing the roots of his own home groves in Ohio back to the Native Americans and revealing his own history and experiences living in many locations, each of which was different, yet inextricably linked with trees and the natural world. Whether as an adolescent studying at a seminary or as a journalist living just outside Philadelphia's city limits, Gene has always lived and worked close to the woods, and his curiosity and keen sense of observation have taught him valuable lessons about a wide variety of trees: their distinct characteristics and the multiple benefits and uses they have.

In addition to imparting many fascinating practical details of woods wisdom, A Sanctuary of Trees is infused with a philosophy and descriptive lyricism that is born from the author's passionate and lifelong relationship with nature: There is a point at which the tree shudders before it begins its descent. Then slowly it tips, picks up speed, often with a kind of wailing death cry from rending wood fibers, and hits the ground with a whump that literally shakes the earth underfoot. The air, in the aftermath, seems to shimmy and shiver, as if saturated with static electricity. Then follows an eerie silence, the absolute end to a very long life.

Fitting squarely into the long and proud tradition of American nature writing, A Sanctuary of Trees also reflects Gene Logsdon's unique personality and perspective, which have marked him over the course of his two dozen previous books as the authentic voice of rural life and traditions.

Available in: Paperback

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A Sanctuary of Trees

Gene Logsdon

Paperback $19.95

Loving and Leaving the Good Life

Loving and Leaving the Good Life

By Helen Nearing

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life and many other bestselling books, lived together for 53 years until Scott's death at age 100. Loving and Leaving the Good Life is Helen's testimonial to their life together and to what they stood for: self-sufficiency, generosity, social justice, and peace.

In 1932, after deciding it would be better to be poor in the country than in the city, Helen and Scott moved from New York Ciy to Vermont. Here they created their legendary homestead which they described in Living the Good Life: How to Live Simply and Sanely in a Troubled World, a book that has sold 250,000 copies and inspired thousands of young people to move back to the land.

The Nearings moved to Maine in 1953, where they continued their hard physical work as homesteaders and their intense intellectual work promoting social justice. Thirty years later, as Scott approached his 100th birthday, he decided it was time to prepare for his death. He stopped eating, and six weeks later Helen held him and said goodbye.

Loving and Leaving the Good Life is a vivid self-portrait of an independent, committed and gifted woman. It is also an eloquent statement of what it means to grow old and to face death quietly, peacefully, and in control. At 88, Helen seems content to be nearing the end of her good life. As she puts it, "To have partaken of and to have given love is the greatest of life's rewards. There seems never an end to the loving that goes on forever and ever. Loving and leaving are part of living."

Helen's death in 1995 at the age of 92 marks the end of an era. Yet as Helen writes in her remarkable memoir, "When one door closes, another opens." As we search for a new understanding of the relationships between death and life, this book provides profound insights into the question of how we age and die.

Available in: Paperback

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Loving and Leaving the Good Life

Helen Nearing

Paperback $25.00