Chelsea Green Publishing

Flying Blind

Pages:224 pages
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Hardcover: 9781603585200
Pub. Date August 23, 2013

Flying Blind

One Man's Adventures Battling Buckthorn, Making Peace with Authority, and Creating a Home for Endangered Bats

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
August 23, 2013


When Middlebury writing professor Don Mitchell was approached by a biologist with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department about tracking endangered Indiana bats on his 150-acre farm in Vermont's picturesque Champlain Valley, Mitchell's relationship with bats—and with government—could be characterized as distrustful, at best.

But the flying rats, as Mitchell initially thinks of them, launched him on a series of "improvements" to his land that would provide a more welcoming habitat for the bats—and a modest tax break for himself and his family. Whether persuading his neighbors to join him on a "silent meditation," pulling invasive garlic mustard out of the ground by hand, navigating the tacit ground rules of buying an ATV off Craigslist, or leaving just enough honeysuckle to give government inspectors "something to find," Mitchell’s tale is as profound as it is funny—a journey that changes Mitchell’s relationship with Chiroptera, the land, and, ultimately, his understanding of his own past.

Ruminating on the nature of authority, the purview of the state, and the value of inhabiting one’s niche—Mitchell reveals much about our inner and outer landscape, in this perfectly paced and skilled story of place.


“So what happened to the idealistic ’60s youth who went back to the land? Flying Blind is one couple’s answer. Don Mitchell presents a rich, evocative account of wise stewardship—and of how making ends meet on a Champlain Valley farm in Vermont becomes a conservation success story in the fight to save endangered Indiana bats.”--Andrew Walker, executive director, Bat Conservation International

“Don Mitchell has written a classic story of Vermont, of family, of farming, and of the evolving, never-romantic, always crucial story of the encounter between people and the larger world.”--Bill McKibben, author of Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist



“In Flying Blind, Don Mitchell not only gives us a wonderful story about creating habitat for bats on his land, but tells about his own personal journey of becoming a bat-loving conservationist. In addition to the many scientific bat-conservation efforts taking place around the world, we also need stories like this—of an individual developing a greater understanding of bats, and of the natural world, and coming away better for it.”--Merlin Tuttle, founder, Bat Conservation International



"Receiving a government grant to control invasive plants in the bat habitat around his farm was just the beginning. Don Mitchell hilariously chronicles the official visits and requirements that soon became such a prominent part of his life, along with the stupefying labor involved in grubbing up all that garlic mustard. What makes Flying Blind such a remarkably powerful memoir is Don Mitchell’s capacity to connect both the ecological puzzle of bats’ susceptibility to white-nose syndrome and a personal resistance to bureaucracy with his passionate and lifelong resistance to authority. At the deepest level, this is a story about how forgiveness and celebration help him find a trail through the woods to family and home."--John Elder, author of The Frog Run and coeditor of The Norton Book of Nature Writing

“Don Mitchell’s Flying Blind does for rural New England what Wendell Berry’s essays do for Kentucky and Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It does for the American West. On one level, Flying Blind tells the engaging and often hilarious story of a man’s determination to make his upcountry Vermont farm a welcoming home for an endangered and much-maligned species of ‘flying rat.’ It’s also the story of how place, the past, family, and meaningful work can still form character at a time when much of America is increasingly alienated from nature, history, and community. Beautifully written, relentlessly honest, and unfailingly entertaining, Flying Blind is the book Don Mitchell was born to write.”--Howard Frank Mosher, author of The Great Northern Express, Walking to Gatlinburg, and On Kingdom Mountain


Don Mitchell

Don Mitchell is a novelist, essayist, and sometime screenwriter whose most recent books are The Nature Notebooks (a novel) and a guidebook to Vermont in the Fodor’s/Compass American series. He’s also the architect and builder of over a dozen low-cost, energy-efficient structures on Treleven Farm, and a shepherd with thirty-five years’ experience managing a flock of sheep there. One of his current interests is forest management with the goal of enhancing habitat for endangered bats.

From 1984 to 2009 Don taught courses at Middlebury College, primarily in creative writing–especially narrative fiction and writing for film–and environmental literature. Now he devotes most of his time to projects designed to enhance the farm and support the vision of Treleven, Inc.


Thinking in Systems

Thinking in Systems

By Donella Meadows

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

Available in: Paperback

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Thinking in Systems

Donella Meadows, Diana Wright

Paperback $19.95

The Art of Leading Collectively

The Art of Leading Collectively

By Petra Kuenkel

A guide to collaborative impact for leaders in industry, government, and social change networks

Our world is facing unsustainable global trends—from climate change and water scarcity to energy insecurity, unfair labor practices, and growing inequality.  Tackling these crises effectively requires a new form of leadership—a collective one.  But, in a world of many silos, how do we get people to work together toward a common goal? That is one of the most important questions facing sustainability and social-change professionals around the world, and it is a question that Petra Kuenkel answers in The Art of Leading Collectively.

Readers learn how to tackle system change for sustainable development, reimagine leadership as a collaborative endeavor, retrain leaders to work collectively, and manage diverse groups through a change process that has sustainability as a guiding focus. Drawing upon two decades of pioneering, internationally recognized work orchestrating multi-stakeholder initiatives, Kuenkel presents her chief tool, the Collective Leadership Compass, and shows others how to use it with large groups of diverse stakeholders to solve complex, urgent problems—particularly those that enmesh business activities, governance, human needs, and environmental impacts.

The book offers many examples of collective leadership efforts involving corporate, public, and nonprofit sectors around the world.  Readers learn about the processes that led to a sustainable textile alliance, advanced global seafood sustainability, and set standards for sustainable cocoa and coffee production and trade, as well as those that helped nations rebound from war, develop sustainable infrastructure, and tackle resource conflicts with global businesses, to name a few.

Kuenkel provides a clear roadmap for leaders from multinational companies involved in partnerships, international organizations engaged in cooperative development, public agencies, and interest groups—as well as for citizens seeking solutions to social and sustainability challenges.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Art of Leading Collectively

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Petra Kuenkel

Hardcover $29.95

Holy Shit

Holy Shit

By Gene Logsdon

In his insightful new book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, contrary farmer Gene Logsdon provides the inside story of manure-our greatest, yet most misunderstood, natural resource. He begins by lamenting a modern society that not only throws away both animal and human manure-worth billions of dollars in fertilizer value-but that spends a staggering amount of money to do so. This wastefulness makes even less sense as the supply of mined or chemically synthesized fertilizers dwindles and their cost skyrockets. In fact, he argues, if we do not learn how to turn our manures into fertilizer to keep food production in line with increasing population, our civilization, like so many that went before it, will inevitably decline.

With his trademark humor, his years of experience writing about both farming and waste management, and his uncanny eye for the small but important details, Logsdon artfully describes how to manage farm manure, pet manure and human manure to make fertilizer and humus. He covers the field, so to speak, discussing topics like:

  • How to select the right pitchfork for the job and use it correctly
  • How to operate a small manure spreader
  • How to build a barn manure pack with farm animal manure
  • How to compost cat and dog waste
  • How to recycle toilet water for irrigation purposes, and
  • How to get rid ourselves of our irrational paranoia about feces and urine.

Gene Logsdon does not mince words. This fresh, fascinating and entertaining look at an earthy, but absolutely crucial subject, is a small gem and is destined to become a classic of our agricultural literature.

Available in: Paperback

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Holy Shit

Gene Logsdon, Brooke Budner

Paperback $17.50

The Climate Change Playbook

The Climate Change Playbook

By Linda Booth Sweeney and Gillian Martin Mehers and Dennis Meadows

Advocates and teachers often find it difficult to communicate the complexities of climate change, because the people they are trying to reach hold so many mistaken assumptions. They assume, for example, that when climate change becomes an obvious threat to our everyday lives, there will still be time enough to make changes that will avoid disaster. Yet at that point it will be too late. Or they assume we can use our current paradigms and policy tools to find solutions. Yet the approaches that caused damage in the first place will cause even more damage in the future.
Even the increasingly dire warnings from scientists haven’t shaken such assumptions.  Is there another way to reach people?
The simple, interactive exercises in The Climate Change Playbook can help citizens better understand climate change, diagnose its causes, anticipate its future consequences, and effect constructive change. Adapted from The Systems Thinking Playbook, the twenty-two games are now specifically relevant to climate-change communications and crafted for use by experts, advocates, and educators. Illustrated guidelines walk leaders through setting each game up, facilitating it, and debriefing participants. Users will find games that are suitable for a variety of audiences—whether large and seated, as in a conference room, or smaller and mobile, as in a workshop, seminar, or meeting.  
Designed by leading thinkers in systems, communications, and sustainability, the games focus on learning by doing.

Available in: Paperback

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The Climate Change Playbook

Dennis Meadows, Linda Booth Sweeney, Gillian Martin Mehers

Paperback $24.95