• first year read book cover for Sustainability

    Welcome to the Sustainability Learning Community! We want to extend a warm welcome to each of you and all that you bring. When you arrive in August, we will begin building our community together and exploring what sustainability means to each of us and how to embody and actualize it in the world. We are delighted to have Braiding Sweetgrass as our first-year read. This book will be your companion throughout your first semester in NR15 Ecology of Place and will be a focus of classroom discussions, written reflections, and community activities.

    Before Classes Start in August...

    Please read the first three sections (Preface, Planting Sweetgrass, Tending Sweetgrass, and Picking Sweetgrass – the first 201 pages). We will read the remaining chapters over the course of the semester. We’ll ask you to share your thoughts and reflections on the first three sections of Braiding Sweetgrass when we meet in August. Consider taking notes so that you come prepared ready to share. Wishing you all a wonderful summer and safe travels to campus in August. Warmly, Zac, Flore, Hedy, Leah, and Laura

    Why Our Community Chose This Book

    Leah Mital, Program Director: Robin Kimmerer brings us to a relationship and kinship-based approach to sustainability by honoring our most elemental relationships  -- with ourselves, each other, and the land. I am drawn equally to her celebration of these relationships as well as her rejection of distracting and damaging societal messages. She states that, “Acknowledging the gifts that surround us creates a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of enough-ness which is an antidote to the societal messages that drill into our spirits telling us we must have more. Practicing contentment is a radical act in a consumption-driven society.” Imagine all the ways that we can be fully present enough to practice contentment and enoughness, as a form of being and as a form of activism.

    Flore Costumé , Program Coordinator: "The stories we choose to shape our behavior have adaptive consequences” (p. 30). Dr. Kimmerer’s  Braiding Sweetgrass is poetry. Her words breathe water into my heart. Her story feeds me with possibility—to keep walking, to call and create home, to remember and feed my gifts, and to have the courage to hold all the ways of knowing gifted to me unabashedly. This is a delicious invitation to be in conversation with my story, our collective stories. I hope to be present with the first year students of Sustainability with Braiding Sweetgrass as one of the ingredients in our story.

    Hedy Eagan, Program Coordinator: Braiding Sweetgrass encourages us to think about how we relate to each other and our environment in a way that I find to be both genuine and inviting.  It offers paradigms that can feel new, but in many ways are as ancient as time. Kimmerer’s explorations of gratitude, connectedness, and consumption offer us a holistic vision of how we understand our place in the world and help the reader to begin to formulate an intentional understanding of who they are and how they want to live in this context. I feel that Kimmerer’s book offers new lenses to readers of all ages. To some, these lenses will feel familiar and to others they will dramatically change the way they see and evaluate their surroundings. For students just beginning a new chapter in their lives Kimmerer’s words offer insight on the never-ending importance of connection and place.

    Zac Ispa-Landa, Faculty Associate: “The land is our real teacher. All we is need mindfulness.” Not only is Robin Kimmerer’s prose beautiful, it evokes a type of connection, reverence, and joy that is a balm on my heart. It clears my eyes of the dust of busyness, narrow-mindedness, and self-concern that can all too often creep into my days. Taken as a whole, Braiding Sweetgrass presents a vision and ethos of sustainability that is deep and wise. Kimmerer gently reveals root-level causes of our collective suffering (in the human and more-than-human domains) and illuminates myriad pathways toward a more flourishing and verdant future. Every time I read from this book, I find new layers of wisdom and I remember things I didn’t know I’d forgotten. I’m really looking forward to engaging with Sustainability students around this text in the fall semester and beyond.

    Author Biography

    Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Trippett and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment. (https://milkweed.org/author/robin-wall-kimmerer)

    Dr. Kimmerer visits UVM regularly to speak in classes, meet with students, and collaborate with faculty. She is a XXXXXX in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and a professional affiliate in UVM’s Master’s in Leadership for Sustainability program.

    Online Resources

Sustainability First Year Read Bookmark questions