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Ten Rings of Wisdom

by Burgin Streetman on

Readers who pick up The Power of Trees, by conservation rock star Gretchen C. Daily and photographer Chuck Katz, are amazed by the life-changing details about trees—things they never knew—that make them take a moment to appreciate the natural world around them. We asked our intern, Victoria Mitchell, to extract Ten Rings of Wisdom that moved her from The Power of Trees.

One. Trees seem so still, yet they are among the greatest life forces of movement on Earth.

Two. Fundamentally, we are indeed all of the same cloth, and the very constituents of our own bodies have likely resided in forests for many periods of time.

Three. Some trees clearly can talk to one another—when attacked, certain trees emit airborne chemicals that signal trouble to downwind trees, which in turn boost their own chemical defenses.

Four. Heartwood is the central supporting pillar of the tree, and in some species it is as strong as steel.

Five. After trees, Earth waited 165 million years before the first mammals appeared, and another 145 million years before the first monkeylike creatures swung from branch to branch in treetops.

Six. Trees are the longest lived organisms on Earth, some even germinating back when humanity was inventing writing, about 5,000 years ago. 

Seven. Living in trees for 80 million years or so, our ancestors acquired exceptional hand-eye coordination and dexterity. 

Eight. Trees fueled human discovery. By supplying the wood for primitive stoves, trees may have powered the evolution of large, calorie-hungry hominid brains. Later, the Age of Discovery was launched with fine-timbered ships that opened vast frontiers of knowledge and global exchange.

Nine. A famous study found that patients with trees outside their hospital windows recovered from surgery more quickly than patients whose windows looked out on brick walls.

Ten. Whether living as great wild expanses or as ribbons and dots of connection and texture in human landscapes, trees define our lives and the future of humanity.

2012 a Landmark Year

by Tom Payton on

2012 was an important year for Trinity University Press. It marked a turning point in our consistent growth, measured in many ways. And, indeed, it was a good year. Here are the top highlights of 2012 as reported by our staff. 

 Here’s to a great year behind and an even better year ahead!

Counting Joys and Sorrows

by Barbara Ras on

One of my personal sorrows—no doubt shared by anyone paying attention to the environment—was the January 8 news released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirming that 2013 was the hottest year on record for the 48 contiguous states. The NOAA said an increase in greenhouse gas emissions likely contributed to such warming trends. Along with the planet’s warming, we have faced frightening consequences—extreme weather events like Sandy, the hurricane that hit the East Coast, record droughts in the Midwest, ocean acidification, and severe Arctic melt that a high-ranking federal scientist calls a “planetary emergency.”

On a more positive note, one of my personal joys comes from the work of brilliant, tireless climate-change activists. Among the most original, eloquent, and compassionate leaders is Kathleen Dean Moore, whose work Trinity University Press had the privilege to publish with the anthology Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, coedited with Michael P. Nelson.  Nelson himself is among the environmental heroes to reckon with and worth following on account of his compelling thinking and writing.

I was articularly inspired this past year by Mary DeMocker’s electrifying interview with Moore in the Sun (Dec. 2012). Beautifully expressed ideas can be exhilarating, and ideas that lead to empowerment produce joy—at least that was my reaction to Moore’s words. She effectively calls for a need to cast the dialogue about climate change as a discourse about right and wrong, about justice, about preserving the whole natural world on which human survival depends, about preserving a beautiful and livable planet for our children and grandchildren. “Debates about the causes of climate change have become distractions,” she says. “If your house is burning down, you don’t stand around arguing about whether the fire was caused by human or natural forces. You do what you can to put out the damn fire.” 

Moore, a celebrated author, distinguished professor of environmental philosophy at Oregon State University, mother, and self-proclaimed “ferocious grandmother,” cares passionately about a society in which we shrug off the need to sacrifice our overconsumption and destructive dependence on fossil fuels. She quotes oceans champion Carl Safina, who says, “But sacrifice is exactly what we are doing. . . . We’re sacrificing what is big and permanent to prolong what is small, temporary, and harmful. We’re sacrificing animals, peace, and children to retain wastefulness.”

I was buoyed up by and, yes, found joy in Moore’s call for us to become involved in the biggest, arguably most life-threatening problem we face as a global community. As citizens of the country producing the highest levels of carbon dioxide and other climate change gases, we must accept more responsibility for aggressive political activism and protest. Moore points the ways to the possibility of change, to finding a balance between feeling paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges, which breeds despair, and action, which lifts spirit. “Our civilization,” she says, “has rituals that help us draw strength from grief . . . Maybe that’s the primary function of religion. Surely it’s an important function of art. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, ‘We have art in order not to die of the truth.’ ” She urges us to turn our grief over the loss of forests and species and clean air and water toward modifying personal behavior and, more importantly, toward demanding political change and insisting on corporate accountability.

If we love our children, our grandchildren, Moore says, “we have a sacred obligation to protect them.”

What greater sources of joy do we have than in acts of love and protection? My deep thanks to Kathleen Dean Moore for giving me this joy to hold close in the year ahead.

For the full text and ideas about how you too can be inspired, see


Ebooks Get a Bad Wrap

by Tom Payton on

I just started wrapping Christmas presents, some bound for the tree five feet away and others headed for the post office and a trip five states away. 

As I began my shopping a week or so ago, a harsh reality set in. I have shifted most of my personal (and professional) reading from print books to ebooks, and I realized that most of the people I’d normally give books to also primarily read ebooks. My safety net is gone! Aside from the handful of gifts I bought and put away back in August—I hope I can remember where—this time of year I’m in a mad rush to find that perfectly personal, last-minute gift. There is simply nothing better—and never will be—than a book. And of all the shops to visit, a bookstore has the ultimate micro-niched, specific gift for everyone you know.  

When I was a kid, I fell in love with gift wrap. I declared that I would be a professional gift wrapper when I grew up. My parents chuckled with that “oh, the things kids say” roll of the eyes. Since Mother was an avid wrap-it-yourselfer, I had no idea the job existed, albeit with limited opportunities for advancement and skeleton staffing except during the winter holidays. I’m relieved that it didn’t prove to be my ultimate career choice. But then, as now, I loved wrapping gifts and trying to make them unique. Better, I learned early that books are the perfect thing to wrap; they look good every time given their perfectly triangular corners and their heft to push and pull paper tight about.  

Sadly, perhaps to some, books can’t hide themselves beneath their wrapping. The eager fingers of curious gift receivers quickly figure out what’s inside. That’s all right. I never minded picking up a gift and knowing it was a book—there were so many possibilities as to which book it might be.  

Here’s to giving books—the old-fashioned kind—for the holidays. This weekend I’m headed to the bookstore. 

Holiday Giving from TU Press

by Burgin Streetman on

Thanksgiving is only ONE day away. Though some retailers were out of the gate with their holiday wares weeks ago, we here at TU Press chose to celebrate Halloween and take a nice long breath before embracing the season in full. Now that the smell of roasting turkey is wafting through the air, we want to throw our hat in the ring and offer up some ideas.

Check out the TU Press holiday gift page and peruse our evergreen titles that not only make great holiday gifts but are also perfect for hostess favors, birthdays, or even a present for yourself. The Power of Trees by Gretchen C. Daily and Charles Katz Jr. for those with the passion for ecology. A set of ArteKids books to stuff in a stocking or make the third night of Hanukkah more colorful. Environmentally sound, and eternally thoughtful and thought provoking, a book from TU Press will never disappoint.

Support independent publishing and give the gift that makes them think this holiday season.