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Talking on the Water

Conversations about Nature and Creativity

Jonathan White (author)

On-the-water interviews with thirteen writers, scientists, conservationists, and artists connecting nature to the creative process

During the 1980s and 1990s, the Resource Institute, headed by Jonathan White, held an ongoing series of "floating seminars" aboard a sixty-five-foot schooner, featuring leading thinkers and artists from an array of disciplines. Over a period of ten years, White conducted interviews with the writers, scientists, environmentalists, and poets exploring the human relationship to the wild. The interviews are collected in this sparkling anthology. Some of these visionaries are still making history while others have passed away, making this a special contribution to the narrative about our planet.

White describes the conversations in Talking on the Water as the roots of an integrated community, saying,"While at first these roots may not appear to be linked, a closer look reveals that they are sustained in common ground. Whether we are talking to a poet, a biologist, a science fiction writer, or an ex-Dominican priest, all of these people share a deep and longstanding concern for their relationship with nature."

Beloved fiction writer Ursula Le Guin discusses the nature of language, microbiologist Lynn Margulis contemplates Darwin's career and the many meanings of evolution, and anthropologist Richard Nelson sifts through the spiritual life of Alaska's native people. Rounding out the group are writers Gretel Ehrlich, Paul Shepard, and Peter Matthiessen, conservationists Roger Payne and David Brower, theologian Matthew Fox, activist Janet McCloud, Jungian analyst James Hillman, poet Gary Snyder, and ecologist Dolores La Chapelle.

Talking on the Water takes us on a journey in search of a deeper and more meaningful understanding of ourselves and the environment.


  • Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Lynn Margulis 
  • Richard Nelson 
  • Gretel Ehrlich
  • Paul Shepard
  • Peter Matthiessen
  • Roger Payne
  • David Brower
  • Matthew Fox
  • Janet McCloud
  • James Hillman
  • Gary Snyder
  • Dolores LaChapelle


“In 1983 writer Jonathan White, founder and president of the Resource Institute, a nonprofit educational organization in Seattle, transformed a dilapidated schooner into a floating classroom to which he invited environmentalists, writers and scientists to discuss humanity's place within nature and the vital spiritual and ecological lessons we can learn from animals, the land and indigenous peoples. Here, White draws on these seminars to pose new questions to the likes of Gretel Ehrlich, David Brower, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gary Snyder, Peter Matthiessen, and eight others. The resulting dialogues knock down walls to widen the floor of discussion. Rather than outline an answer to the ills of modernity and over development, they demonstrate the complexities of the problem. Although serious and informative, the interviews are highly accessible and, at times, even amusing. By sharing their knowledge, research and personal anecdotes, the participants accent common themes, like the the reality of an interdependence between nature and humanity rather than a romanticized independent natural world. Infused with passion and spirituality, Talking on the Water reminds us that if we abuse nature, we're ultimately abusing ourselves.

Publishers Weekly

“An excellent introduction to cutting-edge thinking about the interrelationships between nature and human society . . . accessible and pertinent.”

Seattle Times

Talking on the Water cover
  • Price: $17.95 buy »
  • Pages: 288
  • Size: 5 1/2 X 8 1/2
  • Published: Oct 2016
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595347862
  • Price: $17.95
  • Published: Oct 2016
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595347879


Nature, Writers / Writing, Essays