An Apology


On Transparency and the Refugia Project


I apologize for killing forests.  I apologize for my one-thousandth share of the black lake of Baotou.  I apologize for your paper-mill cancer.  I apologize for your grandchildren's question "what is salmon?"  I apologize for turning life into text.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa.  My words are not enough. 

Though it is undoubtedly contrarian and not at all in the spirit of the great greedy capitalist wet dream of free enterprise, I will now request that you all purchase as few copies of my books as possible.  If a bunch of you live nearby, get a single copy and share it.  When you're done reading, donate your copy to your local library.  Give it to a kid or a teacher.  Feed it to your pet mushrooms. 

This is patent madness, but here's my thinking:  Books are real things.  They are made of trees and chemicals, and their production and distribution is not without real effect on the real world we all get to live in.  Digital copies are available, but electronic reading devices are arguably even worse for life on earth than paper mills.  The ideas in my books are, I think, good, but it remains to be seen whether or not they are powerful enough to offset the harm inevitably caused by their production.  Sure, I could make dumber things for people to buy, but I don't, and won't- I make books (and gardens).  I feel a certain unfashionable responsibility for my actions, and so cannot in good faith ask you to buy as many copies as you can carry.  Better for five people to pool resources and buy a single copy for five-times the listed price and share.  Whatta concept.

The book is available through Amazon and some of the other online big-box stores.  Please don't buy it from them.  They are notorious for treating their workers terribly, gouging small publishers, throttling free speech, and generally being awful.  Convenience always, always, always has a price- and someone else usually pays it.

Talking about money is a taboo I'm about to break.  It's important to my honor that I be quite transparent about where the hard-earned (or soft-inherited) cash you're forking over for this stack of thoughts and trees ends up:  Much of the listed price of the book covers printing and distribution costs.  A portion of that goes to UPS to fuel the trucks, paint the uniforms brown, and buy the CEO another island.  Of what remains, the bulk is tended by the publisher's accountants, who use it to pay their workers and cover the up-front costs of new book projects.  A portion of that remainder ends up with me, and this is where I have some say in the matter.  100% of my personal profits from the sale of Rivers of Wind are to be allocated towards the creation of refugia.  What are refugia and why aren't I buying a Porche* like a sane human being?  Read on.

Climate change, toxic waste everywhere, human overpopulation, sixth mass extinction, etc, etc.- you've heard it all before.  So we're screwed; now what?  During the worst days of the past several mass extinctions, certain areas remained relatively unscathed.  Remote mountain valleys, deep-sea trenches, desert oases- you get the idea.  The trillions of gorgeous jeweled species we share our world with can trace their family histories to those lucky inhabitants of safe havens- refugia- during the dark times.  Refugia create themselves out of the circumstances of topography, weather patterns, and plain luck, but those of us with thumbs can do quite a bit to enrich their potential.  By tending ecosystems naturally defensible against storm winds and desertification, by assisting in the migration of slow-moving species (trees, soil microbes, etc.) to keep pace with dramatic climate changes, by giving a damn about the world one-hundred-million years hence, five-million, one-thousand, ten years down the road, we can improve the chances for that many more species lineages and hasten the earthly recovery process once climatic patterns stabilize again.

If I am emotionally invested in the well-being of my friends and neighbors (human and otherwise) in the present instant, why should I not feel a similar dear regard for their descendants, no matter how distant they are from me in time?  And if I feel that regard, why not act on it?  I'm not, by the way, talking about human beings here.  Plenty of folks are sweating blood to ensure the safety, dignity, and prosperity of our sisters and brothers and all their great-grandchildren- their work is invaluable, but it's not mine.  My skills are, I think, best put in the service of ferns and millipedes, sassafras and trout.  To do that I need land to site nursery operations and the equipment to tend it well, and that requires capital.  Thus, the refugia fund from book sales.  This is not especially optimistic work, but it is an attempt to make the beautiful blooming best of our fraught ecological predicament.  As work proceeds on this project I'll keep you lot appraised of it through this website.

If I ever turn liar (and if this book gets good reviews and sells well I very well might- better men than I have started their writing careers with the interests of the green growing earth nobly central, and surrendered their sovereign hearts to the allure of ego and ready cash) give me a sound dope-slap and remind me of this promise to use whatever power and resources I gain through this endeavor towards a generous end.  Please, my friends, hold me to the best I could and should contribute in service to the living earth. 

This is undoubtedly naive, ill-considered, and quite possibly doomed to failure.  Screw that.  There's work to be done for the future of vascular plant diversity, and naught but us and the seed-bearing winds to do it.

Thank you,

- Ben

*Or more realistically, a '79 Rabbit with three wheels and no engine- book sales ain't what they used to be...