Feeling Climate Change

March 10, 2016

Mutel’s new book offers a “good read” and educates readers on climate change

The cover of Mutel's new book features a woodcut by noted local nature artist Claudia Mcgehee.

The cover of Mutel’s new book features a woodcut by noted local nature artist Claudia Mcgehee.

Media Reactions and Reviews to A Sugar Creek Chronicle:

Connie Mutel wants to get into your head. She wants you to understand climate change and really feel how it threatens life on Earth. She hopes to change the way you think and act with regard to your own carbon footprint.

Mutel’s new book, A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland, will entice readers to learn more about climate change — even if they don’t really want to. She has woven together a compelling story of her own life and love for the natural world with a straightforward, readable explanation of the science of climate change and how it is dramatically altering our planet. Mutel’s lyrical, artful prose serves as the frosting on the cake that will fascinate readers and hopefully will persuade them to consume the whole book.

“It’s really a privilege, I think,” Mutel says, “if you feel passionately about something to be able to put it into a form that hopefully will get into other people’s heads and noodle around, changing the way they think and the way they act.”

Mutel also provides practical ways that individuals can make a difference in this most global of problems. “There are many, many forms of action,” Mutel says. “I think that the times we become emotionally paralyzed about dealing with any problem, those times come from lack of understanding and lack of involvement. If we can become involved, not only will we help reshape the future, but we will also be doing something for ourselves, by getting involved. It will be a win-win situation.”

For Mutel, writing this book was a long and arduous process. She first began to consider writing a climate change book in 2010, after editing a report on the subject for the Iowa Legislature. That experience opened her eyes to “the elephant in the bathtub” and how climate change is already shaping our world, usurping all other environmental concerns. As an author, Mutel had to immerse herself in climate change science — a difficult and upsetting subject. “When you write about something intensely, you have to live with it,” she says. Becoming intimate with climate change was like becoming intimate with evil itself, she felt.

Mutel says that some people, even those who consider themselves environmentalists, are afraid of climate change. “It’s a very unpleasant subject,” she says. “One way of hiding from it is to not educate yourself about it.” So she set out to write something that would not only be palatable to readers, but also would be appealing. She hopes to reach readers on an emotional level, so they can understand the threat that climate change poses in a visceral way and will be moved to take action.

By telling her own personal story, Mutel imparts a human story that all can relate to. She uses the cancer that has touched her own family as a metaphor for climate change. And she places the book in the native Iowa woodland where she lives, describing the effects already at work in the woods that she loves so well.

Author Connie Mutel in the woodlands she loves with her dog

Author Connie Mutel in the woodlands she loves.

“Writing this book changed me forever. I will never be the same person,” Mutel says. All life on Earth depends on the predictable, logical functions of our natural world — the daily sunrise and sunset, the regular turn of the seasons, the pull of gravity. Now, because of climate change, it seems that the basic functions of our planet are at risk of disappearing. “How can we turn away from it?” Mutel asks. “Once I became aware of climate change and all its repercussions, I felt the need to remain engaged.”

Mutel is eager to see how the book will reach people and if it will have an impact on the way they think and act. “I really loved writing it,” she says. “The subject was very difficult, but I love the sense of words coming together into a meaningful whole. … This is a biggie for me.”

A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland is published by Bur Oak Books, an imprint of the University of Iowa Press. It is available for sale at bookstores or directly from the University of Iowa Press. Mutel gratefully acknowledges the support of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, IIHR Director Larry Weber, and the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER) at the University of Iowa for their support of this book.