Sugar Creek Chronicle: Still Making a Difference

Originally Posted on: September 18th, 2017

Connie Mutel with her Irish setter outdoors in the woods.

Author Connie Mutel in the woodlands she loves.

Although Connie Mutel’s book on climate change has been out for more than a year now, interest in A Sugar Creek Chronicle: Observing Climate Change from a Midwestern Woodland is not fading. Far from it, Mutel says. The book was one of last year’s bestsellers at Iowa City’s Prairie Lights Bookstore, and Mutel has given over 70 public presentations about climate change since the book was published in March 2016. Requests continue to roll in.

Mutel says that people contact her about the book a few times a week. “Their responses have been more than positive,” she says. Mutel is also known as an excellent speaker, and some of the contacts are requests for talks on the subject of climate change. The best, she says, are those who say that they are thinking and acting differently to minimize their own carbon footprint because of her book. “That’s really gratifying,” she says.

Mutel says when she was writing the book, she hoped to make a difference by enticing readers to learn more about climate change — a subject many of us would rather not confront at all. Her book weaves 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. She wants readers to understand climate change and really feel how it threatens life on Earth.

Mutel has been gratified to learn that her book is being used in college courses, in both the sciences and the humanities. She has also spoken on many college campuses, including Luther, Iowa State, Briar Cliff, Grinnell, University of Iowa, and Morningside. She’s also been pleased and surprised to learn that her book is being read by people of all ages and many walks of life. “I do think that this diversity and abundance is unusual – at least I have not experienced it before.”

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.

Recent Reviews of A Sugar Creek Chronicle:  

Reviewers continue to praise A Sugar Creek Chronicle. Rebecca Conard, writing in Annals of Iowa, said, “This is an intimate book, one in which Mutel brings the weight of her scientific knowledge about climate change, her talent as a science writer, and her personal concern as a parent and grandparent to make the profound gravity of climate change understandable to a general audience. She ‘invites’ readers ‘to consider the importance of climate change and to realize that we can—indeed that we must—rapidly take action to limit its expression’. This understated call to action sets the book’s tone.”

In The Briar Cliff Review, John T. Price writes, “Mutel once again eloquently demonstrates her commitment to environmental health, but earns additional praise for courage. These are difficult and often discouraging times in which to discuss climate change – but the subject has never been so urgent.”

Elizabeth Queathem, a senior lecturer in biology at Grinnell College, recently reviewed A Sugar Creek Chronicle in Rootstalk, an online interdisciplinary journal published by the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College. She writes that although the book has no shortage of data, it is ultimately about love, not fear. “Mutel weaves a tapestry of the mundane and the holy, the trivial and the profound, a deeply personal life and the objectively measured data of science.” She continues, “Mutel ends on a note of hope, and her lovely book is solid evidence that, despite dark threats to end funding for climate change study, we still have reason to be hopeful for our future, as long as such writers persist.”