On Thursday, July 11, Friends of the Mad River and the Tri-Town Conservation Commission will host a reading and discussion of “Our Better Nature: Hopeful Excursions in Saving Biodiversity” – a book co-edited by Curt Lindberg and Eric Hagen.





The event will be held in the red barn at Lareau Farm in Waitsfield from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

“Our Better Nature” (2022) was a book project that emerged from the Vermont Alliance for Half-Earth, which Lindberg co-founded in 2018. The group was inspired by the teachings of the late biologist Edward O. Wilson and wanted to educate Vermont residents about the implications of biodiversity on ecosystems. They asked then-graduate student Eric Hagen from the University of Vermont (UVM) field naturalist program to collect stories about what residents were doing on their land to restore and protect biodiversity, “and when we saw the quality of his stories,” Lindberg said, “we thought, there’s a book here.”

The group invited authors to contribute chapters on the history of conservation in Vermont, educational efforts involving students in understanding biodiversity, the concept of rewilding and other topics. These essays, Lindberg said, provide a backdrop for the stories collected by Hagen.

One of the stories in the book centers the work of George Schenk in protecting biodiversity on his Lareau Farm property. Following the book reading and discussion on July 11, Schenk will give a tour of the Lareau farm and gardens.

Lindberg is a member of the Waitsfield Conservation Commission and has been interested in conservation since moving to Vermont from New Jersey eight years ago. Previously, he earned a doctoral degree in complexity science and worked to apply frameworks from the field to the U.S. health care system.





The science of complexity, Lindberg said, is an effort to understand the dynamics of systems that have many interacting elements – whether a society, an economy, a forest, a hospital, or a human body. The field taught him that when interactions within a system are diverse – say, with different people interacting around a single issue – outcomes are better. 

In one project, Lindberg worked with hospitals and clinics to better address infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Rather than getting experts to tell health care staff what to do, which Lindberg said rarely works, the project assembled a diverse group of people working in different roles across the institution – including “hidden experts” like housekeeping staff – to contribute their knowledge.

Lindberg said working in this way is hugely important to conservation projects as well. With the management of knotweed and other invasive species in The Valley, he said the Conservation Commissions of Waitsfield, Fayston and Warren have made an effort to not just involve experts, but to rope in community members and UVM students and faculty in order to build relationships and essentially generate a host of different ideas, adapting them over time.

“Healthy ecosystems have an abundance of biodiversity, and all kinds of interactions within them,” he said – including cultural diversity and complex human interactions.





Another lesson from complexity science, Lindberg said, is the notion that big changes come from small ones. “Many people see ecosystem collapse, pollution or climate change as issues so big you can’t do anything about them, and that just freezes action,” he said. “But complexity science says, many large changes actually start with something incredibly small.”

“Our Better Nature” concludes with a section called “Taking Action” – a host of practical things Vermonters can do to increase biodiversity on their own land or in their towns – planting native species, conserving wildlife habitats, and reducing the size of lawns, “which are just not good habitats,” Lindberg said.

“I think the book is really an invitation for all of us to do something, and it can be very modest, but I think we’re all capable of doing something,” Lindberg said, “and maybe it will make a big difference.”

The July 11 event is part of the Tri-Town Conservation Commission Biodiversity Series. All attendees of the event will get a free copy of “Our Better Nature.”