Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover
I was quite blown away by this book. I was totally engaged when reading this book but found it hard to sleep after reading a chapter or two. My mind kept spinning, trying to image the hardships some people go through in growing up and developing as their own person. I too grew up as a free-range kid, but had none of the challenges that the author faced.
I do recommend it but don’t rush through it, It takes time to process. Extremely valuable to me. I appreciate that she has written about these very personal, family challenges and strongly recommend it to others.

A Late-Winter’s Walk

daffysTomorrow is the first day of Spring. The bright sunshine and brisk air draw me out of my  cave for a walk around Lake Elkhorn here in central Maryland. No kids, and no companion with me today except for the life along the trail. I take many long breaths of the cool air full of essential oils from the trees and soils, trying to rebuild my immune system from the rigors of a book tour.

The crows escorted me all around the lake. I usually don’t notice them, but today they are busy. A couple of red-shoulder hawks call to me from the trees and a couple of buzzards are cleaning up debris at the edge of the forest.

The magic of the day comes from taking a close look at all the brilliant mosses, yellow and green, and surrounded by sporophytes – ready to release their pollen into the gentle breeze. Buds are everywhere on the trees and I enjoy the blooms of the snowdrops and daffodils that have spread out into the buffer along the water’s edge. I notice that the invasive lesser celadine ground cover starting to bloom as well.

There is only a single pair of Canada geese left on the lake and a few scattered ducks (ring-necks, buffleheads, and hooded mergansers). Quite a change from the dozens of waterfowl we had just a few short weeks ago.

Only a few people are out today. I’m hoping that everyone will take the time to walk their favorite trails and once again fall in love with nature. It’s all about taking care of the places we love and we have a long way to go to learn how to live in balance with this amazing and probably unique eco-system, this climate, that we call home.


Ned is the author of The Big Melt.

The Big Melt is getting great reviews.

On the political side of things, I have been donating copies of The Big Melt into legislator hands for their nightly bedtime reading. There are a group of very important bills on the state level that should be viewed and voted on through a climate lens. If you want copies to hand deliver to your representatives, let me know.

I also got a wonderful and very thoughtful review this week on Amazon. I thought I would share it with you.

Imagining the future so we can survive and improve it – by Connie L

We have reached a point in our history where there is no version of the future that does not include climate change.  This is a reality that we are accepting less gracefully and far less quickly than one might wish, but here it is.

One of the challenges of facing climate change has always been how big and abstract it is.  Scientific reports can only get us part of the way to crafting a human response to our changing world.  Ned Tillman’s The Big Melt is part of a growing body of speculative fiction that helps us more fully imagine living in a world of climate change.

James Holland Jones, an associate professor for Earth System Science and Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, sees a critical role for storytelling in understanding the complexities of adapting to and mitigating climate change, and he says that books like The Big Melt can help us see “how people work, how they fight back, how they engage in [the] prosaic heroism of adapting to a changed world. This is powerful. It gives us hope for a better future.”

The Big Melt does all of this while sharing both the seriousness of the challenges we face and the hope of what people can accomplish when we work together towards a better future.  I love how capable and smart the book’s young protagonists are, and I recommend this book whole-heartedly.


Tundra Swans visit Lake Elkhorn

We got the text at 9:30 this morning – Tundra Swans on Lake Elkhorn! Kathy and I got our boots and coats on and went down the snow covered paths to the lake. There was about 2 inches of snow on the ground that had fallen during the night and it must have been enough to persuade the migrating swans to settle for the night. We watched them for a while. They went back and forth out in the middle of the lake, there were 20 of them in this flock. At one point we tried to discern their quiet conversation. It slowly increased in volume up to the point of quite an enthusiastic rally and then all of a sudden half of the swans took off followed by the other half. Their long wings slapping the water’s surface, helping to lift their bodies out of the lake. They took off to the East into the wind, rising their white bodies up through and above the gray and green winter forest. Moments later we heard them again as they doubled back, high over the lake heading west-northwest. And they were gone. What a sight. What a way to start the day.

One Maryland One Book Program

Out of 250 nominations, here are the Top 11 titles under consideration for One Maryland One Book 2019

I have read 4 of these and can vouch for their quality. It is an honor to part of this process.

Why did I write this book?

2018 report coverNo – I didn’t write the book shown here. But it is one you should read.

Unfortunately few people will read it. Those who do will then want to share their perspective with others. And then it gets crazy because it gets spun up into a political debate much larger than the information contained within it’s covers. These interpretations take on a life of their own.

That is our challenge. The news often numbs us. Who has time to keep up with it. And to be “news” that people read – it often is sensationalized. Over-the-top views are all too common and end up polarizing us.

Young adults and adults alike are overwhelmed by all the talk and all the scientific evidence that has been flowing across our media this past few weeks. Don’t you wonder, how we process it all? What can we do when an important report is published, realizing that few of us will take the time to read it?

We need stories and honest storytellers. We need both true personal stories and fictional ones that tell us a greater truth. These stories can help us get and stay engaged. They can help us process the news and all the noise that emanates from people discussing the news.

That’s why I wrote The Big Melt. I am a storyteller. And, yes, this book is a fictional story but it is based on truth. The truth about what is already happening to our environment and the truth when it comes down to seeking solutions to our rogue climate. I want to reach people on a visceral level and I want to offer them role models and actions that they can take. I hope everyone reads this book. It is an important tool that can be used to further the public debate.

Getting Beyond our Differences

climate titanicI have to admit that I thought this was an apt portrayal of different peoples perspectives about climate change when I first saw it. I also realize that some people will react negatively to this as an arrogant perspective of a very complicated challenge. True. So lets take a look at our immediate reactions to this issue of a changing climate a little more deeply. After all we need to find common ground for working together and dealing with the global challenge of a climate gone rogue.

My first reaction to this picture is followed quickly by one that says not all Republicans deny the existence of climate change and not all Democrats believe it’s an important issue. Of course not. Unfortunately, it has been politicized – leading to even more polarization. So lets look at the numbers and start our conversation from there.

According to a climate perspectives study called The Six Americas – see graphic below. -there appears to be about 9% percent of our population who would fall into the “Dismissive” category.

Six Americas12% are doubtful and 7% are too busy – they are disengaged. In my life I have moved right up this series of perspectives. When I first heard about my impact on the climate I was doubtful. It seemed unbelievable that my actions could have anything to do with the vast atmosphere around the Earth. I ended up studying Earth Science and have had the opportunity to see and peruse some of the data that has been generated. 50 years of testing and assessing the basic assumptions have just made the case stronger.

So over the years I became more and more aware of how our climate was changing, and changing at a rate much faster than normal. Faster than the detailed geologic record (that we have amassed) reveals for climates that have occurred in the past. This rapid warming correlates with the rapid increase in carbon emissions from our Industrial Age. So I am well into the concerned category of the above graph by now.

Going back to the initial cartoon I realize that most of us don’t have all the data. So being at the back of the Titanic might lead to disbelief. It is interesting how people who have been harmed by the negative impacts of our changing climate – those on the front of the ship – are changing their minds. Many of them are not just calling for action to repair their homes and lives but also action to slow down the rate of change. We cannot stop the change very quickly but if we work together we can certainly slow down the warming. So the real question is what are the best ways to do that. I wonder if we can get enough people from all ends of the ship to sit down long enough to agree on a range of approaches that we can deploy now.

Reviews Pour in for The Big Melt

214696-martin-scorsese-new-york-review-of-booksIt has been fun and rewarding to watch the reviews of my new book, The Big Melt, come in. Here are a few:

Publishers Weekly/BookLife Prize says this

Ned Tillman’s The Big Melt is a fast-paced novel for young readers that advocates taking care of the environment and illustrates the possible negative impacts that might occur if humans should neglect this responsibility. Tillman’s solid prose is appropriate for the target audience

Tillman’s novel is certainly inspiring and unique, melding together a firm call to action for young people to consider the environment and a young protagonist’s decision to protect his town. The fictional events in the novel are bolstered by a list of Earth-friendly actions that readers can utilize in their own lives, as well as a discussion guide to help spark conversation in classrooms and reading groups.

Angie Boyter– Top Amazon Reviewer

The Big Melt is near-future speculative fiction with some charming touches of whimsy, like Joe, Marley’s inner voice, who motivates and encourages him when he needs it most. I will not spoil Tillman’s fun by telling you who Joe is, but I can predict with confidence the identity will give you a laugh.

Despite its very serious subject, there are a number of nice touches of humor throughout the book, like the description of the mess in Ranger Max’s office: “His office paperwork would pile up on his desk until it slid to the floor. It then flowed out the door, where it was read and recycled by a family of fungi living in the soil just beneath the wooden steps.”

Shelley Von Hagen-Jamar– A fable for our times

The Big Melt is a fable about the devastating effects of climate change on a small town. It incorporates information about the threats to our environment in a way that young adult readers can understand, and it is written with enough whimsy and imagination to surprise and entertain all readers. It is a wake-up call for the next generation!

Brian England

I can’t say I enjoyed reading this book because it’s scary, we have all seen changes to the climate and wonder what will happen when we reach the tipping point! The author presents a scenario in a very interesting way, following this young couple as they become active in their community only to ……
I could not put this book down and read it in two sittings. It seems like it’s aimed at young people but it has a strong message for all of us.

Janene Holzberg wrote a great article about the book in the Baltimore Sunpapers

Stay-tuned for more feedback. Better yet, read the book and send in your own review to Goodreadsand Amazon.

“Glasswashing” vs Bird-safe Buildings

bird collision 1118

This angel impression is from a robin/dove? crash into 3rd story window

Have you noticed? There is a big trend toward “glasswashing” in the building industry these days. Just look around and you’ll see a lot of 2 to 20 story buildings covered with glass – thus the term “glass washing”. I don’t think it is a very interesting style of architecture. I would also think it’s not very good for energy efficiency – resulting in higher operating costs. Must be cheaper to build.

In addition to those questions, these glass covered buildings kill a lot of birds. As a result there is a big push to find ways to prevent birds from flying into these windows. The light at night and the reflections of blue sky during the day has lead to a billion birds dying per year from collisions with these buildings. We know these numbers because groups all around the country  actually go out and count the dead birds each morning.

So there is a growing push for bird proofing windows. Of course this is cheaper to do in the design/build stage than as a retrofitting effort. And yet it can be done and is being done – such as at the Howard County Conservancy. Here in Maryland there is a push to pass the Maryland Sustainable, Energy-Efficient, Bird-Safe Bulidings Act of 2019 to deal with this problem. Stay tuned.

Bird collisions are also a big challenge in residential settings especially ones with feeders. It’s not just an issue with big buildings – much of the damage happens at canopy level. We all need to retrofit our windows-at home and at work – to cut down on these negative impacts on the birds. The picture shown here is just one of several bird collisions that I have heard this fall. Look carefully at this picture – it is a dramatic angel-like image showing the wings and the body of a bird flying at full speed into a glass window.

This particular bird may have been a little impaired since the crabapples that have been planted all around our community parking lot are dropping their fermented fruit. It seems to be affecting the birds who are eating them in quite a frenzy. Unfortunately some of them end up flying into windows. I will need to treat my windows even more to reduce the carnage. You can too. You can get the necessary instructions and supplies from your local bird store or Audubon Society. It’s something we all can help with.

There Are Lots Of Ways To Skin A Cat

61uoqrisvyl-_sy498_bo1204203200_If you get the chance to read Paul Hawken’s Drawdown, you will see there are many approaches for reducing our carbon emissions. Some are more surprising than others. Many are things we all can start doing today. What I like about his book is that even those of us who are heavily entrenched in industries like fossil fuels can take major steps without necessarily losing the value of their assets. There is no reason to stall or defer our decisions any further and many reasons to take corrective action right away. After all we have been stalling, or “studying” this problem for 50 years.


I am also very interested in Congress’s current effort to float another bill that places a price on carbon. It is a step forward. We could argue it is too little-too late, but we need to be moving on many fronts. See more on my earlier Facebook Post.


The IPCC report last week should be enough to get everyone moving ahead on some action. There are plenty of options for each of us to choose from. Each of us can get moving today on steps at home, on the highways, and in the office. Check out this list:


beautiful blond blonde hair countryside

Photo by Dominika Greguu0161ovu00e1 on

Now that the elections are over for a few months, we need to double down and make sure government at all levels are pursuing actions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our transportation, agricultural, waste disposal, industrial, and residential sectors. We need to be relentless and stay on top of this issue every day. We need to look at everything we do through a climate lens. We all need to be climate aware.


This should also apply to our purchasing practices. We have a lot of power to demand from the marketplace more sustainable products. Let’s support the leaders and avoid those firms who do not take this situation seriously. Don’t spend a buck without asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I really need it?
  2. Is there a more sustainable option?
  3. What will I do with it when I am finished?


So put on your climate-aware glasses and look into the future. We better act now or that future is not going to be so bright.

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