Magical Realism comes to Ecopsychology

A book review
by John Scull

Einstein's World:
Educating and Counseling With Nature
Michael J. Cohen.
Friday Harbor, WA: Project Nature Connect

Mike Cohen, another member of the International Community for Ecopsychology, has been teaching people how to connect with nature for about 40 years. He has written several books. How Nature Works describes the origins of his ideas and tells stories from his outdoor school. "Well Mind Well Earth," and "Reconnecting with Nature" are textbooks for his courses. "Connecting with Nature" is a collection of over 100 nature-connecting activities.

"Einstein's World" is something new for Dr. Cohen; a magical realist didactic novel. The book switches between Cohen writing in the first person and Cohen telling a story about Rachel, one of his students at a fanciful version of the 1999 WTO meetings/protests in Seattle. In the story she leads two mixed groups through some webstring experiences. The groups include amazingly open-minded WTO officials and professors and a very thick-headed newspaper reporter. There is a little tension and excitement but a disappointing absence of romantic entanglements.

This book is an excellent introduction for newcomers to Cohen's ideas. Rachel is an effective workshop leader who happily doesn't seem to share her mentor's love of acronyms and neologisms. Her workshop participants ask all the right questions. For those of us who have already taken some of his email courses, the book provides a model of how easy it is to lead nature-connecting activities on our own. Cohen's methods are experiential rather than theoretical, so while this book explains and illustrates some of his ideas, it is really just a pointer towards how to connect with nature, not a substitute for the real thing. . .

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