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Green Fire Q&A

Q: You’re an internationally-selling novelist. What are you doing working on a history about Huxley College, a relatively small (400 student) division of Western Washington University?

A: I work there, and was asked to help with a book marking Huxley’s 40th anniversary. The college began in 1970 and by some definitions was the first environmental college in the world. It has evolved as the environmental movement has evolved, and its institutional story has relevance not just for alumni, but for environmental programs as a whole.

Q: What kind of a book is it?

A: I wrote a narrative history of the college that focuses on the tumultuous, experimental time of its founding (the late 1960s and early 1970s) and its institutional evolution since. Huxley provided its students with a unique educational experience. They in turn have gone on to solve environmental problems all over the world, and so we also have profiles of 40 alumni to show their range.

Q: These are profiles you did?

A: Most were written by my former students. This was a shoestring project driven by a remarkable development director named Manca Valum and produced with contributions and suggestions by students, alumni, and staff. It’s a real collaboration.

Q: A vanity project?

A: No. The book is quite frank about the stormy politics that have surrounded the environmental college and organizational decisions that remain controversial to this day. The point is to have some institutional memory that future generations can learn from as the college continues to evolve.

Q: Who’s Huxley?

A: Read the book! It’s Thomas Henry Huxley, ‘Darwin’s Bulldog,’ a humanistic scientist who was an early defender of the theory of evolution. He represents the kind of intellectual courage the college believes in.

Q: Will it be available to people outside the college?

A: Yes, but details of that availability are still being worked out. We hope to publish by late April and will have more information then.

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