A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Spirit of Dialogue - Book Review

Colleague and friend Aaron Wolf published a new book - The Spirit of Dialogue, with Island Press. Despite knowing Wolf for many years, thus indicating that I have a potential conflict of interest, I prepared a review of the book and published here on mediate.com, fully disclosing our working relationship.

And to continue the spirit of full disclosure, I did provide a critique of the book:

The reader may be confused by the abrupt ending in Chapter 8. Wolf introduces the reader to the next scale of conflict - complex systems with complexly connected stakeholders. He briefly discusses an example of complexity with the Columbia River, dams, hydropower, and the declining salmon populations where we live and work in the Pacific Northwest of the US. He freely admits The Spirit of Dialogue framework is not extensively tested at this scale. 

I observed the challenges associated with his use of spirituality and conflict at this scale firsthand at an international conference on the renewal review of the Columbia River Treaty a few years back. Attendance was on the order of a few hundred, and included representatives from First Nations in Canada, Native American tribes, hydropower, power stakeholders, agriculture, non-governmental organizations covering a broad spectrum of interests, and legal, science, and engineering scholars from several regional universities. Wolf attempted to use “the spirit of dialogue” in a discussion on river governance, but the framework just did not connect with the many stakeholders. I think the challenge with Wolf’s framework is helping folks understand that spirituality and religion are not necessarily one and the same. 

If only The Spirit of Dialogue would have been available during the often-contentious debates over permitting graywater reuse in Oregon. With that said, past postings on the RWC reveal that greywater reuse is spiritual.
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"The approach to “conversion” is best summarized by Wolf 
where he states that we “do what we can in our own little microcatchment and pray that it scales up”. 

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