Utne Reader Visionary: Stephanie Mills

We need face-to-face relationships

| March-April 1996

Journalist, ecologist, and card-carrying bioregionalist, Stephanie Mills is a chronicler of environmental hope and a builder of relationships. In the wide-ranging In Service of the Wild (1995), she tells stories of environmental degradation-in-reverse: people who are working to restore ravaged land from suburban Chicago to India. The book also describes her work to re-vision and restore her own northern Michigan farm. Like a latter-day Madame de Staël or Mabel Dodge, Mills has been an indefatigable organizer of salons; and from the corner store to environmental conferences to far-flung outposts of environmental activism, she continues to bring people and ideas together in a good-natured battle against pessimism, boredom, and despair.

“The physical circumstances we live in are going to change pretty dramatically with environmental change. If we’re going to make humane and convivial responses to those changes, it’s going to have to be on a face-to-face basis—geographical community is going to be a very necessary thing, not just a good abstract idea. There may be ways it can be abetted by electronic community—email and such. But, you know, I live in a rural county in northern Michigan, and it seems like most of the people I’m going to have to be working it out with aren’t exactly the Wired type. They have a bunch of skills and hardihood and common sense that—let’s face it—are going to come in really handy if there are rolling power outages.”