Monday, December 17, 2012

Stand Up That Mountain: Book Review

Stand Up That Mountain: Book Review

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, many of us have the urge to do something.  For some people, it is the inclination to push for gun control.  Others are focused on the deficiencies in our mental health system or improved safety in our schools.  And many folks are simply despondent.  As 2012 comes to a sad close, I recommend reading Stand Up That Mountain by Jay Leutze.

For those who think that change is impossible, Jay’s book provides hope.  And, for those who are now inspired to seek change, Jay’s book reminds us that it takes incredible persistence.  Jay Leutze is a naturalist and fisherman from the western mountains of North Carolina.  The book is about stopping a company from developing a quarry that would destroy a mountain and thereby imperil a community and the experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Long Meeting (1996)

Jay was going about his life when two of his neighbors, fourteen year-old Ashley Cook and her Aunt Ollie Cox, inspire him to get involved in stopping the Clark Stone Company from mining Belview Mountain.  While Jay is pivotal in fighting the quarry, this is the story of an unlikely team of folks.  The book introduces us to a collection of lawyers, conservationists, government officials, and ordinary mountain people.  Jay brings these folks to life, especially those who live in an area nicknamed “Dogtown.”  Remarkably, he also provides depth and perspective in describing the antagonists in this story.  For example, we get a three-dimensional view of Charles Gardner, the State geologist responsible for granting and then revoking the mining permit.  Similarly, Paul Brown, the mine owner, is cast as a human being.  In my world of money management, these types of books (usually about the credit crisis or bubble) pit superheroes against villains.  Jay’s portrayal is more subtle and revealing.

The book chronicles a series of victories and setbacks as Paul Brown tries to start up his mine, and a growing coalition attempts to block him.  Although much of the tale is told in courtrooms, office buildings, and Jay’s pickup truck, a big part of this story occurs outdoors.  While we anxiously await court rulings or administrative decisions, Jay takes us to trout streams and along the mountain ridges behind his house. 

What does it take to stand up to vested interests?  This book is a case study.  Whether your cause is the homeless, veterans, financial reform, or the environment, Jay’s book offers insight into the tactics and perils of fighting for a cause.  On the other hand, if all you’re looking for is a good story told by a great storyteller, this book is well worth reading.

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