Believers

Making A Life at the End of the World

Lisa Wells

July 2021 Original publisher: FSGNon Fiction

We find ourselves at the end of the world; how then shall we live?

Like many of us, Lisa Wells has spent years overwhelmed by news of apocalyptic-scale climate change and a coming sixth extinction. She did not need to be convinced of the stakes. But what can be done? Wells embarked on a pilgrimage, seeking answers in dedicated communities—outcasts and visionaries—on the margins of society.

Wells meets Finisia Medrano, an itinerant planter and misanthrope leading a group of nomadic activists to rewild the American desert. She finds a group of environmentalist Christians practicing ‘watershed discipleship’ in New Mexico, another group in Philadelphia turning the tools of violence into tools of farming—guns into plowshares. She watches the world’s greatest tracker teach how to read a trail and visits botanists who are restoring land overrun by invasive species and destructive humans. She talks with survivors of catastrophic wildfires in California as they try to rebuild in new ways that acknowledge the fires will come again.

Blending reportage, memoir, history, and philosophy, Wells opens up seemingly intractable questions about the damage we have done and how we might reckon with our inheritance. Believers demands transformation: if the Earth is our home, if our home is being destroyed– how then shall we live?

Reviews

“Brilliant in its quest. . . [and] an essential document of our time” —Charles D’Ambrosio

 

“Everyone who lives on this earth needs to read this book… Lisa Wells is whip-smart and insightful, taking us along on her own quest to find another way to be. We grow with her, immersed in the poignant, hopeful, and heartbreaking stories of people she meets as she attempts to answer what has been her life’s refrain: How shall we live?” —Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman

 

“Lisa Wells’s writing is brilliant; her conclusions are profound. If you can take only one book with you while wading through the wreckage of the Anthropocene, this is the one.”

—Kate Lebo, author of The Book of Difficult Fruit

 

“We are living in an extreme moment, and one where it’s very hard to know what effective action looks like against crises of a scale we’ve not before encountered. These accounts of people trying to grapple with that reality are sometimes inspiring and often cautionary, and always a spur to thinking about how the rest of us might accomplish the most we can.” —Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

 

Believers is brilliant in its quest among the outcasts. It is meticulously researched and reasoned, and Lisa Wells lays out a vast and sophisticated vision like no other writer since Charles Bowden… The chorus of visionary characters, to which Wells adds her beautiful and deeply caring voice, makes Believers an essential document of our time.” —Charles D’Ambrosio, author of Loitering

 

Believers asks us to imagine a relationship to land that precedes human memory, an act that requires us to shed our idealism in favor of a more radical leap of faith. In that wild leap, this book transcends its tragicomic eccentricities and rich narrative to arrive, miraculously, a few steps down the path to wisdom. In such a journey, the sacred and the profane cannot part company—instead, they walk side by side.”—Maurice Manning, author of Railsplitter

 

“Wry, fierce, and scathingly honest. For anyone who needs a shot of hope in these sideways times, take a road trip in the company of genuine believers.” —Scott Ludlam, author of Full Circle: Power, Hope and the Return of Nature and former senator and deputy leader of the Australian Greens

 

“Brave, fascinating, and honest, Lisa Wells not only documents a generation on the precipice of climate change and all the necessary truth telling that comes with understanding such destruction, but she also has done so with warmth and intimacy, as if to say, ‘Whatever happens, let’s face it together.’”—Anna Krien, author of Night Games and Act of Grace