Patagonia Books really puts out some great work, and Tools for Grassroots Activists puts a bit of a forward lean into their catalog. Yvon Chouinard tells in the intro about how in the early seventies he was inspired to fight to save a favorite surf break near Patagonia HQ in Ventura, California. The battle was successful and from that evolved an environmental ethos that anyone familiar with Chouinard knows is both practical and powerful.
In 1994 his company sponsored the first Tools conference to promote best practices for success in the environmental movement – actually the book's subtitle. Today that tradition is continued every two years, and now many of the people who teach at the Tools conference have written articles for what is an effective and readable little book that seeks to teach through stories of other successes in a movement that has had its fair share of defeats.
Edited by Nora Gallagher and Lisa Myers, and including numerous well-known authors such as Bill McKibben and Jane Goodall, Tools consists of 23 essays each by a different author, organized in eleven sections. Each section starts with an essay such as "Working with Business" that attempts to boil down best practices in that area. Each of these is followed by a keynote that injects an inspirational story to buttress the pedagogical points made earlier. Throughout there are sprinkled cases studies and a lot of how-to advice, all up-to-date and practical enough to be applied with just a little more effort.
One thing that always sets Patagonia books apart is the quality of the photography. Tools is not exception, and the liberal use of provocative images spanning nature, travel, adventure and even civil rights. Overall Tools is a nice combination of introduction and inspiration, and will find a home on the bookshelf of those who work for social impact well beyond the strict environmental movement.