That Which Roots Us is a work of natural and environmental history that explores the origins of and resolutions to some of the United States’ environmental problems. Marion Dresner discusses the roots of Euro-American environmental exploitative action, starting with the environmental consequences of having treated Pacific Northwest forests as commodities. She shares her experiences visiting sites where animal-centered ice age culture changed to human-centered culture thousands of years ago with the advent of farming. The book explores the origins of the romantic philosophical movement, which arose out of the debilitating conditions of the industrial era. Those romantic attitudes toward nature inspired the twentieth-century preservation movement and America’s progressively modern conservation attitudes.
The book is centered around environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest, contrasting utilitarian views of nature with Native American practices of respect and reciprocity. The elements that make That Which Roots Us a truly unique and important contribution to environmental literature are the author’s personal recollections and interactions with the landscape. Ultimately, Dresner offers hope for a new stewardship of the land and a focus on science literacy and direct experience in the natural world as the most grounded way of knowing the planet.