Essays written by Courtney in Journals, Books and Other Places

The Carbon Cycle

The Story of Carbon

This is a condensed version of my blog The Carbon Pilgrim which ran from early 2012 to the end of 2015 and highlighted the many essential roles that carbon plays in life on Earth. The essay version here is a primer about carbon in all its glory — with photos! Its sole purpose is educational. Please share.

The Story of Carbon

cover page of the book Age of Consequences

Prologue to Age of Consequences

"This book was born on a sunny summer day in 2006 when I stepped out of a movie theater with my wife into the warm embrace of a lazy afternoon. Gen and I had finally found a convenient time to see former vice-president Al Gore's inconvenient documentary on global warming with its dire warnings of environmental and social turmoil ahead if we maintained the Status Quo. Like millions of others, we were unnerved by what we saw. I was especially disturbed by the graphic images of rising sea water snaking through the streets of Manhattan, Shanghai and other low-lying cities around the globe. As we stepped off the curb into the parking lot, blinking in the bright sunlight after the movie, I quipped to Gen "We'd better see Venice, quick.""

Originally published by CCounterpoint Press, January 2015

Prologue - Age of Consequences

cover page of the book Grass Soil Hope with a handdrawn map

Prologue to Grass, Soil, Hope

"This is the story of how I came into Carbon Country. I'm a former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist who became a dues-paying member of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association as a producer of local, grass-fed beef. For a boy raised in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, during the heyday of sprawl, fast food, and disco music, this was a bewildering sequence of events."

Originally published by Chelsea Green Press, June 2014

Prologue - Grass, Soil, Hope

man standing in field

Pasture Cropping: a Regenerative Idea from Down Under

"Why couldn't a cereal plant be cropped in a perennial pasture? As farmers, couldn't they figure out a way to make them all get along symbiotically? If nature could do it, why couldn't they? That's when the light went on, Colin Seis said, thanks to the beer. "You had to be drunk to think of something like pasture cropping," Seis told me. "But once we sobered up the next day, we decided to give it a go."

Originally published in Acres, vol. 42, July 2012

Pasture Cropping

Cover of a book that says Indelible West by Courtney White and has a black and white photo on the front.

An Introduction to The Indelible West: Photographs 1988-1998

"What we have in Courtney White's book is a recording of one passing phase of that frontier. And what a pleasure it is to see the real Wests captured in their flow! What a reassurance it is to see the Wests recorded in their living reality, instead of getting another view of someone being cut off at the pass in the Alabama Hills of the Kanab Desert, shooting wildly with both hands from guns that never need re-loading." – Wallace Stegner from his Foreword (1992)

Originally published as an online book, February 2012

My Introduction

Cover of the essay with no pictures just words

The Fifth Wave: Agrarianism and the Conservation Response in the American West

"Social movements are like ocean waves…They gather strength, grow and become an effective agent of change for a while. At their height, they either succeed outright in their goals or else begin to fade as circumstances evolve and their effectiveness declines. In the American West, the conservation response to natural resource depletion and crisis has followed this pattern. There have been four distinct waves of conservation—federalism, environmental­ism, scientism, and collaboratism. Each is now in a different stage of the "back-to-sea" cycle, making way for an emerging fifth wave—agrarianism."

Originally published in the Quivira Coalition's Journal, no. 37, January 2012

The Fifth Wave

man kneeling on ground pointing to something with students standing around looking

Reflections From a "Do" Tank

"Recently, an acquaintance asked me what I did for a living. After explaining that I ran a nonprofit that worked with ranchers and conservationists in the Southwest on land health and sustainability issues, he said summarily "Oh, you run a Think Tank." Without pausing, I replied "No, Quivira is a 'Do' Tank," which elicited a nod and smile."

Originally published in the Quivira Coalition's Journal, no. 37, January 2012

Reflections from a "Do" Tank

eucalyptas tree on right side of picture with grassy pasture to the right and behind the tree

Four Farms…Down Under

"I had the pleasure recently of spending twelve days in Australia, visiting four amazing farms, giving a talk to a carbon farming conference, and having my brain saturated with a cavalcade of innovation. I also drank a boatload of instant coffee. I was impressed by Aussie inventiveness, by their open, upbeat, and nonconformist ways, and by their willingness to tackle topics that Americans shy away from..."

Originally published in the Farming Magazine, Winter 2011

Four Farms...Down Under

hand holding up before and after pictures at a photo monitoring point

Walking the Talk

"Talk of ecosystem services is all the rage today among academics, activists, agencies, and policy-makers. But for ranchers Tom and Mimi Sidwell, who produce grassfed beef in the high, dry plains of eastern New Mexico this talk is old news. That's because they have been delivering ecosystem services for decades – they just didn't know it had an official name until recently."

Originally published in Acres (cover story), vol. 41, December 2011

Walking the Talk

Girl with cowboy hat and scarf bottle feeding a calf

Quivira Coalition and Conservation in the West

This entire edition of the Green Fire Times is focused on the Quivira Coalition, its programs, and effects. Articles include: New Agrarians: How the Next Generation of Leaders Tackle 21st Century Challenges; Kneeling in Mud: Conundrums of a Tree-Hugging, Cattle Ranching Human; Restoring Hozho: Building Bio-Cultural Resilience on the Navajo Nation; and The Agrarian Standard by Wendell Berry.

Originally published in the Green Fire Times vol. 3 no. 10, October 2011

Quivira Coalition and Conservation in the West

view of the front door or a burger restaurant called Diablo Burger

No Ordinary Burger

"Can a hamburger save the family ranch in the 21st century? If you’re Diablo Burger, a bite-sized eatery located in the busy old-town heart of Flagstaff, Arizona, serving up natural, fresh, trendy, and tasty hamburgers supplied by two local ranches, the answer is: possibly. Hopefully."

Originally published in Acres magazine, vol. 41, January 2011

No Ordinary Burger

illustrated map of a carbon ranch - includes cities and outlying rural areas and wilderness areas

The Carbon Ranch

This essay explores the possibility of large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere through plant photosynthesis and related land-based carbon sequestration activities.

Published in the Society for Range Management's Rangelands magazine in April 2011

The Carbon Ranch

Originally published in the Quivira Coalition Journal No. 36, December 2010

The Carbon Ranch

close up of hands holding seeds

The Gift

Originally published as Chapter Ten of Revolution on the Range, this excerpt appeared in the journal Ecological Restoration, June 2009.

The Gift

natural resources journal cover

Conservation in the Age of Consequences

An essay on how conservation might meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Originally published in the Natural Resources Journal (Vol. 48, No.1), published by the University of New Mexio School of Law, Winter 2008.

Conservation in the Age of Consequences

conservation book cover

Land Health: A Common Language to Describe
the Common Ground Beneath Our Feet

This essay examines the language of land health as a basis for collaboration.

Originally published as Chapter Ten in Conservation for a New Generation, edited by Richard L. Knight and Courtney White, Island Press, December 2008

Chapter 10 Essay                Purchase this book at Island Press

city skyscrapers

On Normality

A rumination on our chaotic world and the 'little normals' that make life worthwhile.

Originally published in The Quivira Coalition Journal No. 33, October 2008

On Normality

lonely highway

$7 Gas and the New West

What would happen to the West if the price of gasoline hit $7 a gallon? It may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

Originally published in The Quivira Coalition Journal No. 32, April 2008

$7 Gas and the New West

Revolution on the Range book cover

Prologue to Revolution on the Range: the Rise of the New Ranch
in the American West

"In 1996, I had an anguished question on my mind: why didn't environmentalists and ranchers get along better? In theory they shared many of the same hopes and fears - a love of wildlife, a deep respect for nature, an appreciation for a life lived outdoors, and a common concern for healthy water, food, fiber, and liberty. That was the theory anyway..."

Originally published by Island Press in May 2008

Prologue                Purchase this book at Island Press

firefighters doing a controlled burn

Grassbank 2.0

Building on what we have learned from the Valle Grande Grassbank.
By Courtney White and Craig Conley

Originally published in Rangelands, June 2007

Grassbank 2.0


The Next West: Getting from Here to There

Collaborative efforts to restore watershed health can provide a template of how Americans can survive in a contracted society.

Originally published in Headwaters News, November 2006

Getting from Here to There

someone standing in a pasture explaining something

A Corner Turned: The Chico Basin Ranch

An example of why the so-called ‘grazing wars’ faded away, thanks to ranchers like Duke Phillips.

Originally published in The Quivira Coalition's Journal no. 29, October 2006

A Corner Turned: The Chico Basin Ranch

front cover on Quvira Newsletter mostly text

Mugido: Rethinking the Federal Commons

This essay explores a new vision for public lands based on collaboration and land health.

Originally published in The Quivira Coalition Newsletter (vol.7, no.4) April 2006


first page of essay with photo of ranching couple

The New Ranch: a Definition

A brief definition of a term that I coined back in 1997.

Originally published in The Quivira Coalition Newsletter (vol.7, no.4) April 2006

The New Ranch: A Definition

wendell berry book cover

The Working Wilderness: a call for a Land Health Movement

Rethinking the conservation movement from the ground up.

Originally published by Wendell Berry in his collection of essays The Way of Ignorance, in November 2005

Working Wilderness

black and white photo of Courtney White speaking at a podium

An Invitation to Join the Radical Center

Twenty ranchers, scientists and conservationists wrote a declaration ending the grazing wars and inviting people to join the emerging radical center.

Originally read at The Quivira Coalition's 2nd Annual Conference, January 2003.

  Radical Center Invitation

black and white cover page - text with a photo of cows

The Quivira Coalition

Introducing our effort to build bridges between ranchers, environmentalists, scientists, and public land managers.

Originally published in Range magazine, Winter 1999.

The Quivira Coalition

Quiviras first logo - title with yellow background and green grass clipart

The Quivira Coalition's first newsletter

In which we explain the purpose of The Quivira Coalition, the idea of the New Ranch, and debut my column "The Far Horizon".

Originally published in by The Quivira Coalition in June 1997

Quivira's First Newsletter

Back to Top