Zugunruhe – Book Review

Zugunruhe Book CoverSelf-discovery meets green building in Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change, by Jason F. McLennan, written with Mary Adam Thomas. It’s an odd combination but it works.

I came across Zugunruhe during the 2013 Bioneers Conference. The book was sitting on a table set up to showcase books by the keynote speakers, which included McLennan. Earlier in the day, I’d watched his Living Buildings and a Regenerative World presentation. I’m a green building fan and was intrigued by the concept of living buildings so I bought the book.

Book Review

Zugunruhe is a German word pronounced (zoo gen ROO ha) meaning “migratory restlessness” which describes the behavioral changes many animals go through prior to migration.

Part self-help guide and part green building treatise, Zugunruhe calls to the green warrior in each of us.

McLennan weaves stories from his own life and others into the lessons in the book. He gives a lot of advice without sounding preachy or authoritative. Sometimes his ideas fly in the face of convention or put a different spin on a well-known word or concept.

  • In today’s world of specialization, we need more polymaths, people with broad and diverse knowledge.
  • Failure is something to look forward to.
  • Forgiveness should happen prior to transgression.
  • Conflict is good.
  • A true warrior uses restraint and diplomacy first, and only fights as a last resort.

Zugunruhe contains highlights from McLennan’s experiences as an architect in the green building movement.

Readers will explore the difference between “not failing” and succeeding through the lens of the building industry, discover the design knowledge rose, and get a glimpse of the Living Building Challenge.

McLennan defines a living building as one that functions as elegantly and efficiently as a flower; generates its own power, captures, treats, and recycles water, operates pollution-free with no toxic chemicals, and is beautiful.

Imagine living in a world where living buildings are the norm and people flourish alongside nature.

The Bottom Line

Jason F. McLennan is an architect, CEO of Cascadia Green Building Council, and founder of the Living Building Challenge, an international green building program. Mary Adam Thomas is a writer with a commitment to environmental issues.

When I read the sentence, “This book is not about guilt.” on page 28, I knew I was going to enjoy it, and I did.

McLennan and Thomas’ style of writing are conversational and thought-provoking. I often found myself pausing to listen to my own inner dialogue or laughing over messages that could have been written specifically for me such as the drawbacks of being a perfectionist or too process-driven.

Many of the green building segments make sense in the context of the chapters, but others seem like marketing plugs promoting the Living Building Challenge or McLennan himself; however, rather than detracting from the book it makes it more like a real journey with twists and turns, side trips, and dead ends.

On the surface, Zugunruhe may seem like a book for treehuggers and green building professionals, but it pertains to personal transformation of any kind. I recommend it to anyone interested in making a change in her or his life and willing to do the work to change.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Related Posts


Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.