Gone Goose

The Remaking of an American Town in the Age of Climate Change

Braden T. Leap
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1734-3
Publication: Dec 18

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1733-6
Publication: Dec 18

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1735-0
Publication: Dec 18

270 pages
6 x 9
1 tables, 1 figs., 11 halftones

How members of a rural town in the Midwest worked to sustain their culture and community in response to climate change

Read an excerpt from Chapter 2 (pdf).


Sumner, MO, pop. 102, near the Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, proclaims itself “The Wild Goose Capital of the World.” It even displays Maxie, the World’s largest goose: a 40-foot tall fiberglass statue with a wingspan stretching more than 60 feet. But while the 200,000 Canada geese that spent their falls and winters at Swan Lake helped generate millions of dollars for the local economy—with hunting and the annual Goose Festival—climate change, as well as environmental and land use issues, have caused the birds to disappear. The economic loss of the geese and the activities they inspired served as key building blocks in the rural identities residents had developed and treasured.

In his timely and topical book, Gone Goose, Braden Leap observes how members of this rural town adapted, reorganized, and reinvented themselves in the wake of climate change—and how they continued to cultivate respect and belonging in their community. Leap conducted interviews with residents and participated in various community events to explore how they reimagine their relationships with each other as well as their community’s relationship with the environment, even as they wish the geese would return.


" (A)n excellent ethnographic account of how a local community adapts to drastic ecological changes that carry direct economic impacts.... The book is wonderfully written, almost as though one is reading a good novel, with vivid and detailed descriptions of the people and places that make up this small town.... (A)n important read for anyone interested in ecologically informed ethnography and local responses to climate change."
— Symbolic Interaction

"(A) fascinating and timely book that discusses the way citizens in the small town of Sumner, Missouri adapted to serious ecological changes associated with climate change.... The book is incredibly thorough in exploring and analyzing the connections between Sumner’s social inequalities, sense of community, and communal adaptations to specific environmental changes.... The research presented in the book is clear, detailed, and effective in communicating the complex nature of various community topics.... The book (is) insightful and informative."
— Rural Sociology

"Leap’s ethnography is a useful contribution not only to sociology, but also to those who wish to develop resilient responses to climate change.... Leap’s focus on power and inequality and his incorporation of rurality into the intersectional discussion of race, class, and gender are both useful contributions. Another is the author’s in-depth look at the complexity of rural communities.... Leap reminds us that adaptation is always an unfinished process. His book offers some hope that it will continue."
— Social Forces

"Environmental sociologists will be particularly interested in Leap’s analysis of how whiteness was produced through transformation of the landscape with respect to the management techniques used in the refuge to develop duck hunting."
— American Journal of Sociology

“Gone Goose provides an insightful look at an American community responding to a changing environment and the sense of loss this change engenders. Leap’s thoughtful exploration of how humans gain identity, values, and social connections as part of their relationship with the ecosystem they are part of is not only nuanced and reflective, but also moving. This is a poignant work that is worthy of attention from readers interested in the meaning of community and place, the implications of ecological change, and human-animal relationships.
Richard York, Professor of Sociology and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon

“Gone Goose is a great case study about climate adaptation in unexpected communities. Leap’s work contributes to our conversations about environmental change and adaptation beyond those studies set in liberal coastal cities or developing nations aided by wealthy western governments or INGOs. The idea that communities are adapting to climate change without knowing it—and without explicitly talking about it—and still managing to retain some of the social structures they have always had, is interesting, hopeful, and saddening all at once. Leap tells this story of resilience and how communities can adapt to changing environmental conditions clearly and with passion.
Deserai Crow, Associate Professor in School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver

"Timely and sincere.... The book really shines where Leap showcases his nuanced understandings of rural life in this community.... Other major strengths are the clearly close relationships he has developed with community residents and the complexity of the analysis. Leap builds a multilayered story, weaving gender, race, class, and place together in an intricate web. This approach reveals many keen insights.... (T)his is a terrific intersectional account of several overlapping inequalities.... Gone Goose is a model study of how climate change affects communities."
– Men and Masculinities

Table of Contents


Part I Community, Inequalities, Adaptations
1. A Rural Community Permeated by Differences and Inequalities
2. An Intersectional Transition to Duck Hunting, a Degraded Sense of Community
3. The Buyers and the Bakers: Rearranging Messy Inequalities

Part II Institutions and Adaptations
4. Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge: A Contact Zone Infused with Cultural Convictions
5. Repurposing the Refuge: Adaptations amid Conflicts over the Future
6. Working through Risky Frictions: Cooperating to Adapt to an Uncertain Future
Conclusion: Adaptations as Entangled, Open-Ended Processes

Appendix: A Situated Community Study

About the Author(s)

Braden T. Leap is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Mississippi State University.