Chelsea Green Publishing

A Precautionary Tale

Pages:240 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603587051
Pub. Date November 09, 2017

A Precautionary Tale

How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement

By Philip Ackerman-Leist
Foreword by Vandana Shiva

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
November 09, 2017

$19.95

Mals, Italy, has long been known as the breadbasket of the Tyrol. But recently the tiny town became known for something else entirely. A Precautionary Tale tells us why, introducing readers to an unlikely group of activists and a forward-thinking mayor who came together to ban pesticides in Mals by a referendum vote—making it the first place on Earth to accomplish such a feat, and a model for other towns and regions to follow.

For hundreds of years, the people of Mals had cherished their traditional foodways and kept their local agriculture organic. Their town had become a mecca for tourists drawn by the alpine landscape, the rural and historic character of the villages, and the fine breads, wines, cheeses, herbs, vegetables, and the other traditional foods they produced. Yet Mals is located high up in the eastern Alps, and the valley below was being steadily overtaken by big apple producers, heavily dependent on pesticides. As Big Apple crept further and further up the region’s mountainsides, their toxic spray drifted with the valley’s ever-present winds and began to fall on the farms and fields of Mals—threatening their organic certifications, as well as their health and that of their livestock. 

The advancing threats gradually motivated a diverse cast of characters to take action—each in their own unique way, and then in concert in an iconic display of direct democracy in action. As Ackerman-Leist recounts their uprising, we meet an organic dairy farmer who decides to speak up when his hay is poisoned by drift; a pediatrician who engaged other medical professionals to protect the soil, water, and air that the health of her patients depends upon; a hairdresser whose salon conversations mobilized the town’s women in an extraordinarily conceived campaign; and others who together orchestrated one of the rare revolutionary successes of our time and inspired a movement now snaking its way through Europe and the United States.

A foreword by Vandana Shiva calls upon others to follow in Mals’s footsteps.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Booklist

"Northern Italy’s South Tyrol province is at a cultural crossroads where the Swiss, Austrians, and Italians have all claimed the region’s fertile slopes. The latest struggle for the area is agricultural, pitting organic farmers against Big Apple, the opposition’s nickname for a cooperative of fruit growers who spray pesticides on their high-tech orchards up to 20 times per year. Due to frequent winds, Big Apple’s pesticides drift into the adjacent organic fields, harming the income and reputation of farmers who pledged to be chemical-free. Thanks to its remoteness, Mals, a municipality in South Tyrol, has been out of Big Apple’s reach, but the construction of industrial orchards is approaching. This is the story of Mals and its successful, preemptive campaign to ban pesticides within the township borders. With profiles of organic farmers, descriptions of traditional foods, and accounts of creative local politics, the book will appeal to readers who enjoy reading encouraging stories of grassroots environmental action. A short 'activist’s primer' is included." 

Publishers Weekly—

"In this down-to-earth volume on the effects of pesticides, Ackerman-Leist (Rebuilding the Foodshed), a farmer and professor at Green Mountain College, chronicles the agricultural battles waged in Mals, a town in the Italian Alps filling fast with apple orchards. Residents had grown accustomed to the 'gradual march of the orchards up the slopes' but were dismayed by the 'enveloping mists blasted from the spray machines mounted on the back of the advancing tractors.' Ackerman-Leist profiles some of the crucial actors in Mals’s fight against 'Big Apple,' during which the residents of Mals passed a referendum vote to ban pesticides. He introduces Günther Wallnöfer, an organic dairy farmer whose family business sat adjacent to a new orchard; residue from the orchard’s chemical sprays had found its way to Wallnöfer’s livestock. Ackerman-Leist also talks with Peter Gasser, a veterinarian who interacted daily with farmers and livestock. As a result of this work Gasser had a thorough knowledge of the community’s issues, which he would later use to help lead the fight against pesticides in the town. Ackerman-Leist argues that Mals’s story has particular relevance for American farmers who face similar circumstances, and he concludes his discussion with useful suggestions for farming communities on topics such as information gathering and political engagement.”

Foreword Reviews-

"Focusing on a region of the Alps where farming has been a mainstay for millennia, this book examines a successful grassroots movement to ban pesticides…. A Precautionary Tale is an optimistic read with an enthusiastic and celebratory tone. Activists will find it inspiring, and community leaders in a position to take the example of Mals may see in it a blueprint for peaceful, calm, and productive civil discussion around the environment."

“An inspiring tale of citizen science and community action.”—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

“Ackerman-Leist tells the story of how a small town took on the powerful forces of chemical agriculture and not only won, but created a template that anyone seeking a poison-free environment anywhere in the world can follow.”—Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and Pig Tales

“Climate change, xenophobia, war, hunger, madmen and autocrats running the world. It’s easy to feel paralyzed when faced with the enormity of our modern dilemma. Philip Ackerman-Leist’s A Precautionary Tale gives us hope, and provides us with a real-life tale of regular folk who stood up to the Goliath that was about to swallow their community, and succeeded. This book is living proof that even against overwhelming odds we have enormous power in and around the places where we live.”—Michael Ableman, farmer and; author of Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier

A Precautionary Tale is the hopeful message we all need! Philip Ackerman-Leist shows us that we still have the power, as citizens, to gather and change the reality of our daily lives. The people from Mals could be you and me. They have proven that working for empowerment is not in vain. Indeed, they have managed to defeat giant corporations. And they remind us that we can’t let despair or sadness paralyze us, that we can trust the strength of community, and that we must do our part and act.”—Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer, authors of Miraculous Abundance

“Many, many thanks to Philip Ackerman-Leist for telling us the wonderful story of Mals, the town in Italy that decided to ban the use of pesticides! This story is extremely inspiring for us all. It shows that there is a way out of the actual dependency of our agriculture on pesticides, and that a group of informed and active citizens, together with brave local politicians, can change the world for the better. May this excellent book inspire communities all around the world—and our politicians, too!”—François Veillerette, chair, Pesticide Action Network Europe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Ackerman-Leist

Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed and Up Tunket Road, is a professor at Green Mountain College, where he established the college’s farm and sustainable agriculture curriculum, directs its Farm & Food Project, and founded its Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems, the nation’s first online graduate program in food systems, featuring applied comparative research of students’ home bioregions. He and his wife, Erin, farmed in the South Tyrol region of the Alps and North Carolina before beginning their nineteen-year homesteading and farming venture in Pawlet, Vermont. With more than two decades of field experience working on farms, in the classroom, and with regional food systems collaborators, Philip’s work is focused on examining and reshaping local and regional food systems from the ground up.

AUTHOR EVENTS

March 09, 2018

Philip Ackerman-Leist at Organic Growers School

Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC | Philip Ackerman-Leist

See all Events by this Author

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Up Tunket Road

Up Tunket Road

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

Ever since Thoreau's Walden, the image of the American homesteader has been of someone getting away from civilization, of forging an independent life in the country. Yet if this were ever true, what is the nature and reality of homesteading in the media-saturated, hyper-connected 21st century?

For seven years Philip Ackerman-Leist and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in the beautiful but remote hills of western New England. Slowly forging their own farm and homestead, they took inspiration from their experiences among the mountain farmers of the Tirolean Alps and were guided by their Vermont neighbors, who taught them about what it truly means to live sustainably in the postmodern homestead--not only to survive, but to thrive in a fragmented landscape and a fractured economy.

Up Tunket Road is the inspiring true story of a young couple who embraced the joys of simple living while also acknowledging its frustrations and complexities. Ackerman-Leist writes with humor about the inevitable foibles of setting up life off the grid--from hauling frozen laundry uphill to getting locked in the henhouse by their ox. But he also weaves an instructive narrative that contemplates the future of simple living. His is not a how-to guide, but something much richer and more important--a tale of discovery that will resonate with readers who yearn for a better, more meaningful life, whether they live in the city, country, or somewhere in between.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Up Tunket Road

Philip Ackerman-Leist, Erin Ackerman-Leist

Paperback $17.95

Rebuilding the Foodshed

Rebuilding the Foodshed

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters.

But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

Changing our foodscapes raises a host of questions. How far away is local? How do you decide the size and geography of a regional foodshed? How do you tackle tough issues that plague food systems large and small—issues like inefficient transportation, high energy demands, and rampant food waste? How do you grow what you need with minimum environmental impact? And how do you create a foodshed that's resilient enough if fuel grows scarce, weather gets more severe, and traditional supply chains are hampered?

Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Rebuilding the Foodshed

Philip Ackerman-Leist, Deborah Madison

Paperback $19.95

The War on Bugs

The War on Bugs

By Will Allen

In the early nineteenth century as the American population grew rapidly, demands on crop output increased. Seeing an opportunity to play upon fears from market demand, chemical companies declared war on the vile, profit-sucking, output-wreaking, arch-nemesis of the average American farmer: bugs. With precision, pesticide manufacturers delivered a "shock and awe" media campaign that can only be paralleled to the current blitzkrieg from today's pharmaceutical companies. Bugs were the threat to the American dream—and there was a cure available to every farmer available in spray, granule, dust, or systemic form that could be applied to any crop.

Will Allen's The War on Bugs reveals how advertisers, editors, scientists, large-scale farmers, government agencies—and even Dr. Seuss—colluded to convince farmers to use deadly chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to pad their wallets and control the American farm enterprise.

When it first appeared in 2008, this groundbreaking “people’s history of agricultural chemicals” was far ahead of its time, and this newly revised and updated edition brings readers up to date on issues, detailing how organic and populist farmers, consumers, and activists have struggled against toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply.

Echoing the warnings of seminal works on the topic like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 100,000 Guinea Pigs by Arthur Kallet and F.J. Schlink, and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The War on Bugs shouts that the time to stop poisoning our food, water, air, and ourselves is now!

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The War on Bugs

Will Allen, Vandana Shiva

Paperback $19.95

AUTHOR VIDEOS

GMC The Stream

GMC The Stream

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Rebuilding the Foodshed - Green Mountain college TV

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist (Extended)

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Walking on Water

Walking on Water

By Derrick Jensen

Remember the days of longing for the hands on the classroom clock to move faster? Most of us would say we love to learn, but we hated school. Why is that? What happens to creativity and individuality as we pass through the educational system?

Walking on Water is a startling and provocative look at teaching, writing, creativity, and life by a writer increasingly recognized for his passionate and articulate critique of modern civilization. This time Derrick Jensen brings us into his classroom--whether college or maximum security prison--where he teaches writing. He reveals how schools perpetuate the great illusion that happiness lies outside of ourselves and that learning to please and submit to those in power makes us into lifelong clock-watchers. As a writing teacher Jensen guides his students out of the confines of traditional education to find their own voices, freedom, and creativity.

Jensen's great gift as a teacher and writer is to bring us fully alive at the same moment he is making us confront our losses and count our defeats. It is at the center of Walking on Water, a book that is not only a hard-hitting and sometimes scathing critique of our current educational system and not only a hands-on method for learning how to write, but, like Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, a lesson on how to connect to the core of our creative selves, to the miracle of waking up and arriving breathless (but with dry feet) on the far shore.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Walking on Water

Derrick Jensen

Paperback $20.00

Angels by the River

Angels by the River

By James Gustave Speth

Reflections on race, environment, politics, and living on the front lines of change

In Angels by the River, James Gustave "Gus" Speth recounts his unlikely path from a southern boyhood through his years as one of the nation's most influential mainstream environmentalists and eventually to the system-changing activism that shapes his current work. Born and raised in an idyllic but racially divided town that later became the scene of South Carolina's horrific Orangeburg Massacre, Speth explores how the civil rights movement and the South's agrarian roots shaped his later work in the heyday of the environmental movement, when he founded two landmark environmental groups, fought for the nation's toughest environmental laws, spearheaded programs in the United Nations, advised the White House, and moved into a leading academic role as dean of Yale's prestigious School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Yet, in the end, he arrived somewhere quite unexpected–still believing change is possible, but not within the current political and economic system. Throughout this compelling memoir, Speth intertwines three stories–his own, his hometown's, and his country's–focusing mainly on his early years and the lessons he drew from them, and his later years, in which he comes full circle in applying those lessons. In the process he invites others to join him politically at or near the place at which he has arrived, wherever they may have started.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

Read More

Angels by the River

James Gustave Speth

Hardcover $25.00

Confronting Collapse

Confronting Collapse

By Michael C. Ruppert

The book that inspired the movie Collapse.

The world is running short of energy-especially cheap, easy-to-find oil. Shortages, along with resulting price increases, threaten industrialized civilization, the global economy, and our entire way of life.

In Confronting Collapse, author Michael C. Ruppert, a former LAPD narcotics officer turned investigative journalist, details the intricate connections between money and energy, including the ways in which oil shortages and price spikes triggered the economic crash that began in September 2008. Given the 96 percent correlation between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions and the unlikelihood of economic growth without a spike in energy use, Ruppert argues that we are not, in fact, on the verge of economic recovery, but on the verge of complete collapse.

Ruppert's truth is not merely inconvenient. It is utterly devastating.

But there is still hope. Ruppert outlines a 25-point plan of action, including the creation of a second strategic petroleum reserve for the use of state and local governments, the immediate implementation of a national Feed-in Tariff mandating that electric utilities pay 3 percent above market rates for all surplus electricity generated from renewable sources, a thorough assessment of soil conditions nationwide, and an emergency action plan for soil restoration and sustainable agriculture.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Confronting Collapse

Michael C. Ruppert, Colin Campbell

Paperback $15.00

How on Earth

How on Earth

By Jennifer Hinton and Donnie Maclurcan

Something incredible is happening within our economy. Beyond the failures of state socialism and the excesses of corporate capitalism, a realistic alternative is emerging. In How on Earth, Donnie Maclurcan and Jennifer Hinton chart the rise of businesses that place purpose ahead of profit, and outline how the advantages these businesses hold in the marketplace pave the way to an entirely different economic system, focused on addressing human need, not greed.

At the heart of this monumental transition lies the changing nature of not-for-profit (NFP) organizations. Contrary to popular notions of non-profit inefficiency, unaccountability, and dependence on donors, the 21st century NFP is proving highly efficient, transparent, and increasingly self-funded.

Distinguishing themselves from B corps and ethical/green shareholder companies by always reinvesting rather than privatizing profits, NFP enterprises around the world are proliferating and succeeding in areas as diverse as construction, manufacturing, software development, food catering, and retail. In a process described by Jeremy Rifkin as ‘the eclipse of capitalism’, many NFP enterprises (including various forms of cooperatives, community interest companies, government-owned corporations, and social businesses) are now outperforming their for-profit counterparts, driven by marked advantages in terms of finance, human resources, productivity, innovation, governance, environmental outcomes, value creation and market reputation. Simultaneously, NFP enterprises are increasingly curbing the excesses that have traditionally been associated with the charitable sector.

Moving beyond the market/state dichotomy, the NFP model finally aligns our economy with the social values that modern science and ancient wisdom agree are central to our shared prosperity. With wealth recirculating through a purpose-driven system, the emerging NFP world economy is better able to serve people and planet, while retaining market dynamics and requiring less taxation and government bureaucracy in the process.

A groundbreaking contribution to economic theory, How on Earth presents the world’s first practical blueprint for the transition to a fairer, thriving economy that offers quality of life for all while respecting our ecological limits.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

How on Earth

Jennifer Hinton, Donnie Maclurcan

Paperback $19.95