Archive for November, 2006


Local bookstore makes good; Sippewisset a surprise favorite

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Book industry website Shelf Awareness (get it?) turns its eye to little ole Norwich Bookstore, and joy! joy! Tim Traver turns out to be one of the co-stars.

Holiday Hum: Sales, No Snow at Norwich Bookstore

Located in a shopping center with several other retailers, the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vt., was spared Black Friday mania. “We’re not in a mall,” co-owner Liza Bernard said. “We actually had a very good weekend, but there were no fisticuffs in aisle two, as they said.”

Sales have been on target and the mood of customers upbeat, and Bernard expects shopping to begin in earnest with the first snowfall. “I think people aren’t really feeling like it’s the holidays yet,” in part, she explained, because of unseasonably warm weather. “People are walking around in sweaters instead of coats.”

Popular choices for those who have begun their holiday book buying include coffee table books, which “are flying off the shelves,” Bernard said, among them gardening-themed tomes as well as Annie Liebovitz’s A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005. An event this week for Perfume: Joy, Scandal, Sin–A Cultural History of Fragrance from 1750 to the Present with local author Richard Stamelman should raise customer awareness for what Bernard describes as “a drop dead gorgeous book.”

On December 13, the store will host local authors Sally Brady, Luciana Frigerio, Sara Pinto and Sarah Underwood, who have written Sweet Memories: A Gingerbread Family Scrapbook. “It’s a good Christmas gift book,” said Bernard. “It’s very funny.”

A surprise seller is Tim Traver’s Sippewissett: Or, Life on a Salt Marsh. The momentum began with an author event, “and we just keep selling it,” said Bernard. “It’s a really wonderful book. It’s part memoir, part nature writing.” [Emphasis added; can you blame me? -Grasshopper]

Of the current national bestsellers, Bill Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid “is a hot seller,” noted Bernard, as is Charles Frazier’s Thirteen Moons. Handsellers are more important for the store, Bernard said. Two novels benefiting from employee enthusiasm and staff pick signs are The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens and Forgetfulness by Ward Just.

One book in short supply from the publisher is Kiran Desai’s Man Booker Prize-winning The Inheritance of Loss, a title customers are “buying for their own reading as opposed to gift giving,” said Bernard.

This year the Norwich Bookstore has created a window display with books from the New England Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalogue. “We went all out with that this year,” Bernard said. “They changed their program, and we decided to give it a try.” Catalogues went to the store’s mailing list, and customers have been bringing them in with books circled. A standout is the hardcover edition of Charlotte’s Web. (The film version of E.B. White’s tale opens in theaters December 15).

Perennial holiday favorites for Norwich customers are the books in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Series, which includes such titles as The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 (edited by Dave Eggers), The Best American Mystery Stories 2006 (edited by Scott Turow) and The Best American Short Stories 2006 (edited by Ann Patchett).

Next Thursday the store will participate in a Holiday Festivities event with neighboring businesses in the Norwich Square shopping center, which include a bakery, a wine store, a gift shop and a shoe boutique. Extended store hours, walkways lined with luminaries, a wandering brass band, and wine served at the bookstore will likely enhance consumers’ holiday spirit.

Norwich Bookstore customers are helping extend holiday cheer to those less fortunate via the annual “Book Angel” program. In conjunction with four local non-profit agencies, the store provides books to needy children. A wreath on display in the store is decorated with paper angels, and each notes a child’s age and his or her reading interests. Customers select a book and purchase it, “and we wrap it and deliver it in time for the holidays,” Bernard said. The store donates at least one book for every 10 purchased and guarantees that no “angel” will be empty handed.

The “Book Angel” program received a write-up in the local newspaper and draws many people. “It’s a show of how generous people can be when it comes to wanting to share reading,” said Bernard. “It’s really incredible.”–Shannon McKenna

Review of NOT IN HIS IMAGE

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

From Gaia Media News:

John Lamb Lash
Not In His Image
Gnostic Vision, Sacred Ecology and the Future of Belief
350 pages, hardcover
Chelsea Green Publishing, USD 28.00 • ca. CHF 38.-

This remarkable book introduces a Gnostic approach to Sophia-Gaia, the feminine wisdom principle embodied by the earth, vividly soliciting us to embrace Her revival for our survival.
When the human race revered the fertility of the earth, the perennial philosophy of human kindness and good sense, as embodied in the common laws of indigenous people the world over, was equally prominent in ancient Europe. Gyncentric societies did not know the taint of sexual apartheid; mystery cults were participatory, experiential and peaceful.

The erudition and mindfulness of the Pagan world have been hugely underestimated, since the onslaught of patriarchy, symbolized by the flood, destroyed a much larger civilization than we have been lead to believe. Initiated in antediluvian times with the arrival of misogynic sky gods, it took the three monotheistic religions to achieve the undoing of the sophisticated way of life of our forebears.

In Gnostic terms, evil came from outside of the matrix of the earth, from another dimension or parallel universe. Entities of this parallel dimension managed to insinuate themselves into our world. It may come as a shock to many, that the Gnostics held Yahweh to be such an entity, facilitating the promotion of the perpetrator-victim ethos of Salvationism, held to be an abomination and a fateful error.

John Lash presents the stark contrast between the tenets of retribution and exploitation – of the feminine –, and the ethos of illuminism, with its emphasis on personal experience and communion with nature, within the framework of a vast body of knowledge, reaching from the classic authors of antiquity to present-day proponents of eco-science and eco-spirituality. A fascinating read.

Susanne G. Seiler

‘Wild Laws’: good idea or good intention gone awry?

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

There’s some debate here in the office about the ‘wild laws’ described in the article below from The Guardian. I don’t want to prejudice readers, so for the moment, only let you in on the background:

On thin ice

Could ‘wild laws’ protecting all the Earth’s community – including animals, plants, rivers and ecosystems – save our natural world?

Simon Boyle
Wednesday November 8, 2006
The Guardian

The 21 species of albatross are some of the world’s most majestic birds. An adult has a wingspan of up to 3.5 metres and can circumnavigate the world in a single flight. Yet each year, 100,000 of them are killed by longline fishing, where nets up to 80 miles long with thousands of hooks are towed by fishing boats catching birds as well as fish. As a consequence of this indiscriminate slaughter, 19 of the 21 species are under threat of extinction.

The solution, as shown by the RSPB, is relatively simple and includes weighting the lines so they sink faster, and laying the lines at night, when the albatrosses are not feeding. Thanks to the work of the RSPB, changes are now under way. However, there is no law that protects these birds or looks after their interests. They can be slaughtered without a second thought.But a body of legal opinion is proposing what are being called “wild laws”, which would speak for birds and animals, and even rivers and nature. One of the first was introduced in September, when a community of about 7,000 people in Pennsylvania, in the US, adopted what is called Tamaqua Borough Sewage Sludge Ordinance, 2006.

It was hardly an event to set the world alight, except for two things: it refuses to recognise corporations’ rights to apply sewage sludge to land, but it recognises natural communities and ecosystems within the borough as “legal persons” for the purposes of enforcing civil rights. According to Thomas Linzey, the lawyer from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, who helped draft it, this is historic.

Imagine if it happened here. Fish, trees, fresh water, or any elements of the environment, would be recognised as having legal rights. Local communities threatened with a damaging development would be able to act to protect their environment by asserting fundamental rights on behalf of the environment, instead of fighting losing battles against landowners’ property rights.

The idea has implications for climate change and other debates. The right of polar bears to exist as part of an intact Arctic community could be asserted in court to obtain injunctions against a range of activities that could infringe that right. The law would also restrict the mandates and powers of public institutions and entities such as companies to do anything that increased greenhouse gas emissions, deeming this to be an infringement not only of human rights, but also of the rights of the whole “Earth community”.

The term “wild law” was first coined by Cormac Cullinan, a lawyer based in Cape Town, South Africa. Put simply, it is about the need for a change in our relationship with the natural world, from one of exploitation to a more “democratic” participation in a community of other beings. If we are members of a community, Cullinan says, then our rights must be balanced against those of plants, animals, rivers and ecosystems. This means developing new laws that require the integrity and functioning of the whole Earth community to be prioritised. In a world governed by wild law, the destructive, human-centred exploitation of the natural world would be unlawful.

For example, the application of wild law principles would have made a big difference in Belize, where the government wanted to dam the Macal River for energy production, despite the devastation that would be caused. Because Belize is a Commonwealth country, the case was heard by the Privy Council in London, which voted by a majority of three to two to permit the project.

The decision was interesting because it was clear that all the judges knew that the dam would cause an irreversible reduction of biological diversity, but were unable to use this as justification to prevent the project. If, however, the building of the dam had raised issues of human rights, then that would have been a relevant judicial matter. The application of wild law would have meant the full impact on the natural environment would have been taken into account.

Ecosystems are resilient and can absorb punishment before they reach the point where they begin to break down. This has allowed most people to ignore the environmental consequences of human behaviour because the impact has so far been limited. But that period is now over and climate change is here to stay. The warnings of the recent Stern report are focusing greater concerns on the implications for society as a whole, and it seems that there is now political consensus – in Britain, at least – on the need for urgent action at every level to combat climate change.

The proponents of wild law argue that, paraphrasing Einstein, we are not going to solve this problem using the same thinking that caused it in the first place. Climate change is not going to be sorted out by merely tinkering with existing mechanisms. It is our desire to drive cars and take cheap flights, with little regard for the enormous quantities of waste and environmental destruction. What we now need, they say, is a vision of how human beings can live more fulfilled lives as responsible citizens of Earth.

As Cullinan says: “We have been conned into believing that economic prosperity (usually defined by GDP) is an acceptable proxy for what we really want – and it isn’t. I think that what most people really want is to be able to live healthy and fulfilled lives in a place and within a community in which they feel they belong, have something to offer, and are valued and loved. We all want to have our basic needs met and an opportunity to unfold our lives and live with purpose as an integral part of the evolving Earth community.”

· Simon Boyle is legal director of consultants, Argyll Environmental Ltd. The wild law convention is being hosted this weekend in London by the UK Environmental Law Association and the Environmental Law Foundation. Details at www.ukela.org

· Any comments on this article? Write to [email protected]

So what do you think? I don’t want to be the first to chime in, though this is a fascinating bit of news and legal philosophy. Is negative reaction to the concept of wild law simply an inability to think outside the earth-ravaging-industrial-capitalist-Western-reductionist box? Or are the wild laws promoters bonkers, driven to foolish ideas by desperation over a crisis too big for easy comprehension? And what have I left out, in my use of traditional Western dichotomous analysis?

Canadian cops push milk-drinking farmer over the line

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

This just in via the Slow Food activist network:

> URGENT JOIN US TODAY FOR PRESS CONFERENCE
> DOWNTOWN TORONTO
> AT JAMIE KENNEDY’S WINE BAR AND RESTAURANT
> AT CHURCH AND FRONT STREET
> BE THERE FOR 9:00 AM THE PRESS CONFERENCE STARTS AT 10:00 AM
> WE NEED ALL THE SUPPORT THAT WE CAN GET TODAY
> THE PRESS WILL WANT TO SEE HOW MANY ARE SUPPORTING THE CAUSE!!!!!
>
> SEE YOU THERE
>
> <http://www.canada.com/globaltv/ontario/index.html>
>
> if you go to this link you will be able to watch a video they did
> Tuesday for global news. It is below under “milk battle.”
>
> Judith
>
> Ontario farmer, raided for selling raw milk Pledges to stay on hunger strike

Colin Perkel
The Canadian Press

 
 

TORONTO — An Ontario farmer who ran afoul of decades-old legislation forbidding the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk is pledging to persist in his week-old hunger strike until authorities return his confiscated equipment and promise to leave him alone.

The armed raid on Michael Schmidt’s farm last week has turned him into a cause celebre for those who favour natural foods, and a lightning rod for the anger of farmers who say they’re fed up with heavy-handed bureaucracy.

“This is a battle out of principle. This is a battle that people gain respect again for the farmer,” Schmidt said Tuesday from his farm near Durham, Ont., about 45 kilometres south of Owen Sound.

“When there is a law which is unjust and which claims that the milk is OK as long as the farmer drinks it, but the milk is dangerous as soon as it crosses the road, that law doesn’t make sense.”

Schmidt, 52, who came to Canada from southern Germany 24 years ago, was scheduled to spend Wednesday – Day 7 of his hunger strike – making his case at a downtown Toronto restaurant owned by celebrity chef and supporter Jamie Kennedy.

He’s been consuming nothing but water and a glass of unpasteurized milk a day to protest last week’s raid, in which 20 armed Ministry of Natural Resources officers descended on his farm.

Schmidt, who blamed the raid on “ego-tripping bureaucrats,” said he’ll stay on the hunger strike until he’s reimbursed for his losses, authorities agree to leave him alone and everything taken from his farm is returned.

“It’s every citizen’s responsibility to oppose an unjust law,” he said. “It’s a moral responsibility from responsible citizens.”

Canadian health authorities say unpasteurized milk can contain potentially lethal E. coli, salmonella or other dangerous organisms. Federal law prevents the sale or giving away of unpasteurized milk in Canada, and Ontario’s own Milk Act contains a similar ban.

“There has been a law in Ontario that any milk sold to the public has to be pasteurized that’s been on the books since 1930,” said Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“It’s important that it’s there. It’s there for a good reason.”

Proponents say raw milk offers health benefits, and is safe as long as the farmer is careful in its handling.

Following his last run-in with authorities in 1994, when he was convicted, Schmidt changed his tack to take advantage of a loophole in the Milk Act that allows farmers to drink raw milk from their own cows.

He now has 150 cow-shareholders – each buys a share of a cow for $300, and pays $2 a litre for the milk their animal produces – which include members of Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara’s family.

Shareholder Judith McGill, of Richmond Hill, Ont., just north of Toronto, called the bust “outrageous.”

“We prefer to buy our foods through farmers; we want to have a relationship with the farmer,” McGill said. “This is a foolproof system: to buy food from people you know and trust.”

The Ontario Landowners Association, a group that aims to preserve a rural way of life it sees as increasingly under attack, has also rallied to Schmidt’s cause.

“This is just another example of government’s thirst to control each and every aspect of people’s lives in this country and creating regulations that provide no value to anybody,” association president Randy Hillier said from near Ottawa.

“We are not going to take this intrusion and this removal of our freedoms lightly. We are going to stand and defend ourselves.”

Members and fellow farmers were ready to guard Schmidt’s farm should authorities try another raid, Hillier said.

Schmidt said he was flabbergasted by the day-long raid that he said left him feeling as if he were a dangerous criminal.

“This time it was an army attack, literally,” Schmidt said.

“It’s just milk!”

Gaviotas in the news

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

From E: The Environmental Magazine

Gaviotas by the Glass

It Takes a Colombian Village to Bottle Green Water

by Miranda Spencer

When people think about sustainable business or restoring the environment, selling bottled water is the last thing on their minds. But the residents of the remote, rural eco-village of Las Gaviotas, Colombia (population around 200) and their international allies have begun to do just that—market their pure, surplus water to Americans through a grassroots network of mostly volunteers. Despite the cross-continental transportation and plastic bottles required, they expect the project not only to have a neutral or negative “footprint,” but also to support the growth and duplication of this model community and the ambitious reforestation project that supports it.

Understanding how that’s possible requires a little Gaviotas history….

Brewer Bob joins the Revolution

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

A review of Sandy Katz’s The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved.

….Katz’s book will assist you to create your own pathway out of the corporate food maze as you read about others who have already done so. Join the revolution today and go dumpster diving with a friend.

Mission Rejected reviewed at Feminist Review blog

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

I recently read a list of dos and don’ts for successful blogging. One of the recommendations (number 3) was to use descriptitve titles. Thus the boring title of this post.

Meanwhile, in the part of the world that does not revolve around me and my blog posts, U.S. soldiers are–sometimes–deciding that fighting this, or maybe any, war is a bunch of bunk. Peter Laufer writes about them, and Feminist Review writes about what he wrote about. They like the book and I imagine so will you.

Ethanol in the New Yorker

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

James Surowiecki gets on the ethanol-debate wagon. He’s not so much talking about “is ethanol good, is it bad.” He’s more interested in the absurdities of the interlinked lobbying interests of the corn and sugar industries, and how protecting domestic sugar production has the perverse effect of cementing corn’s role as the raw material for ethanol in the U.S.–even though it’s a totally second rate raw material for making ethanol.

I recently was thinking about sugar as well. Import restrictions cause the price of sugar to be extra high in the U.S. (Surowiecki says the price of sugar in the U.S. is more than twice the world average). Sugar is generally accepted to be terribly unhealthy, certainly at the quantities eaten by the average American. So maybe if the government stopped protecting the domestic sugar industry, the price of sugar in the U.S. would go down, and Americans would eat even more sugar–with a result of even more obesity and related ill health. These health problems are expensive to take care of. So maybe, ironically, by helping a few sugar daddies get very rich through quotas and subsidies (costing American consumers millions of dollars), these policies help keep Americans just a little healthier than they otherwise would be (saving Americans millions of dollars). Is it a wash? Is it actually good policy, so that the savings from avoided healthcare costs outweigh the losses to sugar inflation? I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.

Animate YouTube

Monday, November 27th, 2006

Dude! I’m going to guess this was done by one of Stephan Harding’s students–it just popped up on our radar screen through a Google alert. Anyhow, this has got to be the first TV “commercial” for one of Chelsea Green’s books, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer book.

One thing I’d like to point out is that the video shows Harding using a very old computer, one of the very early Macintosh models. Kudos to Harding for keeping an old workhorse going. Huge amounts of energy go into manufacturing computers, so learning how to keep an old computer working and usable is a very good thing. Laptops are more efficient than desktops and even in standby mode computers can draw a surprising amount of power (though, of course!, it is still better to leave your computer in standby than to leave it fully on, when it is not in active use).

Hibernatation does a climate good

Monday, November 27th, 2006

More cool back-of-the-envelope calcluations, this time on the benefits to be had from a simple Windows OS tweak: millions of tons of CO2 emissions avoided.


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