Archive for June, 2009


Kucinich Says the Climate Bill Is a Sh*t Sandw*ch

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

ACES, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (a variant of cap-and-trade designed to address climate change by curbing greenhouse gas emissions), narrowly passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-212. It’s being hailed as a victory for the environment and praised by the likes of President Obama and former VP Al Gore.

Iconoclastic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, however, looks past the hype at the dirty (I’m looking at you, coal) secrets of the energy bill.

From truthdig.com:

Rep. Dennis Kucinich explains why he voted against the climate bill that narrowly passed the House Friday: “It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out—coal—by giving it record subsidies.”

Statement From Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

“I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.

“It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out—coal—by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.

“Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming. But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030.

“Today’s bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some to claim that we cannot do better. I respectfully submit that not only can we do better; we have no choice but to do better. Indeed, if we pass a bill that only creates the illusion of addressing the problem, we walk away with only an illusion. The price for that illusion is the opportunity to take substantive action.

“There are several aspects of the bill that are problematic.

1.  Overall targets are too weak. The bill is predicated on a target atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, a target that is arguably justified in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but which is already out of date. Recent science suggests 350 parts per million is necessary to help us avoid the worst effects of global warming.

2.  The offsets undercut the emission reductions. Offsets allow polluters to keep polluting; they are rife with fraudulent claims of emissions reduction; they create environmental, social, and economic unintended adverse consequences; and they codify and endorse the idea that polluters do not have to make sacrifices to solve the problem.

3.  It kicks the can down the road. By requiring the bulk of the emissions to be carried out in the long term and requiring few reductions in the short term, we are not only failing to take the action when it is needed to address rapid global warming, but we are assuming the long term targets will remain intact.

4.  EPA’s authority to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded. It is our best defense against a new generation of coal power plants. There is no room for coal as a major energy source in a future with a stable climate.

5.  Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of phasing it out. Nuclear power is far more expensive, has major safety issues including a near release in my own home state in 2002, and there is still no resolution to the waste problem. A recent study by Dr. Mark Cooper showed that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than to generate the same amount of electricity from energy efficiency and renewables.

Read the whole article here.

 

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Howard Dean Bookless: Espresso to the Rescue

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I love it when a plan comes together.

Which is to say, I love it when progressive and environmentalist forces converge to make us look good while promoting our values (but that doesn’t have the same ring to it). Last week, Dr. Howard Dean—former Governor of Vermont, former Chair of the DNC, and author of the new Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer—was set to appear on The Colbert Report (watch the video here). The only problem was, his book hadn’t been printed yet. Here’s where those environmentalist forces I mentioned come in.

Vermont’s own Northshire Bookstore just happened to have an Espresso Book Machine: a print-on-demand machine small enough to fit inside an independent bookstore that’s capable of printing a single copy of a book at a time—in about a minute. If these things are the future, then say goodbye to warehousing, shipping, and the environmentally-unfriendly practice of pulping unsold copies.

From the Times-Argus:

MANCHESTER – When former Vermont Gov. and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean was invited to talk about his new book on health care reform on Stephen Colbert’s television show, he had a small problem dealing with a visual medium: No book.

“Howard Dean’s Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform: How We Can Achieve Affordable Medical Care for Every American and Make Our Jobs Safer” had already been written by Dean, Faiz Shakir and Igor Volsky, but the book doesn’t go on sale until July 1 and White River Junction-based publisher Chelsea Green didn’t have a copy Dean could hold up on “The Colbert Report.”

Fortunately, Chelsea Green president and publisher Margo Baldwin knows Chris Morrow, owner of the Northshire Bookstore, and the independent book store in Manchester has an Espresso Book Machine.

The Northshire, the first bookstore to offer the machine, uses it to print books “on-demand.” The machine can print and bind books on an as-needed basis so that the store does not need to keep extra stock.

Morrow said it was a simple process to make up the copies that Dean took with him for his appearance on the popular Comedy Central show.

“They just had to e-mail us a couple of files,” he said.

Baldwin said when she saw the results on Colbert’s show, she was very pleased.

“I thought (the book) looked great. I was a little nervous because I had never seen one of the books printed by the Espresso machine, but it looked very high-quality and professional,” she said.

While Baldwin said it would have been nice to have the book ready in time for Dean’s appearance on television, she said the renewed national debate on health care, led by the efforts of President Barack Obama’s administration, would make the book relevant.

Read the whole article here.

Watch the Espresso Book Machine in action:

 

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Change on a Human Scale: The Transition Initiative

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

The Transition Initiative as chicken soup for the environmentalist’s soul?

As silly as that might sound, the Transition movement might just be the thing weary environmentalists need to pull us out of a decade-long funk—a decade of Hummers and the rapid erosion of environmental protections under the Bush administration. Assuming you’re not all hope-n-changed out after the initial euphoria of the November elections, it’s a pretty good time to be an optimist. The House just passed a historic, if imperfect, climate bill. We have a President who respects climate science and honestly wants to address climate change and energy issues. And we have a grassroots / netroots that’s more involved in these issues than ever before—so much so that they’re not waiting around for top-down change. They’re re-localizing, re-skilling, and community-building.

From Orion:

A WHILE AGO, I heard an American scientist address an audience in Oxford, England, about his work on the climate crisis. He was precise, unemotional, rigorous, and impersonal: all strengths of a scientist.

The next day, talking informally to a small group, he pulled out of his wallet a much-loved photo of his thirteen-year-old son. He spoke as carefully as he had before, but this time his voice was sad, worried, and fatherly. His son, he said, had become so frightened about climate change that he was debilitated, depressed, and disturbed. Some might have suggested therapy, Prozac, or baseball for the child. But in this group one voice said gently, “What about the Transition Initiative?”

If the Transition Initiative were a person, you’d say he or she was charismatic, wise, practical, positive, resourceful, and very, very popular. Starting with the town of Totnes in Devon, England, in September 2006, the movement has spread like wildfire across the U.K. (delightfully wriggling its way into The Archers, Britain’s longest-running and most popular radio soap opera), and on to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin issues of climate change and peak oil—the declining availability of “ancient sunlight,” as fossil fuels have been called. The initiative is set up to enable towns or neighborhoods to plan for, and move toward, a post-oil and low-carbon future: what Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Initiative, has termed “the great transition of our time, away from fossil fuels.”

Part of the genius of the movement rests in its acute and kind psychology. It acknowledges the emotional effect of these issues, from that thirteen-year-old’s sense of fear and despair, to common feelings of anger, impotence, and denial, and it uses insights from the psychology of addiction to address some reasons why it is hard for people to detoxify themselves from an addiction to (or dependence on) oil. It acknowledges that healthy psychological functioning depends on a belief that one’s needs will be met in the future; for an entire generation, that belief is now corroded by anxiety over climate change.

Many people feel that individual action on climate change is too trivial to be effective but that they are unable to influence anything at a national, governmental level. They find themselves paralyzed between the apparent futility of the small-scale and impotence in the large-scale. The Transition Initiative works right in the middle, at the scale of the community, where actions are significant, visible, and effective. “What it takes is a scale at which one can feel a degree of control over the processes of life, at which individuals become neighbors and lovers instead of just acquaintances and ciphers. . . participants and protagonists instead of just voters and taxpayers. That scale is the human scale,” wrote author and secessionist Kirkpatrick Sale in his 1980 book, Human Scale.

How big am I? As an individual, five foot two and whistling. At a government level, I find I’ve shrunk, smaller than the X on my ballot paper. But at a community level, I can breathe in five river-sources and breathe out three miles of green valleys.

Scale matters.

We speak of economies of scale, and I would suggest that there are also moralities of scale. At the individual scale, morality is capricious: people can be heroes or mass murderers, but the individual is usually constrained by inner conscience and always constrained by size. While a nation-state can at best offer a meager welfare system, at worst—as the history of nations in the twentieth century showed so brutally—morality need not be constrained by any conscience, and through its enormity a state can engineer a genocide. At the community level, though, morality is complex: certainly communities can be jealous and spiteful and less given to heroism than an individual, yet a community’s power to harm is far less than that of a state, simply because of its size. Further, because there are more niche reasons for people to identify with their community, and simply because there is a greater per-capita responsibility, a community is more susceptible to a sense of shame. Community morality involves a sense of fellow-feeling, is attuned to the common good, far steadier than individual morality, far kinder than the State: its moral range reaches neither heaven nor hell but is grounded, well-rooted in the level of Earth.

Read the whole article here.

 

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How-To: Grow Strawberries Indoors

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

It’s strawberry shortcake season, which means strawberry harvesting season. But for those of you with no outdoor space for gardens, fear not—you can plant, weed, and harvest all from the comfort of your own home! That’s right: it is possible to grow strawberries indoors, from small spaces.

According to R. J. Ruppenthal, author of Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting, strawberries naturally grow well in containers, not to mention you can constantly move them according to where you get the most light. All you need to know is how to construct a self-watering planter (or where to buy one pre-made), and you’ll be tossing back sweet berries in no time. We’re about to do this in our office—on one of our well-lit windowsills—so we’ll let you know what happens!

The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food From Small Spaces: The Square Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the Web.

Making Your Own Self-Watering Growing Container

If you are on a bootstrap budget, you can make a self-watering growing container yourself. I have made several of my own, using Rubbermaid or Sterilite storage containers, that grew some mighty fine vegetables. If you have a couple of extra 5-gallon plastic buckets, or a metal or plastic washtub, you could modify any of these as well. All you need is the container plus a few materials, which can be purchased for around $10 at your local hardware store or garden center. If you are buying a container, then the darker plastic colors are best because they hold in the heat well (unless too much heat is a problem in your climate, in which case you should go with white). Most hardware stores, drugstores, or home centers stock some of the large, featureless plastic basins or storage containers that work best for this project.


Raw materials for making a self-watering planter box for vegetables: (A) large plastic storage bin (lid not pictured), (B) pond basket, snack tray, or strainer for “soil foot,” (C) plastic watering pipe, (D) wood blocks or other attachable supports, (E) burlap, mesh, or landscape fabric to screen watering pipe. Also needed: staples or screws.

The basic design of self-watering containers is that they have a water reservoir below the growing chamber. These two chambers are separated by a rack of some sort, which holds most of the soil above the water. This separating rack can be made from the top of a Rubbermaid or Sterilite container box that is cut to fit inside, or else you could use two containers, drill holes in the bottom of one, and nest that inside the other. The water reservoir does not need to be as tall as the growing chamber, perhaps one-fourth to one-third as tall. You then need to put a larger hole or two in this rack for one or more “soil feet,” which will sit in the water, holding a small amount of soil that wicks up the moisture into the main soil and toward the plant’s roots. To hold the “soil feet” in the water, a basket of some sort can be inserted there and then packed with soil for each of the soil “feet.” A snack tray or pond basket can do the trick, or you could even use an old coffee can, plastic nursery pot, or 2-liter soda bottle base that is cut to fit and then punctured with holes.


(1) Cut lid to fit inside bottom of container and cut hole in center for pond basket. Also allow space in one corner for watering pipe. (2) Attach wood blocks or other support using screws or staples. (3) Cut plastic pipe to fit height, allowing room for watering once soil is added. A piece of tape will hold it in the corner until soil is added. (4) Here, burlap is used to screen watering pipe from any soil blockage (at bottom) and double wrapped-at top to prevent insects. This “cap” is removed for watering. Landscape fabric or mesh screen also will work.

Just below the rack’s level on the outside of the main container, you should drill or puncture a small drainage hole, which allows any excess water to drain out. The final crucial piece, before the soil goes in, is some sort of watering tube that runs down the inside of one corner. Buy a foot or so of plastic pipe or hose at your local hardware store and fix this to a corner with hot glue, twine, or a pipe fastener; make sure that the bottom of the pipe goes all the way down into the reservoir so it cannot get filled with soil; you also could cover the end with a mesh screen or landscape fabric to keep soil out. PVC has gotten a bad name because it can leach chemicals, so if this is a concern you can look for ABS plastic or consider investing a few more dollars for a pipe made of copper, aluminum, steel, silicon, or even bamboo (and, if this is a concern to you, then you also should start with a non-PVC container for the planter itself). The pipe should be wide enough so that you can water it easily with your watering can.


(5) The cut lid with pond basket is flipped into the bottom of the container, where it rests on supports. The water reservoir will be below while the soil will go on top. The pond basket will hold the “soil foot,” which will sit in the water reservoir and wick up moisture into the rest of the soil. Plant roots will grow downward toward the water. (6) Punch a hole or two in the side of the container just above the water reservoir to allow for drainage in case of overwatering or heavy rains.

When you’re ready to fill the container, first pack the “soil foot” (or feet) with soil, wet this until moist, and then put in the remainder of your soil mix on top of this level so it is held in place by the rack. Water the soil from above until it’s the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Repeat this for three or four days, and then begin filling it via the water reservoir. The very top of the soil may dry out, but what’s really important is that there is lightly moist soil about 5 or 6 inches down. You can keep adding water right up until it starts spilling out of the drainage hole, meaning that it has reached full capacity at the height of the soil rack.


(7) Fill pond basket with soil, pack it in tightly, and wet it down. (8) Fill remainder of container with good potting soil that is rich in organic matter. (9) Plant veggies and water well from the top. (This container shows onions and an oregano cutting.) (10) After the soil has been wetted down once, you can start watering via the pipe. (11) Add organic fertilizer to the top of the soil, and scratch it into the first few inches with a trowel. Plants will grow side roots to take this nutrition as they need it, while taproots will go down toward the water, making for very strong and happy plants. (12) Cover with mulch as desired to retain moisture and heat. If using plastic mulch, cover with plastic first and cut holes for plants or seeds.

Next, you should decide whether to mulch. Spreading some mulch on top of the soil preserves moisture and keeps the plants a bit warmer. If you decide to use black plastic sheeting as mulch, then first do the fertilizing as described below. Then cover with plastic mulch, which can be duct-taped to the sides or held down with the cutout frame of your container’s top if there is one. Cut an “x” in the black plastic wherever you want to put a plant. Whether or not you have mulched with black plastic, go ahead and plant your veggies next. Give each plant adequate root spacing according to the recommendations for that type of seed or transplant. Once they are planted, if you have not yet fertilized, then side-dress the plants with a line or two of fertilizer along the top of the soil. Try to place this band a few inches from the plant stems, which will encourage better root growth. For most organic fertilizer, 2 to 3 cups per 2 cubic feet of soil is enough. (This is the Earthbox capacity.) Finally, if you have not used black plastic, then you could now add any other kind of mulch: sawdust, grass clippings, leaves, etc. After the growing season, take out the old plants and try to remove the worst of their roots. Then scrape off any remaining fertilizer (or the first two inches of soil), top off with new soil mix, and then add your new plants and a fertilizer band as before. Every day or two, add water into the pipe or tube until the reservoir is topped off. You should be all set!


Vegetables growing on a balcony in self-watering planters.

One caveat with self-watering planters: The size of the “soil foot” that sits in the water determines how wet your soil will be. If the soil foot is relatively wide (covering more than about 20 percent, horizontally, of the bottom area of the container), your soil will be quite moist. If you want to grow root or tuber vegetables in this container, such as carrots or potatoes, wetter soil can mean more disease problems, so you may need to use a narrower item for the soil foot to sit in. Root crops may also taste better if they are forced to grow downward toward the water. Here are three possible solutions to keep your soil a bit drier, any one of which should help:


Greens growing in a self-watering planter. ©iStockphoto.com/CarolinaSmith
  1. When you are making the self-watering box, limit the size of the soil foot, so that it covers no more than about 10 to 15 percent of the base. This will allow less water up into the soil and allow for healthy root crops.
  2. Add a little more sand to your soil, which should limit the wicking action of its organic material.
  3. Allow the water in the reservoir to be completely used up before watering again, and do not give it more than one day’s worth of water at a time. Advocates of a wet-dry growing cycle also can follow this suggestion, though in my experience, a self-watering container will grow healthy vegetables of all kinds without any special care.

Cycling: Strength—and Safety—in Numbers

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Back in my NYC bicycle courier days (all two and a half months of them), I got into my share of scrapes. I got my front wheel smacked by a speeding car. I was forced into a turn by an oblivious van, and off the road by a reckless truck driver. I got doored. I got flipped off, yelled at, and threatened. But I never feared for my life.

Now I live in the sleepy village of White River Junction in Vermont, and let me tell you: I fear for my life every time I make a trip longer than half a mile. Seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Not if you’re a cyclist. The reason: there’s strength—and safety—in numbers.

It’s pretty much the same in the UK, as I learned from this article in the Guardian UK:

When I started cycling in London eight years ago I felt I was virtually the only one, battling for space with taxis and buses. It was a fight with few allies. Today, things are very different – I’m one of the pack surging away at the traffic lights. Official figures show more miles were travelled by bike in 2008 than for each year since 1992. Cycling has almost doubled on London’s main roads in nine years and increased by 30-50% in cities such as Bristol, Leicester and Leeds.

But it’s really remarkable that despite the increase in cycling, casualties suffered by cyclists are still down by around a third. To anyone who doesn’t cycle this might seem a bit odd. Shouldn’t more cyclists mean more crashes and injuries? As those who cycle will know, however, the more cyclists there are the safer it will be for everyone.

CTC (the UK’s national cycling organisation) found that the same phenomenon occurs if you examine different areas within the UK. Cambridge, where a quarter of people cycle to work, or York where it is about one in eight, have a much lower risk of injury for cyclists than places where you hardly ever see a cyclist on the streets.

Why does this “safety in numbers” effect occur? The vast majority of cyclist injuries result from crashes with motor vehicles, and most of these appear to be primarily because the driver “looked but did not see”. Cyclists (and motorcyclists) have even given this type of crash a name – Smidsy, an acronym for the drivers’ refrain, “Sorry, mate, I didn’t see you!”

These type of crashes start to decrease as cycling levels rise.

Take the hypothetical case of Bob the Driver, who last rode a bike when he was still in school uniform. Bob drives up to a junction with a major road, glances right and, not seeing anything car-shaped, pulls out into the path of the “unseen” cyclist. Crash and injury result. If, as Bob approached the junction, there was a stream of cyclists crossing in front of him, he probably won’t make the same mistake.

Read the whole article here.

Photograph: Mikael Colville-Andersen/guardian.co.uk

 

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We Were Wrong: Pesticide “Roundup” Is as Safe as Coffee!</sarcasm>

Monday, June 29th, 2009

My favorite thing about democracy is probably the free speech part. It’s amazing, really. Anyone can say anything! Like, our government’s audacity in trying to convince us we have fair healthcare in terms of what’s economically possible in this country, for one. And people who say homosexuals shouldn’t have legal rights like marriage, for another. Oh, and this guy, the Director of Medical Sciences and Outreach for Monsanto—the world’s leading producer of pesticides—who says that their big-selling weed killer, Roundup, is as safe as your morning cup of joe.

We received a response to our previous post on how Roundup, America’s favorite weed killer, may actually be damaging America’s pregnancies en masse. Not because we’re trying to sell an antidote, mind you (but I wish we could); just, you know, a piece of information we thought might inform the average consumer of something that’s otherwise neatly marketed as fine and dandy. According to this source, however—who is a mouthpiece for the company who produces Roundup—the weed-killer actually doesn’t kill human cells. The purportedly deadly pesticide is more like a café au lait, really, comparatively speaking. Special thanks to Monsanto for another of their speedy and brilliant efforts to combat criticism of their product on the blogosphere. For more examples, click here.

If you put a detergent of any sort on cells in a petri dish, the cells get sick. These Petri dish experiments, like the previous related experiments from Seralini’s group, have no relevance to a living animal and provide no information about real-world risks to humans. Instead, they tell us what we already know; that substances can injure unprotected cells in a test tube. To put this kind of study in context, consider that caffeine can also disrupt cell function. Caffeine was used in a similar Petri dish experiment also using cells from veins of human umbilical cords and produced the same result – cell death – by the same pathway (Matsuoka et al., 2006; see http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1012804061.html).

Of course, caffeine – in its natural and added forms – is found in coffee, tea, cola beverages, new “energy” drinks, chocolate and even some medicines.

If you are interested in learning more about Monsanto’s position on Seralini’s studies, read this http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/06/23/seralini-safety-study/

Thanks so much,
Daniel A. Goldstein, M.D.
Director, Medical Sciences and Outreach
Monsanto Company

Announcement: Landmark Gift Registry Program for Libraries!

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Times are tough, and chances are your local public library has been feeling the pain.

Look, they were there for you in high school when you were broke and looking for the entire Michael Crichton backlist. They were there when you needed to get your hands on the latest Sue Grafton (but you kind of didn’t want it on your bookshelf). And do I even need to mention Harry Potter? Well, now’s your chance to give a little back.

In a first for book publishers, Chelsea Green is offering librarians a “Wish List” donation registry, allowing friends and patrons to donate new books to their library at a 40% discount with FREE shipping! All types of libraries are eligible to participate, including public, school, academic, and special libraries. And as a Thank You gift, when you order a book for your favorite library, we’ll even ship your personal book order for free. It’s a Win-Win.

If you’re a library and you’d like to apply now, click here.

From Publishers Weekly:

Chelsea Green Sets Up Wish List for Librarians

By Judith Rosen — Publishers Weekly, 6/29/2009 7:15:00 AM

In advance of next week’s ALA convention, Chelsea Green went live today with an online gift registry at chelseagreen.com/company/libreg to enable libraries to let their patrons know which titles from the White River Junction, Vt.-based press it would like. Library patrons can go online and view the Web-based wish lists and then order a title from Chelsea Green, known for its green and sustainable living titles and political books, that they can contribute to a library’s collection. In addition, any registered member of the Chelsea Green online community will be notified if their local library sets up a list. Books purchased for libraries are available at a 40% discount off the suggested retail price, free freight. As a thank-you gift, Chelsea Green will also ship personal orders placed with a library purchase free freight.

Under the Chelsea Green Library Gift Registry program, librarians can choose from the more than 350 titles on the company’s backlist. To encourage librarians to sign up, Chelsea Green will enter everyone who signs up between July 9 and 15 (either at ALA or online from their hometowns) in a raffle to win $500 worth of Chelsea Green titles.“Libraries have been struggling in these challenging times, and this is one way we can help them stay competitive and current,” commented Chelsea Green sales director Peg O’Donnell.

Update: Here’s the full press release:

CHELSEA GREEN PUBLISHING ESTABLISHES
LANDMARK GIFT REGISTRY PROGRAM FOR LIBRARIES

For the first time ever, a book publisher is offering librarians a “Wish List” gift registry, allowing patrons to select new books and buy them at a discount to send to their local library. All types of libraries are eligible to participate, including public, school, academic, and special libraries.

Librarians across the country can choose from more than 350 titles on the Chelsea Green list. They will then direct their patrons to the Chelsea Green website (www.Chelseagreen.com), where customers can purchase the registered titles at 40% off the retail price. The books are then shipped for freight-free to the designated library (the patron will also receive free freight on their own personal order as a thank you for buying the library books). Similarly, any registered members of the Chelsea Green community when browsing for books on the website will be will be notified that their local library has a wish list and will be encouraged to buy Chelsea Green books and to donate them to the library.

This landmark program permits libraries to add to their collections outside traditional budgets. It also permits the library to interact with local community members and solicit support outside the usual fundraisers and used book sales.

In the past year, Chelsea Green has established itself as a publishing industry leader in the world of social media. Their stated goal with these innovative online tools is to build a real-world green-living, eco-conscious community that is centered on the expert knowledge in their books. This new library registry program takes Chelsea Green another step forward from social media users to social media innovators.

“Libraries have been struggling in these challenging times, and this is one way we can help them stay competitive and current, especially with sustainability and green living titles,” said Chelsea Green Sales Director Peg O’Donnell.

“The Chelsea Green gift registry for librarians is as good as a free purchase order,” said Charleston South Carolina school librarian Fran Hawk (who also writes a book column for the Charleston Post & Courier). “Just like Yogi Berra once said, ‘cash is as good as money.’ ”

The Library Gift Registry from Chelsea Green will be unveiled July 11-14 at the annual convention of the American Library Association in Chicago. Librarians who sign up for the program (even online from their hometowns) between July 9 and July 15 will qualify for a raffle of $500 worth of Chelsea Green titles. Chelsea Green’s ALA booth is #2051.

This first-of-its-kind program enhances the publisher’s commitment to the nation’s libraries, where patronage is increasing in spite of funding cutbacks.

About the Publisher: For 25 years Chelsea Green Publishing Company has been dedicated to the politics and practice of sustainable living. We seek to inspire present and future generations to reduce their ecological impact and to participate in the restoration of local communities, bioregional ecosystems, and a diversity of cultures. Our books are printed on recycled paper and use non-toxic, soy-based inks. For more information, go to http://www.chelseagreen.com/.

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Can’t Afford Camp? Start a Worm Farm With Your Kids

Monday, June 29th, 2009

When I was little, my mother used to count down the days until summer like it was her job.  Me off in the wilderness being told scary stories and not having access to a telephone was a huge gift, according to her. Because she could garden her little heart out. And she’s not alone: even parents who love their kids need some time apart to tap into their hobbies, and finally hear that little voice inside their head again.

An economic recession, however, is not very good for alone time. Which is to say, most people can’t afford to send their kids to camp this summer. But for all you parents about to tear your hair out…there’s hope yet. There is a way to combine your two loves. And I’m not talking about pizza and Pixar. I’m talking child rearing and gardening. That’s right. This summer: you, your kid…and a worm farm!

The following is an excerpt from Composting: An Easy Household Guide by Nicky Scott:

This system requires a bit more effort but is great fun and children love it!

Worms eat rotting matter and are particularly useful because they will eat your food waste, paper, and cardboard. Their manure, called ‘worm casts,’ is very beneficial for all soils and plants. It is used more as a fertilizer than as a bulky soil improver.

Worm farms also produce an extremely valuable liquid fertilizer, which is drained off at regular intervals.When diluted with water (at least 10 parts water to one part liquid), it is an excellent feed for flowers and vegetables. If you don’t regularly tap off the liquid, the container will gradually fill up with it and drown all your worms – and knock you out with the odor!

Worms like it to be cool and moist, but not too cold.They will not be very active at low temperatures, and if it gets too hot, they will climb out if they can. If they get too wet, they may drown or migrate.

Buying your worm farm

Starter Kits – If you know nothing about worm farms, consider buying your worm farms complete with a starter kit – this will contain all you need, including worms and instructions, to get you up and running.

Worm Farms – The majority of worm farms are made out of plastic, and there are many to choose from – from single containers to stacking systems that are designed to make it easier for you to extract the worm casts.Whatever type you buy, make sure there is a tap at the base to drain off excess fluid.

Your sanitation department may offer a specific type at a reduced price, or you can easily research types and sources from one of the many sites available on the Internet. For starters, try:

You can also buy wooden worm farms.
See: worms.vinfo-help.com

Making your own worm farm

A Container – When you are starting from scratch, as with any animal, you have to provide a suitable living environment. If you want to make your own worm farm, many large containers (such as old garbage cans and barrels) can be adapted to become worm farms.

See various on-line sources for making your own worm farm.

Bedding – No matter which container you use, you must start the worms off with a generous bedding layer. Bedding can be leaf mold, finished compost (preferably sieved), shredded-up newspaper and/or cardboard,well-rotted sawdust or woodchip, or a mixture of any or all of these. Whatever it is, it must be thoroughly wetted – especially paper and cardboard, as worms will die if they dry out.

Getting your Worms

Now that you’ve got somewhere for them to live, all you need is your worms! Don’t be tempted to dig worms out of the soil in your garden for your worm farm; they will not be the right ones.You need compost worms, such as tiger worms or dendras, which live naturally in compost and manure heaps – but you need an awful lot of them.

The best way is to buy enough worms to really kick-start your worm farm into action – at least 500 but preferably 1000 worms should do the job.Most of the companies that supply worm farms will also sell you worms.They arrive in a container through the mail, ready for action. See any of the suppliers above.

Feeding your worms

After you have introduced the worms into the container, let them settle down for a day or two.They will be quite happy eating their bedding.

Feed them only small amounts at a time; they don’t want a great pile of stuff dumped on them, as it can compost and generate heat – and they like it cool! Little and often is best.

Worms can eat about their own weight in food each day. The more worms you have, the faster it all happens.

Be patient – your worm farm will probably take at least a year to get up to full speed as the worms breed.You can expect 15,000 – 20,000 worms in your worm farm by then!

What to put in your worm farm

Worm farms are ideal for small amounts of ‘difficult’ kitchen materials – food scraps, cooked leftovers, meat and fish, cheese rinds, bread. Avoid large amounts of raw fresh fruit, vegetable trimmings, and garden waste (ideally these will go in your garden composting system, if you have one).

If you separate out your materials so that fresh vegetable trimmings mostly go in your compost heap and the kitchen scraps go in the worm farm, you won’t create masses of liquid.

Harvesting – collecting the worm compost

Worm farms take a long time to fill up with worm casts.When they are getting pretty full, remove the freshest material plus the layer immediately underneath – this will contain most of the worms. Put this to one side. It can all go back into your worm farm when you have harvested the worm casts – the rich, dark material at the bottom.

If you have a stacking system, such as the popular ‘Can-OWorms,’ you merely remove and empty the bottom container and place it back on the top of the worm farm.The whole cycle then starts again. See: www.abundantearth.com/store/canoworms.html

Using worm casts – Worm casts (the name given to the finished worm compost) are the crème de la crème of composts and are best used by the handful rather than the wheelbarrow load.Think of worm casts as fertilizer, not compost; a little goes a long way. Give all your potted plants, window boxes, and hanging baskets a top dressing.Water them thoroughly first, and then top dress with a handful or so of worm casts.You can do the same with garden plants.

Using the liquid fertilizer – The liquid that you drain off from your worm farm makes a wonderful liquid feed for all your plants, especially fruit – dilute with about ten parts water before using as a foliar feed or to water your plants with.

A Life Sentence: Norway’s Sustainable Prison

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

A prison on an isolated, icy patch of land, surround by miles of freezing water—and no guards? If you’re like me, right about now you’re thinking of the frozen prison planet where William Shatner and DeForest Kelley were sent after they were framed for the murder of the Klingon ambassador in Star Trek VI.

[crickets]

No? Well, even if you knew what I was babbling about, I can assure you—a social experiment in Norway where prisoners are sent to a remote island to serve out their sentences in eco-friendly isolation is nowhere near as harsh as it sounds. It actually sounds kind of like … camp. Solar panels, wood heat, fresh fish, eco-friendly veggies, and recycling? Sign me up!*

Norway has a sustainable prison! Yes the bucolic oil-rich Scandinavian Shangri-la has decided to do a 10 year test of a prison designed around their idea of “human ecology.” Their philosophy stems from the notion that “living [within] an environment gives them [the inmates] individual responsibility, challenges, and demands [and] can motivate inmates to change their behavior.”

The minimum security Bastoey Prison is located about 21 miles south of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on an island some 1.5 miles from the mainland. Prisoners must apply to become one of the 115 inmates serving time on the island, and once accepted they remain there to serve out their sentence under no guard. The only buffer is the 1.5 miles of chilly Baltic sea water and the knowledge that should they be caught trying to escape, they will be returned to a not so friendly maximum security prison.

The prison’s sustainable features include: solar panels, wood-fire heating in lieu of oil, strict recycling and eco-friendly food production. Their food is produced by tending fields of organically grown pesticide free vegetables, fishing on the 30′ prison owned boat, and taking care of livestock. Livestock includes 200 chickens, eight horses, 40 sheep, and 20 cows.

Read the whole article here.

*Note to the Norwegian authorities: please don’t actually sign me up.

UN Backs Drug Decriminalization In World Drug Report

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Add the collective voice of the United Nations to the chorus of reasonable people asking for a closer, more rational look at our policy of drug prohibition. It turns out that, according to a U.N. report, since Portugal changed its drug policy in 2001, emphasizing treatment over incarceration, drug use has not shot up dramatically as had been feared—nor has “drug tourism” risen significantly.

In an about face, the United Nations on Wednesday lavishly praised drug decriminalization in its annual report on the state of global drug policy. In previous years, the UN drug czar had expressed skepticism about Portugal’s decriminalization, which removed criminal penalties in 2001 for personal drug possession and emphasized treatment over incarceration. The UN had suggested the policy was in violation of international drug treaties and would encourage “drug tourism.”

But in its 2009 World Drug Report, the UN had little but kind words for Portugal’s radical (by U.S. standards) approach. “These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users. Among those who would not welcome a summons from a police officer are tourists, and, as a result, Portugal’s policy has reportedly not led to an increase in drug tourism,” reads the report. “It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased.”

“The International Narcotics Control Board was initially apprehensive when Portugal changed its law in 2001 (see their annual report for that year), but after a mission to Portugal in 2004, it “noted that the acquisition, possession and abuse of drugs had remained prohibited,” and said “the practice of exempting small quantities of drugs from criminal prosecution is consistent with the international drug control treaties,” reads a footnote to the report.

The UN report also dives head first into the debate over full drug legalization. Last year’s World Drug Report ignored the issue entirely, save for a reference to Chinese opium policy in the 19th Century. This year’s report begins with a lengthy rebuttal of arguments in favor of legalization. “Why unleash a drug epidemic in the developing world for the sake of libertarian arguments made by a pro-drug lobby that has the luxury of access to drug treatment?” argues the report.

But the UN also makes a significant concession to backers of legalization, who have long argued that it is prohibition policies that lead to violence and the growth of shadowy, underground networks.

“In the Preface to the report,” reads the press release accompanying the report, “[UN Office of Drugs and Crime Executive Director Antonio Maria] Costa explores the debate over repealing drug controls. He acknowledges that controls have generated an illicit black market of macro-economic proportions that uses violence and corruption.”

Read the whole article here.


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