Archive for February, 2011

Listen: Edward Hoagland discusses Sex and the River Styx

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Acclaimed essayist Edward Hoagland has just released a new collection of writings entitled Sex and the River Styx.

Already receiving rave reviews from the editors of (who named it a “Best Book of the Month” for February), Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, the book includes essays from every stage of Hoagland’s life. He came of age during our country’s literary heyday, learned to write the old-fashioned way—through direct experience in love, travel, and immersion in the natural world—and then dedicated decades of his life to prose that is not only powerful, but truly original.

Click here to listen to a podcast interview with Edward Hoagland on Chelsea Green Radio.

Published over the course of thirteen years in magazines such as Harper’s, Orion, and Outside, the essays in Sex and the River Styx explore themes of aging, love, and sex in deeply personal, often surprising ways through stories of African matriarchs, circus aerialists, and the wonder of wild places, along with the despair of losing them. Hoagland’s prose shines with the energy and intelligence that has characterized his work for decades and the wisdom of a man whose curiosity about the world has given him, and us, a lifetime of stories. Sex and the River Styx is an elegy for the marvels Hoagland has witnessed and wondered at over the course of his life—and the wildness of nature, of love, and of loss.

Check out Sex and the River Styx (available in both hardcover and paperback formats) in our bookstore now.

Joan Dye Gussow: Why the Local Food Movement Matters

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Joan Gussow, author of the new book, Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life, and Vegetables, will be the keynote speaker at the sold-out Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association Conference this weekend. She was interviewed earlier this week by the Cleveland Plain Dealer in anticipation of her visit. Check out the interview and Joan’s comments on the local food movement, below.

Joan Dye Gussow talks about why the local-food movement matters
by Debbi Snook

Joan Dye Gussow says she has found the secret to getting a 12-hour day of vegetable gardening out of her 82-year-old body. She has breakfast, works for four hours, comes in for lunch and lies down to get her spine straightened out. Then she gets up and does it two more times before the day ends.

Gussow, a nutritionist by trade, applies this dogged behavior to her 35-year campaign to get the public to think more about what happens to food before they eat it.

Since 1970, she has brought lessons of local and organic food to the nutritional ecology course she teaches at Columbia University. She made it the core of her 1996 book, “This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader,” and part of her newest work, “Growing, Older,” (Chelsea Green, $17.95).

Michael Pollan, best-selling author and the reigning guru of local food, has said that a lot of what he preaches, Gussow said first.

She remembers appearing at the Ohio Ecological Farm & Food Association conference 10 years ago. This weekend, she’s back with the group in Granville near Columbus for another keynote speech.

Gussow talked by phone from her home in Piermont, N.Y., where her garden stretches to the Hudson River — a river that rose and flooded her out in 2009, an act she attributes to global warming.

You’re not bored with teaching nutritional ecology?

It changes every year. And it’s life-changing for the students. This year I gave them Bill McKibben’s “Eaarth” to read. He says your children will never see glacial ice caps at the poles. It’s so clear and brilliantly written. We live on a different planet that requires us to have to live quietly and locally.

Making food more local is no longer what my graduate students of years ago thought was a nutty idea. Still, we just elected five people to Congress who don’t believe global warming is happening. My real impulse is to stake them on a beach at the present high tide mark and wait until they drown. Because they will.

Part of your new book is about becoming widowed. How is that part of your life going?

I was married for 40 years. But I was stunned to realize I didn’t miss him. I spent, really, a lot of years figuring out why.

I deeply believe we are in serious trouble on our planet, so serious that we could cut off the capacity to support human life. I was in grief about that.

Whenever something broke, I’d want to fix it. He’d say, ‘We can get a new one.’ Finally I’d scream, ‘It’s not the money. Somebody’s out there mining that chrome and in a terrible environment.’ It was a puzzle to me after 40 years that he didn’t understand what drove me.

I wasn’t unhappy. The real secret to happiness, and the reason I wanted to write about it, is to be a person who is happy with themselves and the world around them. Somebody else is not going to make you happy.

What’s different since your last Ohio visit?

A lot more people are aware of the local food movement, at least for reasons of freshness and transportation costs. From when I started out in the ’70s to now, it’s stunning how much has changed. It’s very rewarding.

What will you talk about?

I’ll probably give them a history of the movement, and look at the future and how we have to be very conscious of the traps along the way.

What traps?

We have a very, very, very powerful food industry, from seed to table. It’s the biggest industry in the United States. They argue that nothing is wrong with the way we typically raise and slaughter animals. And they have a lot of money to put that message out there in large type.

We just lost a major battle when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved genetically modified alfalfa, which was fought passionately by a huge number of people. They [the USDA] just took all boundaries off and approved it .

I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous. If you get genetically modified alfalfa pollen spreading around and contaminating all the organic alfalfa crops, organic farmers will either not be able to feed alfalfa to their animals or they’ll have to give up the organic label.

What do you say to people who don’t follow this point of view?

I would think that nutritional and taste benefits were obvious to people. There are people who think this means you can’t have an orange in winter. I get a box of grapefruit every year from Texas. It ships once and I use it for two months. It’s a wonderful winter treat.

It’s about what you do about dinner normally. Two thirds of people don’t understand how well-fed you can be with local food in Ohio in the winter. Or how dysfunctional and dangerous our present food system is. It’s dangerous in terms of toxic things such as E. coli scares of lettuce and in the way our standard meat system handles and slaughters animals.

Or to the degree to which we depend on people who make less than they can live on, all the way down the chain, from growers to shippers to some restaurant workers. These are all minimally paid people whom we really exploit through the system.

The hope is that with a local-food system, you can watch what’s going on. You can be aware where food comes from and be responsible for it.

How do you talk about eating locally and organically to seniors and others on a limited budget?

I sense that the right to eat really well is very upscale at this point. You can go to a store and get lot more calories of junk food for the dollar than you can with fruit and vegetables. So yes, it’s very difficult.

The only thing I can say is that in summers sometimes farmers markets have produce at the peak of season that is cheaper than at the supermarket. The food is fresh and the farmers get the whole benefit. Now there are food stamps given out for seniors, programs for poor seniors, for poor mothers. In some cases you can even double the value of those coupons.

In my view, local is more important than organic. And I think local is not inherently more expensive, as organic sometimes is. It shouldn’t be if we had subsidies for fruits and vegetables as we have for things that go into junk food: corn, soy and wheat. We would not have this disparity in price. It’s something people have to think about politically and push for.

The other thing I’d like to mention is the degree to which people think they need meat all time. If you really study how much protein we need, it’s a little over 50 grams a day. It’s not hard to get to that. People should not spend so much of their budgets on meat. It’s better for them anyway.

Read this article at

Growing, Older is available now in our bookstore.

Totnes: Britain’s Town of the Future

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

The following article appeared in the February 6th edition of the UK’s Guardian newspaper, and was written by Lucy Siegle.

Totnes is an ancient market town on the mouth of the river Dart in Devon. It has the well- preserved shell of a motte-and-bailey castle, an Elizabethan butterwalk and a steep high street featuring many charming gift shops. All of which makes it catnip to tourists. A person might initially be lulled into the belief that this was somewhere with as much cultural punch as, say, Winchester.

But bubbling below the surface is a subversive hub of alternative living, a legacy of the radical goings-on from Dartington Hall, just down the road, where Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst’s vision of a rural utopia gathered steam in the 1920s. Indeed, there are more new age “characters” than you can shake a rain stick at, more alternative-therapy practitioners per square inch than anywhere else in the UK and the town was once named “capital of new age chic” by Time magazine.

My family moved here when I was 10. A child of relentlessly suburban mindset, I found the town’s granola outlook unsettling. I balked at the indigenous footwear worn by Totnesians – multicoloured pieces of hand-stitched leather called “conkers” – and longed for a world where it was not atypical to own a TV and talk about Dallas rather than nuclear disarmament. My fear growing up in this neck of the woods was that people would continue to get even weirder. So it was probably just as well that I had left when Rob Hopkins arrived in 2005 and let loose the Great Unleashing, aka the launch of Transition Town Totnes (TTT).

Six years on, the Transition initiative, which attempts to provide a blueprint for communities to enable them to make the change from a life dependent on oil to one that functions without, seems to me one of the most viable and sensible plans we have for modern society. I write this on the day it is announced that the UK economy shrank by a “shock” 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010. Everyone is blaming the weather. Hopkins isn’t. Neither is he particularly shocked.

“I think the unravelling of the debt bubble has only really started,” he says. “Up until 2008 it was all about a growing economy and cheap energy. Then we had expensive energy plus economic growth, then we had cheap energy and economic contraction. So the next phase is volatile energy and economic contraction. It’s not rocket science.”

Hopkins was in Kinsale, Ireland, working as a teacher of permaculture – a sustainable, design-based horticultural technique where growing systems mimic the ecology of the natural world – and establishing an eco village, when he attended a lecture on “peak oil” in 2004. It was his Damascene moment. According to theorists such as Richard Heinberg, whose tome The Party’s Over charts life without oil, we have passed the point at which oil supplies peak (that was back in May 2005). From there on in oil production declines and we attempt ever more audacious land grabs to get it. But oil remains the lifeblood of our economy and lifestyle. What happens when the oil runs out or is disrupted? In 2000 UK truck drivers brought the UK’s food chain to its knees by blockading oil terminals. At the height of the protest the UK was 72 hours away from running out of food. If there were scant emergency measures in place, there was absolutely no vision of a life after oil.

Hopkins began to see how dependent he was on his car, to ferry his kids around and get to work. As a constructive response he began to develop an Energy Descent Action Plan for Kinsale with his students. They looked for historical examples of when the area had been more robust, more resilient to shock changes, such as when it had possessed a more localised food system. The plan split life up into categories – energy, food, transport, homes – all of which had their own solutions.

Continue reading the original article at The Guardian‘s website.

Rob Hopkins’s book, The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience is available now.

Rail Rennaissance: We May Be About to Take a Huge Step Toward Reviving Train Travel

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

The following piece written by James McCommons, author of Waiting On A Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service; A Year Spent Riding Across America, appeared originally on

When I was researching my book on the American rail system, I interviewed William Withuhn, Curator of the history of technology and transportation at the Smithsonian Institution. He said: “America doesn’t get rail transportation. The politicians don’t understand trains because most have never ridden one. The press is all caught up in Amtrak not making a profit as if that’s somehow remarkable. Roads and airports don’t make money either. In the 1960s, we had same inane arguments. Critics saying: rail is not like other transportation systems, America is too big and not like other countries. People won’t ride trains here…In the meantime, other countries–lots of them now–have moved ahead and built these sleek, efficient and awesome machines. They get rail, but we don’t.”

Now, maybe two years after my conversation with Withuhn at the Smithsonian, America may be coming around.

On Tuesday, Vice President “Amtrak Joe” Biden and Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, stood in 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and proposed making passenger rail part of the next transportation bill, which would mean carving out about $8 billion annually or $57 billion–over the lifetime of the bill–for intercity passenger rail service. This has never been done before.

The money would go to states that put up 20 percent matching funds (just as they do now for highway projects) to lay more track, build signaling systems, bridges and tunnels, buy locomotives and passenger cars, and partner with Amtrak to increase service. The money would increase the capacity of the national rail infrastructure–which is privately owned by freight railroads–to accommodate both more passenger and freight trains.

If this proposal comes to pass–it’s part of the Obama Administration’s push for infrastructure and more American jobs–it would be a game changer for passenger rail. No doubt when this all is introduced in the President’s budget next week, there will be cries from the rail doubters in Congress –mostly Republicans–that this is nothing more than a boondoggle, a wasted effort to prop up Amtrak, or just another example of excessive government spending. Even some rail supporters have trouble with it, such as John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Mica believes any federal dollars ought to be channeled first into the Northeast Corridor to build a 200 mph train there.

But that would be a mistake. There are many areas in the country besides the Northeast–especially in California, the Midwest Hub around Chicago, and along the East Coast south to Florida–that would benefit from investment and faster train service. America doesn’t need a bullet train as much as it simply needs more trains. If anything, Biden clearly set some realistic goals for train speeds–which is to say, yes, some regions may build a a 200-mile an hour train, while other states may do well with 90 or 100 mph service.

The $8 billion dollar figure didn’t come out of nowhere. The number first cropped up in the latter part of the Bush Administration when Congress created the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission to study where the country should concentrate its transportation dollars. At first, the commission (headed by Mary Peters, the DOT secretary) wasn’t going to study rail, assuming roads and air could meet America’s transportation needs. But some members pushed for a rail study, and in the end, the commission recommended spending $225 billion annually on infrastructure, of which $8 billion would go to rail. It also recommended a gradual increase in the gas tax up to 50 cents per gallon. Peters and a couple other commissioners voted against the final report. And though President Obama wants more train service and spending on infrastructure, he hasn’t expressed interest in raising the gas tax and likely won’t during the run-up to the next election.

Continue reading this article at

Waiting on a Train by James McCommons is available now.

Front-Porch Anarchism: A Review of Bye Bye, Miss American Empire

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Hearts & Minds Books in Dallastown, Pennsylvania named Bill Kauffman’s Bye Bye, Miss American Empire one of their Best Books of 2010 in Current Affairs. See below for the full review, and check out their complete list of 2010′s best books here

Bye-Bye Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusade to Redraw America’s Political Map  Bill Kauffman (Chelsea Green) $17.95
Well, this is going to be a hard-sell, having you honor our awarding this for anything more than the season’s longest subtitle. And I’m not even sure how to explain the darn thing.  A lot of this is history, all of it shaped by author’s quirky passion for localism, decentralization, and “front-porch anarchism.” (Not to mention his penchant for word-play, song allusions, and overall clever wittiness.  His friend James Howard Kunstler says he writes with an “antic verve” which puts it mildly.)  I’ve said before that I will read anything this guy writes, and find his crotchety, wacky, long-winded sentences to thrill my mind and fill my heart.  That is, he is on to something, giving voice to a third way that is so far left, it is right (or so far right, it is left.)  Or, better, he’s something then again, not concerning himself with being left or right. He seems even beyond communitarianism or libertarianism to a small-is-beautiful patriotic pacifism.  Remember the 18th-century debate between the Federalists and the Jeffersonians?  Bigger centralized government vs smaller local folk?  Kauffman is way (way) on the side of the little guys.  An earlier book of his which I couldn’t put down carried the torch of some outspoken prophets of the colonial era —especially one from Maryland named Luther Martin—who were against the ratification of the Constitution; they were in favor of the Articles of the Confederation, not wanting to give the Feds too much power.  Tell that to the Christian right these days that some early founders opposed the Constitution!  I Samuel 8 isn’t my favorite verse in the Bible for determining wise statecraft, but Kauffman gets it, and without the lingo of subsidiarity (Roman Catholic) or sphere sovereignty (Kuyperian/Calvinist) he sees to invoke the spirit of Wendell Berry and Dorothy Day and the aforementioned Thomas Jefferson and  Luther Martin and wants everybody to do as they please in their own backyard, free from the colonization of unneighborly Empires.

This, then, leads him to the topic of this can’t-put-down travelogue through the most fascinating counter-culture I’ve found in a long time.  He’s reporting on his journeys to the various conventions, movements and efforts of those who want to secede from the Union.  I’m telling you, this is one rock-n-roll road trip and he reports, argues with, argues for, and tells us about the history of folk who don’t want to be homogenized by Uncle Sam and Wal-Mart.  The story of secession—from populists in West Kansas to the indigenous Lakota people—is much more interesting (and reasonable and plausible) than the scowling history books and mainstream media wants us to believe.  Kauffman is our man to make it plain.  And, as one reviewer said, make it “intensely enjoyable.” And Bye-Bye was certainly that for me.

From those wanting independence for Hawaii to those who think that New York or California ought to each break into two states, from the neo-Confederates (some who are black, by the way) of the deep south to the freedom lovers of crunchy Vermont, from the First Nations peoples of the contiguous states to the Alaskan Inuits, each group makes a strong case for being left alone and argues the justice of their call for freedom.  Why should Washington DC determine laws for people in the Middle of the Pacific?  Why, for that matter, should people in Manhattan care one whit what local zoning rules are in, say, Kauffman’s beloved small home-town of Batavia NY?  (He tells the story of his leaving big-time Beltway politics and returning home to fight Wal-Mart and coach a Little League team in the endearing Muckdog Gazette.)  It will be hard to take, but Abe Lincoln is not a hero in this telling of the tale, and although Kauffman is a sentimental patriot (he’d rather sew another star on the flag than take one off) he thinks people, especially those bound by local traditions, faiths, and cultures, have the right of self-determination.  Cheers for Tunisian independence?  How about Texas?  What is sacred about the Union, except the mythology of the importance of Lincoln keeping us together?  This is one heckuva book, rollicking, wild, funny, and very, very informative, about people, beliefs and movements I have rarely considered.  It deserves a couple of awards, but I don’t know in quite what.  Trouble-making? Iconoclasm? Common sense? Crazy-long sentences? A cool title?  Yep.  All that and more.  He’s a great writer, and amazingly aware historian, and a deep down good, good guy.

Read the original review at Hearts and Minds Books.

Bye Bye, Miss American Empire is available now.

Shannon Hayes: Finding Love – Is It Different for Radical Homemakers?

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Writing for The Atlantic last summer, Sandra Tsing Loh explored Radical Homemakers, and honed in on one paragraph in the book’s acknowledgments, calling it “one of the most startling paragraphs in modern feminist writing:”

Thanks, most especially, are owed to [my husband,] Bob. He keeps the girls quiet every morning while I work. He brings breakfast to my desk and keeps my coffee cup full so that I don’t have to be interrupted. He sits with me for hours, reviewing ideas, challenging concepts, helping me to interpret research. He listens to the radio, tracks news stories and reads magazines, finding bits of information that contribute to my research. He sells books at every lecture, does all my PowerPoints for me, chooses and irons my clothes, packs my suitcase, washes my dishes, does the laundry, edits every one of my books and articles and claims to love my cooking. He cherishes me, makes me laugh, and fills my life with friendship, joy, humor, and unconditional love.

Seeing this, Loh concluded,“That’s what the new radical feminism depends on—a guy named Bob (who can presumably also do leatherwork and butcher hogs)!”

I laughed until my sides hurt, then put the article aside.

But the subject kept coming up. What about that guy named Bob? Are there any more like him available? And what about all the Radical Homemakers profiled in the book—how can people like them be found? The subject comes up in private conversations following lectures and workshops; it’s broached in private emails requesting that I post a “personals” section on; it’s even in letters asking me to help someone effectively word their online singles information to screen for fellow radical homemakers. One man, wearing his heart on his sleeve, bravely posted a personal ad under the “connect” section at

I feel clueless trying to respond to this need. Bob and I met and courted in the last century, for goodness sake … heck, in the last millennium.

Before that, though, in my college days, I went through a lot of men. I had a couple of steady boyfriends, and then a very long line of men whom I dated without making any commitments.

Perhaps this sounds strange, but my family and community encouraged this. When I was a teenager, my aunt talked to me about dating: making eye contact, engaging in conversation. My mother talked to me about my safety, how to make my expectations clear, how to detect and escape unsafe situations. Ruth, the elderly farm matron up the road, told me to make sure whoever I got involved with knew how to work—not in an office, but real work, like splitting firewood, shoveling snow, tossing hay bales. And then everyone encouraged me to get out there and meet as many men as possible, shaking their heads in frustration if I lingered on any one of them too long. As a result, I amassed a string of “suitors.” They wrote me poems, sent flowers and hand-written letters, helped me turn over the garden, and shoveled snow for Ruth. I didn’t fall in love with any of them.

My father joked that he’d never have grandchildren. To set him at ease I quipped, “Don’t worry. When I’m ready I’ll just go order one from L.L.Bean. Then if I don’t like him, I can take him back.” Little did I know that I would take a trip to Maine a few years later, walk into L.L.Bean, see a guy selling binoculars and talking about birds, and fall madly in love right there in the retail store.

There was no online dating. At first, there wasn’t even email. I scored my first date with Bob by sending a letter about birding, through the U.S. Postal Service, to the store. I hoped that someone would find him and give it to him. He picked up the cue and wrote back, asking me out if ever I was in town again. I made sure I was, and the rest is history.

That was 15 years ago. Looking it all over, it seems so … antiquated. I don’t think stories like that happen anymore. It would be easy for me to adopt some high ground on this—to accuse today’s single Americans of being lazy about making personal connections without the aid of a computer; to argue that, in a few short years, we’ve allowed online dating services to kill the art of flirting and courtship in our culture.

But it would be so unfair. I’m no longer playing the field, and I get to live in this little nirvana with my perfect husband (though no, Sandra, he doesn’t work leather), blissfully unaware of how the game is played these days. Finding and meeting people, even with the aid of computer dating, seems increasingly technical and frustrating, particularly for the single radical homemakers in our country, who, while they may visit a few topical websites on areas that interest them, tend to sign off promptly and live most of their days in fresh air and sunshine, away from the computer. In general, they don’t text. They don’t tweet. They talk.

I scoffed at the idea of a radical homemakers dating site when it was first suggested, but I guess I can see the point. Maybe there is already something like this out there—some site that screens for people who want to live in harmony with the earth, who honor family, community and social justice as governing principles in their daily choices. If anyone knows about it, please post it here so that others can find it. Maybe, until something better pops up, more people should post their “personal ad” on the radical homemakers site. I would imagine it would be a relief to have some sort of screening based on radical homemakers’ ideals. There could be an understanding that a person isn’t going to be judged by their earning potential, clothing labels, how perky their breasts are, what they drive, or whether they have six-pack abs; that there would be nothing strange about meeting for the first time in the café of a local food coop, rather than Starbucks; that a date isn’t going to run screaming if they find out you keep worms under your kitchen sink, have vegetables rotting in jars on your counter, or use glad rags or diva cups.

I need to acknowledge that, just because flirting and letters in the mail worked for garnering dates 15 years ago, things are different. Maybe the dating culture I knew has gone the way of the courtship candle. But I don’t think that the role of family and community assisting in creating partnerships need be forgotten. And while I never thought I’d say this, I suppose that includes the online community, too.

Happy Valentines’ day, everyone. I wish you love and companionship, in whatever way it suits you best.

Read the original article at Yes! Magazine.

Shannon Hayes is the author of Radical Homemakers, available now.

Small Is Okay: An Excerpt from The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

The following is excerpted from Joel Salatin’s latest book, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer. It appeared originally on the web at Flavor Magazine.

Before industrialism, farms were localized and seasonal. The ebb and flow of production and activity followed a pattern dictated by local economies, weather, and availability of nearby materials…

Compare that to today’s confinement turkey industry, which started just 30 miles north of our farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The only reason the industry started there was because an entrepreneur named Charles Wampler began raising turkeys in confinement. Eventually the breeding program at the USDA research farm in Beltsville, Maryland, developed the double-breasted turkey. By that time, the pharmaceutical industry was up and running to supply cheap medications so that the birds could be kept alive in extremely unhealthy and unnatural conditions.

The entire industrial food system was only possible because of antibiotics for animals and pesticides for plants. Without those two things, these anti-nature production models would not exist and humans would still be dependent on multi-speciation, intricate relationships, and indigenous conditions…

Today, this industry completely dominates the local economy and community to the point that most people believe it is the local economy. But it has a tainted underside that is worth examining. First, it requires hundreds and hundreds of farmers to grow these turkeys. In the wisdom of the business model, as a vertical integrator, the turkey company owns the hatchery, the birds, the feed, the processing, and the marketing. The farmer signs a contract that requires him to supply a house and labor.

In many cases, since the farmers don’t have the money to build a $300,000 football-field-sized house, they mortgage the farm to borrow the house construction money. Often, this is borrowed from the turkey company, thereby giving two income streams to the turkey company: interest on mortgage payments, and turkey sales. This arrangement converts the farmers from autonomous decision makers to a completely dependent class of people—dependent on exports, off-farm inputs, and outsourced decisions. . . .

The bottom line is that in my region, to disparage the poultry industry is akin to assaulting America. Good patriots agree: not only is this poultry industry good for our local economy, it is in fact the foundation of our local economy. And to suggest anything else is to hate your neighborhood. If you suggest we may have been better off without it, you’re in favor of massive unemployment, bread lines, and homelessness. In fact, you’re a lunatic who must be silenced. . . .

Continue reading this excerpt at Flavor Magazine.

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer is available now.

Disaster on the Horizon reviewed in the Washington Post

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Bob Cavnar’s book, Disaster on the Horizon: High Stakes, High Risks, and the Story Behind the Deepwater Well Blowout, was reviewed by Washington Post energy correspondent Steven Mufson in a piece exploring three books written about the BP catastrophe last week. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Bob Cavnar brings an insider’s view to “Disaster on the Horizon,” but not one the industry will like. Cavnar has spent three decades, first on a rig and later as a chief executive, working for drilling companies in Texas, Louisiana and offshore areas. But he has a dim view of many industry practices and blogs about them for the Huffington Post.

Here, he focuses on the oil rig disaster itself and what caused it, constructing a narrative based on extensive testimony at hearings, newspaper accounts and his own experience. He makes a strong case that the spill was caused by human error. “An older engineer taught me, years ago, that wells actually talk to you,” he writes. “In the hours leading up to the disaster, the Well from Hell was screaming at the crew that it was going to blow out, but nobody could understand the language it was speaking.” And he notes that in deep water, “bad situations can escalate very quickly into catastrophes.”

Cavnar ends on a cynical note about whether the government will respond constructively. The reorganization of the Minerals Management Service “created two new bureaucracies rather than fixing the one we had,” he asserts. The moratorium on offshore drilling, he believes, was not long enough. And a policy to improve our energy security “is badly needed and long overdue.”

Read the original article at

Discover more about Disaster on the Horizon by Bob Cavnar in our bookstore now.

How Your Garden and Yard Can Weather Our Changing Climate

Friday, February 11th, 2011

The following is an excerpt from Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. It appeared originally on the web at

My house has been much hotter in the summer in the last decade than it used to be. Global warming? Probably not. The two huge Douglas fir trees south of the house died and had to be cut down. The effect of that loss on the temperature of the house in summer was immediate and dramatic. Local often trumps global. When it comes to our home and yard, two big trees may matter more than global warming.

Global warming is happening, however. It’s been happening since the glacial maximum about 20,000 years ago, so it is nothing new. How fast it is happening and how much is caused by people isn’t the subject of this article. Nor will I address the global aspect of global climate change. I will instead consider the small and personal. What effect will climate change have on your yard and garden next year and in the next few years and decades? Here’s my synthesis, based upon information from many sources. (See chapter 3 end notes and references in The Resilient Gardener.)

That the overall trend for the planet for the last 20,000 years has been one of warming is incontrovertible. However, climatic trends are full of irregularities and hiccups. Any period of a thousand years in which the overall trend is in one direction has periods of years, decades, and sometimes even centuries in which the climatic trend reverses temporarily. The Little Ice Age, from about A.D. 1300 to 1850, is named for the seriously colder weather in North Atlantic Europe and America. It was a period of several hundred years that was part of the overall global warming trend that has been occurring since the last ice age.

Even if the globe is warmer on average in years to come, that doesn’t mean your yard will be any warmer, even on average. Climate change causes changes and irregularities in the patterns of ocean currents and winds. The local effects of those changes are huge compared with the few degrees cited as likely increases in average global climate in the next few decades. A change in wind patterns that brings Arctic inland air masses to you instead of mild ocean air will matter much more than a few degrees higher average global temperature.

Even major trends are region specific, not globally uniform. And water may matter more than temperature. The Medieval Warm Period was lovely for Europe. Famines and diseases were rare. Populations swelled. Civilization and cities expanded and flourished. The same period was devastating for Mexico and the American Southwest, which experienced horrific droughts–droughts that probably contributed to the collapse of civilizations and the vanishing of entire populations. In the Sahara, the Medieval “Warm” Period was cooler, not warmer, and marked by more prolonged droughts. In many other parts of the world, the main impact of the global warming of the Medieval Warm Period also seemed to be droughts. Says Brian Fagan in The Great Warming, “with respect to California, it’s sobering to remember that the past seven hundred years were the wettest since the Ice Age.” Pointing to prolonged droughts that lasted decades and even generations, Fagan says that, viewing the overall global situation, not just that of Europe, “it is tempting to rename the Medieval Warm Period the Medieval Drought Period.” The American Northwest, California, the Southwest, the inter-mountain West, and the lower Hudson River Valley are all vulnerable to increased aridity and droughts.

Finally, for agriculture, the regularity of weather patterns may matter much more than averages or overall climate change trends. In spring of 1350, it started raining in northern Europe and rained for the next several months. That spring marked the beginning of five years of colder, wetter, stormier, more erratic weather that was the obvious beginning of the Little Ice Age, which lasted another 550 years. Most of the famines in northern Europe during the Little ice Age were as much or more associated with erratic, rainier, stormier weather than with temperatures. In the Year without a Summer in New England (1816), the freezes were unremarkable, as New England freezes go. What mattered was that they happened right through the entire summer.

Read the complete excerpt at Alternet.

Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener is available now in our bookstore.

Calgary Says No to Fluoridated Water

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The authors of The Case Against Fluoride are celebrating another tremendous victory this week. Calgary – the largest city in Alberta, Canada – has voted to end municipal water fluoridation, as reported Wednesday in the Calgary Herald.

Calgary council votes to end fluoridation of municipal water
by Richard Cuthbertson

CALGARY — After passionate and sometimes rancorous debate, Calgary city council voted 10-3 Tuesday to eliminate fluoride from the city’s drinking water, rejecting pleas to send the matter to plebiscite or an expert panel.

The decision also went against the advice of Alberta Health Services, which has advocated for fluoride and maintains evidence shows it is safe and improves dental health. The vote left Calgary’s chief medical officer “very disappointed.”

And one local dentist worries that without added fluoride in the water, cavities in children will rise in coming years, and tooth problems will have to be treated more aggressively.

But the decision did thrill a number of anti-fluoride activists at the meeting, who have argued the compound should not be forced on people.

“It’s been a battle,” said Fay Ash. “It’s about freedom, it’s about choice and it’s about people taking ownership of their own health, not having it imposed on them.”

Detractors of fluoride worry it can be a health danger, doesn’t work, and say it essentially pushes a medication on a population who have no choice.

Municipal council member Druh Farrell spearheaded the effort to stop the additive from being put in Calgary’s water and said it is a matter of ethics. She points to Europe where fluoride is not in the water, but fluoridated salt can be purchased instead.

“It’s an issue that has been debated vociferously around the world for 50 years,” said Farrell. “It became an established point of view, but now the wisdom of it is being questioned around the world.”

Read the full article at The Calgary Herald

The Case Against Fluoride is available now.

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