Archive for May, 2011


Might peak oil and climate change outlive their usefulness as framings for Transition?

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

By: Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, and originally appeared on his website Transition Culture.

Here’s a kind of half-formed thought that might possibly go somewhere if I start writing about it.  This September sees the fifth anniversary of the Unleashing of Transition Town Totnes.  We were deeply flattered the other day to receive a somewhat premature but very welcome plaque from the Town Council bearing the inscription “Transition Town Totnes: to celebrate their first 5 years of activity within the town”.  I’ll probably write a more detailed ‘Totnes: some reflections after 5 years in Transition’ in September, but this post was prompted by an email from a friend in Totnes, who grew up here in the 1960s and is very much a pillar of the community.  He had valiantly read my dissertation, ‘Localisation and Resilience‘, cover to cover and wrote with some reflections.  In his email he makes a very interesting point:

“Another conclusion occurred. Further mention of climate change, peak oil and sustainability is probably pointless. Again, you are either preaching to the choir or the resistant. By now everybody has heard of those terms and must be intimately familiar with them. I don’t think there is anybody left who can genuinely call themselves undecided”.

I thought this was a fascinating observation.  Although it is peak oil and climate change that initially inspire Transition initiatives and form the underpinning for much of the initial awareness stage, might it be that an initiative reaches a point where continued focus on those issues could be counterproductive?  His point is that most people have by now made up their mind as to whether they agree that peak oil and/or climate change are important issues or not.  Beyond a certain point it could be that continued highlighting of the issues actually risks dividing and alienating people rather than including them?

At the moment, the outward focus of TTT’s work is more explicitly about economic regeneration and social enterprise, rather than on promoting the issues of peak oil and climate change.  We are promoting the concept of ‘localisation as economic development’ and about to start work on an ‘Economic Blueprint’ for the town, working with the Town Council, Chamber of Commerce and other local bodies.  We are seeking to support emerging social enterprises and to create new mechanisms for inward investment.  While all of this, clearly, is underpinned by an understanding of peak oil and climate change, we haven’t actually held a talk about peak or climate change for a while.

In the forthcoming ‘Transition Companion’ (out in September), Transition is described has happening in 5 stages:

  1. Getting started:  this is the beginning stage, where a group of people come together and form a group, inspired by the principles of Transition.  They start awareness raising and networking in their community
  2. Deepening: here they start to become ‘Transition wherever’, a recognised initiative which begins to embark on distinct projects as well as becoming more organised in how it works
  3. Connecting: then they start to go deeper, reaching beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and deeper into the community
  4. Building: this is about embarking on the practicalities of intentional localisation, thinking strategically about creating new institutions, new infrastructure and supporting the emergence of new enterprises that ground the concept of ‘localisation as economic development’ in the local economy
  5. Daring to Dream: what would it look like if every community had a vibrant Transition initiative and they were all actively transforming their local economies?  Here we step into the speculative and wonder about where all this could go.

In the first stage, peak oil and climate change serve as the absolutely vital framing, the inspiration and the motivator.  In stage two, an ongoing programme keeping them out there as issues is also vital.  By stage three, you are beginning to get into the field of the people who are open to knowing about it will probably already have picked up on it, and the rest of the people might be starting to feel a bit like you are ‘that lot’, like Transition is not for them, and starting to feel excluded from what is supposed to be a community-driven process.

By stage four, ‘Building’, while any strategic thinking, such as an Energy Descent Action Plan, a local economic blueprint or whatever, clearly needs to be underpinned by peak oil and climate change, as well as the end of economic growth, the focus starts to shift to economic regeneration and enterprise.  As the plaque from Totnes Town Council shows, at this point it is possible to be well and widely respected, but this is the stage where people are expecting great things and are expecting you to live up to the expectations you have created.

Shifting the focus to ‘localisation as economic development’ offers the opportunity for those who felt excluded by the peak oil and climate change focus to step in, and for your Transition initiative to be seen as addressing local challenges as perceived by most people (lack of employment, skills and training, lack of affordable housing and so on).  By this stage, awareness of peak oil and climate change are diffused into the DNA of the organisation.  As TTT nears its fifth birthday, this is certainly our experience.  People with great expertise and skills in business and livelihoods are coming on board to help drive forward our work in a range of initiatives and projects who may well not have done so before.

In Topsham in Devon, Transition Town Topsham began in the usual way, showing films, holding events, doing some practical projects.  They found though that engagement was only going so far.  “Is peak oil the thing that will unite and inspire this community?” they asked.  Probably not.  “Climate change?”  Again, probably not.  “Beer?”  Ah now you’re talking.  Topsham Ales was funded by £35,000 raised in shares being sold to 56 members of the co-operative they created.  It is rooted in the concept of localisation (uses local hops, spent hops go to local pigs, beers and labels celebrate local place and history) but not explicitly so.  Might there be a lesson to be learnt from Topsham Ales in terms of the need, at a certain point in the evolution of a Transition initiative, to shift its focus?  Discuss….

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Video: Dr. Paul Connett In-Studio: Calgary City Fluoridation Ending!

Monday, May 30th, 2011

Calgary: City fluoridation ending within weeks Medical magazine notes shift from treating tap water By Jason Markusoff For Calgarians wary of the side-effects of water fluoridation, it will be the day the taps can flow freely. For dentists, it will be the day that more tooth rot begins to set in. Some undetermined day in the next few weeks will mark the end of Calgary adding fluoride to its water supply. Council repealed its 20-year-old fluoridation bylaw Monday, and within two weeks Alberta Environment will give formal authority for the change, a report to aldermen says. “Once the order is issued, we can turn the taps off,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters before the evening vote. The bylaw repeal passed 10-4 on Monday, with Nenshi among those voting against it. It’s been an issue that previous councils and voters have grappled with for decades, with repeated plebiscites and council decisions. It could someday return to the ballot box with another plebiscite, as some doctors have suggested in the weeks since February, when council voted in a surprisingly definitive 10-3 vote to scrap fluoridation. The move got attention Monday from the influential Canadian Medical Association Journal, which also noted the recent decision from the US Department of Health and Human Services to lower the recommended fluoride concentration to 0.7 parts per million, from 1.0. Calgary had long been adding the hydrofluroislic acid chemical to city water to achieve

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Diane Wilson, Diary of an Eco-Outlaw, on Firedoglake Book Salon

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

This article originally appeared on Firedoglake as an introduction to the discussion that takes place in comments to the post, which can be followed here.

Josh Nelson, Host:

Diane Wilson is truly an eco-outlaw. And yes, in case you are wondering, I consider that to be a huge compliment. The courage and perseverance she displays in the stories shared in this volume should be an inspiration for anyone concerned about the role of corporations in society or what those corporations are doing to the planet.

From Calhoun County, Texas to Bhopal, India, Diane is a fearless agitator for change and a voice for what’s right. Courage, fearlessness and perseverance aside, the attribute most essential to Diane’s activism is conviction. Like all environmental activism, Diane’s is fueled by a conviction that something has gone horribly wrong with the way people relate to the planet and that she has a unique responsibility to do something about it. Diane, like many others before and since, has a feeling growing inside her that unscrupulous corporations are literally killing the planet in pursuit of slightly higher profits. I’ve got the same feeling growing inside me, and I suspect many of you do too.

It’s the same kind of conviction that you can read in Rachel Carson’s words or hear in Bill McKibben’s speeches. It’s the same kind of conviction that motivated a young hero named Tim DeChristopher to risk his own freedom in order to disrupt oil and gas drilling on 150,000 acres in Utah. Activism that stems from such a strong conviction is powerful because it represents societal changes that can’t be defeated, only delayed. When you know you’re doing the right thing and making a difference, that knowledge will feed you during hunger strikes and keep you in the fight regardless of the odds.

From her upbringing on a Texas shrimp boat, through her progression as a mother and environmental activist, Diary of an Eco Outlaw puts Diane Wilson’s conviction on display time and time again. Her activism began when the nation’s first Toxics Release Inventory was made public in 1989. The inventory found her rural Texas County, which was littered with chemical plants, to be the most polluted in the county. Diane was changed by this knowledge, and immediately went to work learning everything she could about the nearby chemical plants and plotting strategies for forcing them to stop polluting her community.

But if the Toxics Release Inventory is what began Diane’s transition from shrimper to environmentalist, witnessing the devastation of Union Carbide’s carelessness in Bhopal, India is what caused her to transform further, from environmentalist to environmental activist – a title she now wears with pride. While in Bhopal, Diane listened to the stories of those who had survived the 1984 disaster and the family members of those who hadn’t. She learned about the panic and helplessness hundreds of thousands of people experienced on that December night when a huge quantity of gases and chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal. And she saw a set of powerful photographs of unborn babies who were killed by the chemicals. They reminded Diane of her own children, and they’ll forever serve as a stark reminder of why it is important to continue the fight.

Whether it is Bhopal or BP, in the Arctic or at Upper Big Branch, there are no shortages of environmental and human disasters that can serve as similar reminders for each of us. Diane’s decades of smart and effective activism have shown over the years that it doesn’t take a Master’s Degree in public policy, an inside knowledge of the EPA’s bureaucracy or a thick rolodex to be an environmental activist. All it takes is a conviction that things aren’t right, a vision for how they should be and a willingness to jump into the fight with everything you’ve got.

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Diary of an Eco-Outlaw; An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth is available in our bookstore.

Chile Con Climate Change

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

The article  below appeared originally online at Civil Eats about Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail.

It’s like one of those bar jokes: An ethnobotonist, an agroecologist, and a chef walk into a chile field…but there isn’t a punch line because this book is about climate change.

Thankfully, the writers of the new book Chasing Chiles manage to keep despair at bay as they carry the reader along on a fascinating journey in their van, “The Spice Ship,” visiting pepper fields all over North America to seek out iconic regional peppers and the people who grow them.

The three authors, chef Kurt Michael Friese, agroecologist Kraig Kraft, and ethnobotonist Gary Paul Nabhan, set out in The Spice Ship to learn how climate change is affecting one particular crop (chiles) in a variety of different places (parts of Mexico, the Rio Grand, Avery Island, areas of the south, and the Midwest). They investigated and documented how farmers are adjusting their growing practices to changing conditions in their fields. Each of the three brings his own perspective and unique brand of inquisitiveness to the micro-subject of chiles, providing the reader with a kaleidoscopic lens through which to view the macro subject of climate change.

The writing has a natural immediacy that made me feel as if I were listening in on their conversations with farmers, cooks, and seed savers in Sonora, Mexico, Iowa, and points in between. Some of the scenes were physically upsetting. I literally felt sick to my stomach as the three chile wranglers approached an orchard in the desert of Sonora, Mexico. They’d set out to see how the indigenous chiltepin chiles were faring a month after a severe hurricane swept through the region, and found Oscar González, whose farm had been hit without warning by a deluge that filled his well and irrigation system with sand, ruined his tractor, washed away his farmhand’s house, his chickens, and his dog, and took out more than half of his fruit.

As farmers shared details of the variability in weather patterns they must deal with in deciding when and where to plant and which traits to select for in their heroic attempts to stay one step ahead of climate change, I was struck by their tenacity in fostering diversity in their fields. If readers take one thing away from this book it should be that genetic diversity is key to protecting our food supply in the face of climate change. Variable weather conditions produce more than wholesale destruction of crops; they also produce a variety of new and unpredictable crop-killing pests and diseases. Crop variety must match these threats.

You don’t need to be a science geek to love this book. Even in the face of the dire effects of climate change, the pleasure principal is alive and well throughout the narration. All three writers are enthusiastic eaters and experiencing the chiles through meals shared with farmers and cooks along the way not only left me with tons of respect for farmers, it made me yearn for the complex, chile infused foods they were eating. Luckily the book includes recipes for dishes like Yucatecan pollo pibil, Datil Pepper sauce, pilau and carne machaca con verduras de Sonora sprinkled throughout, courtesy of Friese.

I hope the gastronomic aspects of this book get more people to read it because it’s going to take more than disturbing data about storm severity, droughts, and changing bird migration patterns to get people to make the connection between climate change and their plates. You’ve got to hit them in the gut. Now excuse me while I go try out the recipe on page 98 for a fiery habañero condiment called xnipek.

Vanessa is a food writer and chef based in Oakland, California. She is the author of the forthcoming book, DIY Delicious: Recipes and Ideas for Simple Food From Scratch (Chronicle, Fall 2010) and coauthor of Heirloom Beans (Chronicle 2008). She works as a consultant with HavenBMedia on food, agriculture, and environmental issues. She blogs about food policy and healthy cooking for EcoSalon and her own blog, Vanessa Barrington, and she thinks the world would be a better place if more people cooked real food more often.

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Guts, Solidarity and Defeating the Corporate Elites: The Ten Fold Path

Friday, May 27th, 2011

 The article  below appeared originally online at CounterPunch by Bruce Levine who authored Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite

Many Americans know that the United States is not a democracy but a “corporatocracy,” in which we are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, the truth of such tyranny is not enough to set most of us free to take action. Too many of us have become pacified by corporatocracy-created institutions and culture.

Some activists insist that this political-passivity problem is caused by Americans’ ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day—from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs—the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples—from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago—of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.

The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and have the financial clout to bribe, divide, and conquer the rest of us. The only way to overcome the power of money is with the power of courage and solidarity. When we regain our guts and solidarity, we can then more wisely select from—and implement—time-honored strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have long used to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our guts and solidarity?

1. Create the Cultural and Psychological “Building Blocks” for Democratic Movements.

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he has written extensively about the Populist Movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the nineteenth century (what he calls “the largest democratic mass movement in American history”). Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are neither resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.

Thus, it is the job of all of us—from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists, and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy—to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.

2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions that Have Destroyed Individual Self-Respect and Collective Self-Confidence.

In Get Up, Stand Up, I detail twelve major institutional and cultural areas that have broken people’s sprit of resistance, and all are “battlefields for democracy” in which we can fight to regain our individual self-respect and collective self confidence:

(1) television; (2) isolation and bureaucratization; (3) “fundamentalist consumerism” and advertising/propaganda; (4) student-loan debt and indentured servitude; (5) surveillance; (6) the decline of unions/solidarity among working people; (7) greed and a “money-centric” culture; (8) fear-based schools that teach obedience; (9) psychopathologizing noncompliance; (10) elitism via professional training; (11) the corporate media; and (12) the U.S. electoral system. As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

3. Side Each Day in Every Way with Anti-Authoritarians.

We can recover our self-respect and strength by regaining our integrity. This process requires a personal transformation to overcome our sense of powerlessness and fight for what we believe in. Integrity includes acts of courage resisting all illegitimate authorities. We must recognize that in virtually every aspect of our life in every day, we can either be on the side of authoritarianism and the corporatocracy or on the side of anti-authoritarianism and democracy. Specifically, we can question the legitimacy of government, media, religious, educational, and other authorities in our lives; and if we establish that an authority is not legitimate, we can resist it. And we can support others who are resisting illegitimate authorities. A huge part of solidarity comes from supporting others who are resisting the illegitimate authorities in their lives. Walt Whitman had it right: “Resist much, obey little. Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved.”

4. Regain Morale by Thinking More Critically about Our Critical Thinking.

While we need critical thinking to effectively question and challenge illegitimate authority—and to wisely select the best strategies and tactics to defeat the elite—critical thinking can reveal some ugly truths about reality, which can result in defeatism. Thus, critical thinkers must also think critically about their defeatism, and realize that it can cripple the will and destroy motivation, thus perpetuating the status quo. William James (1842–1910), the psychologist, philosopher, and occasional political activist (member of the Anti-Imperialist League who, during the Spanish-American War, said, “God damn the U.S. for its vile conduct in the Philippine Isles!”) had a history of pessimism and severe depression, which helped fuel some of his greatest wisdom on how to overcome immobilization. James, a critical thinker, had little stomach for what we now call “positive thinking,” but he also came to understand how losing belief in a possible outcome can guarantee its defeat. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian political theorist and Marxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini, came to the same conclusions. Gramsci’s phrase “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will” has inspired many critical thinkers, including Noam Chomsky, to maintain their efforts in the face of difficult challenges.

5. Restore Courage in Young People.

The corporatocracy has not only decimated America’s labor union movement, it has almost totally broken the spirit of resistance among young Americans—an even more frightening achievement. Historically, young people without family responsibilities have felt most freed up to challenge illegitimate authority. But America’s education system creates fear, shame, and debt – all killers of the spirit of resistance. “No child left behind,” “race to the top,” and standardized-testing tyranny results in the kind of fear that crushes curiosity, critical thinking, and the capacity to constructively resist illegitimate authority. Rebel teachers, parents, and students—in a variety of overt and covert ways—have already stopped complying with corporatocracy schooling. We must also stop shaming intelligent young people who reject college, and we must instead recreate an economy that respects all kinds of intelligence and education. While the corporatocracy exploits student-loan debt to both rake in easy money and break young people’s spirit of resistance, the rest of us need to rebel against “student-loan debt and indentured servitude.” And parents and mental health professionals need to stop behavior-modifying and medicating young people who are resisting illegitimate authority.

6. Focus on Democracy Battlefields Where the Corporate Elite Don’t Have Such a Large Financial Advantage.

The emphasis of many activists is on electoral politics. But the elite have a huge advantage in this battlefield where money controls the U.S. electoral process. By focusing exclusively on electoral politics at the expense of everything else  we: (1) give away power when we focus only on getting leaders elected and become dependent on them; (2) buy into the elite notion that democracy is all about elections; (3) lose sight of the fact that democracy means having influence over all aspects of our lives; and (4) forget that if we have no power in our workplace, in our education, and in all our institutions, then there will never be democracy worthy of the name. Thus we should focus our fight more on the daily institutions we experience. As Wendell Berry said, “If you can control a people’s economy, you don’t need to worry about its politics; its politics have become irrelevant.”

7. Heal from “Corporatocracy Abuse” and “Battered People’s Syndrome” to Gain Strength.

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization, and oppression don’t set people free to take action. But when we human beings eat crap for too long, we gradually lose our self-respect to the point that we become psychologically too weak to take action. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that, after years of corporatocracy subjugation, we have developed “battered people’s syndrome” and what Bob Marley called “mental slavery.” To emancipate ourselves and others, we must:

  • Move out of denial and accept that we are a subjugated people.
  • Admit that we have bought into many lies. There is a dignity, humility, and strength in facing the fact that while we may have once bought into some lies, we no longer do so.
  • Forgive ourselves and others for accepting the abuser’s lies. Remember the liars we face are often quite good at lying.
  • Maintain a sense of humor. Victims of horrific abuse, including those in concentration camps and slave plantations, have discovered that pain can either immobilize us or be transformed by humor into energy.
  • Stop beating ourselves up for having been in an abusive relationship. The energy we have is better spent on healing and then working to change the abusive system; this provides more energy, and when we use this energy to provide respect and confidence for others, everybody gets energized.

8. Unite Populists by Rejecting Corporate Media’s Political Divisions.

The corporate media routinely divides Americans as “liberals,” “conservatives,” and “moderates,” a useful division for the corporatocracy because no matter which of these groups is the current electoral winner, the corporatocracy retains power. In order to defeat the corporatocracy, it’s more useful to divide people in terms of authoritarians versus anti-authoritarians, elitists versus populists, and corporatists versus anti-corporatists. Both left anti-authoritarians and libertarian anti-authoritarians passionately oppose current U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Wall Street bailout, the Patriot Act, NAFTA, the so-called “war on drugs,” and several other corporatocracy policies. There are differences between anti-authoritarians but, as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul have together recently publicly discussed, we can form coalitions and alliances on these important power-money issues. One example of an anti-authoritarian democratic movement (that I am involved in) is the mental health treatment reform movement, comprised of left anti-authoritarians and libertarians. We all share distrust of Big Pharma and contempt for pseudoscience, and we believe that people deserve truly informed choice regarding treatment. We respect Erich Fromm, the democratic-socialist psychoanalyst, along with Thomas Szasz, the libertarian psychiatrist, both passionate anti-authoritarians who have confronted mental health professionals for using dogma to coerce people.

9. Unite “Comfortable Anti-Authoritarians” and “Afflicted Anti-Authoritarians.”

This “comfortable-afflicted” continuum is based on the magnitude of pain that one has simply getting through the day. The term comfortable anti-authoritarian is not a pejorative one but refers to those anti-authoritarians lucky enough to have decent paying and maybe even meaningful jobs, or platforms through which their voices are heard, or social supports in their lives. Many of these comfortable anti-authoritarians may know that there are millions of Americans working mindless jobs in order to hold on to their health insurance, or hustling two low-wage jobs to pay college loans, rent, and a car payment, or who may be unable to find even a poorly paying, mindless job and are instead helplessly watching eviction or foreclosure and bankruptcy close in on them. However, unless these comfortable anti-authoritarians have once been part of that afflicted class—and remember what it feels like—they may not be able to fully respect the afflicted’s emotional state. The afflicted need to recognize that human beings often become passive because they are overwhelmed by pain (not because they are ignorant, stupid, or lazy), and in order to function at all they often shut down or distract themselves from this pain. Some comfortable anti-authoritarians assume that people’s inactions are caused by ignorance. This not only sounds and smells like elitism, it creates resentment for many in the afflicted class who lack the energy to be engaged in any activism. Respect, resources, and anything that concretely reduces their level of pain is likely to be far more energizing than a scolding lecture. That’s the lesson of many democratic movements, including the great Populist Revolt.

10. Do Not Let Debate Divide Anti-Authoritarians.

Spirited debate is what democracy is all about. But when debate turns to mutual antipathy and divides anti-authoritarians, it plays into the hands of the elite. One such divide among anti-elitists is over the magnitude of change that should be worked for and celebrated. On one extreme are people who think that anything is better than nothing at all. At the other extreme are people who reject any incremental change and hold out for total transformation. We can better unite by asking these questions: Does the change increase individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and increase one’s energy level to pursue even greater democracy? Or does it feel like a sellout that decreases individual self-respect and collective self-confidence, and de-energizes us? Utilizing the criterion of increased self-respect and collective self-confidence, those of us who believe in genuine democracy can more constructively debate whether the change is going to increase strength to gain democracy or is going to take the steam out of a democratic movement. Respecting both sides of this debate makes for greater solidarity and better decisions.

To summarize, democracy will not be won without guts and solidarity. Risk-free green actions—such as shopping from independents, buying local, recycling, composting, consuming less, not watching television, and so on—can certainly help counter a dehumanizing world. However, revolutions that truly transform fundamental power inequities and enable us to feel like men and women rather than children and slaves require risk, guts, and solidarity.

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, April 2011). His Web site is www.brucelevine.net

 
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Edible Radio Victual Reality: Tom Philpott with Eliot Coleman

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Eliot Coleman is one of the most innovative, successful, and influential small-scale farmers in the United States. Eliot runs Four Seasons Farm in Maine, where he has become legendary for producing top-quality vegetables through Maine’s harsh winters. His books, which include The Winter Harvest Handbook, and Four Season Harvest, are considered bibles among farmers trying to extend their seasons in cold climates. But Eliot isn’t just a guru of the field and the greenhouse. He’s also an intellectual with a commanding grasp of the history of agriculture. In this edition of Victual Reality, the podcast about food politics, Eliot tells me how he came to farming; we also talk about organic farming’s historical roots and where it’s going next.

 To listen to the podcast click here.

Do It Yourself: Summer Brews

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

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Who doesn’t love to kick off their Memorial Day weekend with a delicious cold beverage? You could be sipping one soon with Chelsea Green favorite Sandor Ellix Katz’s DIY recipe for home-brewed beer! The recipe does take a few weeks to ferment, however—- if you get going this weekend, you could have a batch to share in time for Fourth of July fireworks! Sandor is the author of Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.  

 

You can buy the book here—-on sale for 25% off: 

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/wild_fermentation:paperback

Here’s a taste of the book Wild Fermentation, adapted for this email:

- – -

 

Beer from Malted Grains

 

My friend Patrick Ironwood brews amazing beers in vast quantities. Patrick lives at Moonshadow, a homestead he shares with four generations of his family, including his two grandmothers, his parents, his wife, his brother and sister-in-law, and his newborn baby Sage Indigo Ironwood (three plant names!), as well as friends, interns, and visitors. The Kimmons-Ironwood clan’s woodland homestead is also home to an environmental education center, the Sequatchie Valley Institute. Patrick has been brewing since age fifteen, when his parents gave their budding do-it-yourselfer a homebrew kit and he made his first batch of beer for them.

Twenty years later, Patrick generally brews in 30-gallon (120-liter) batches and stores his beer in kegs, which involves much less work than bottling. After years of enjoying Patrick’s beer, I recently assisted him as he brewed a batch. I’ll describe his process adapted to a 5-gallon (20-liter) quantity. For a description of his setup for doing it in 30-gallon batches, see Wild Fermentation:

PROCESS:

1. Coarsely grind the malted barley. Just crack each grain into a few chunky pieces to increase surface area; do not grind it into flour, which would make the mash pasty and cause problems.

2. Heat 2 gallons (8 liters) water in a large pot to around 160°F (71°C). Add the barley and stir well. Room-temperature barley will cool the mash. Check the temperature; we are aiming to hold the mash at 128°F (53°C). Either add cold water or continue heating until the mash reaches 128°F (53°C). Then cover, turn off the heat, and leave at this temperature for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, heat the mash to 140°F (60°C). As you heat, stir constantly so grain at the bottom won’t burn. Once you reach 140°F (60°C), cover, turn off the heat, and leave at this temperature for 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, check the temperature and reheat if it has dropped more than a couple of degrees.

4. After 40 minutes at 140°F (60°C), heat the mash to 160°F (71°C), where it will remain for 1 hour. Check the temperature every 20 minutes and reheat as needed to maintain temperature.

5. After 1 hour at 160°F (71°C), heat the mash to 170°F (77°C), stirring constantly.

6. Meanwhile, boil about 1 gallon of water.

7. After mash reaches 170°F (77°C), strain it. Set a colander in a large pot or crock and scoop the mash-grains and liquid-into the colander. As the colander fills with grain, press it with a potato masher or other kitchen implement to release liquid. Once the liquid is pressed out, pour a few cups of boiled water over the grains to rinse off additional sweet residue. This procedure is called “sparging”. Press the grains and repeat the process. After sparging, spent grains can be fed to chickens or composted. Repeat this process until all the mash has been strained and you are left with just sweet, fragrant liquid, now called “wort”.

8. Return the wort to the cooking pot and heat to a boil. Add the malt extracts and stir. This thick, concentrated wort could burn, so keep stirring. Once it returns to a boil, add half the hops. Boil with the hops for 45 minutes; keep stirring.

9. After 45 minutes, add the Irish moss, which helps clarify the beer. Five minutes later, add half the remaining hops; eight minutes after that, add the rest of the hops. Boiling hops extracts bitterness but cooks off some of volatile aromatic qualities. Adding hops toward the end of the process (these are known as “finishing hops”) releases these volatile aromatics into the beer.

10. Once the wort has boiled for 1 hour, turn off the heat. Strain the wort into a carboy or other fermenting vessel. Patrick uses a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution to sterilize his fermentation vessels. If you are working with a glass carboy, add the hot wort slowly to avoid shocking and shattering the glass. Top off with additional water to make 5 gallons (20 liters). Be sure to leave a few inches of head space for the beer to foam, and seal with an airlock until beer cools to body temperature.

11. Once the beer cools, sprinkle on the yeast and seal with the airlock. Ferment about 1 week to 10 days, until it stops bubbling. Prime and bottle as described above.

- – -

If you enjoyed that, you’ll enjoy other recipes in Sandor’s great book:

http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/wild_fermentation:paperback

Thanks again for everything you do for the planet.

 

Margo Baldwin
President & Publisher, Chelsea Green

 

P.S. Keep those comments coming! Join us on Facebook and Twitter—-your feedback matters.

Join Evolutionary Biologist Frank Ryan with Jay Ackroyd

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Wednesday May 25th at 10am join author Frank Ryan for a virtual talk with Jay Ackroyd on Blog Talk Radio. Jay discusses the controversy – both the ideas and their reception – bubbling up around The Mystery of Metamorphosis with physician and evolutionary biologist Frank Ryan. Listen HERE live and later on Blog Talk Radio.

The Mystery of Metamorphosis is an accurate depiction of a scientific revolution 150 years in the making. Nowhere else will readers find such a sweeping account of this strange and wonderful mystery—or such a thoughtful, balanced presentation of why metamorphosis has landed center stage in debates over evolution itself.
Participate through IRC (internet relay chat) Simple!

1.     Before or during a program, connect to http://webchat.freenode.net/

2.     Give yourself a name.

3.     Enter #vspeak into the channel field.

4.     NOTE: ‘Relay Rinq’ is not a person but a bridge to IRC chat.

5.     While listening to a live program on BlogTalkRadio, type comments and questions into the text field. Read what others write.

6.     Begin your question with ‘QUESTION’ so it’s easy for the host to spot.

How manure can save humanity

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

High oil and gas prices are driving up the price of chemical fertilizer. One man believes manure management could save humanity from the crisis.

This story was originally covered by PRI’s Here and Now.

“We once had a virtuous cycle: Grazing animals, letting them fertilize the land,” Ohio farmer Gene Logsdon told PRI’s Here and Now. People once valued manure — in fact, wars were once fought over bat droppings. Now we cram animals into small spaces and cart the product off as “waste.”

That process may be changing back to value traditional manure, as the price of chemical fertilizers continues to go up. “We must have fertilizer to put on the land to grow more crops,” Logsdon says. He writes in the book “Holy Shit, Managing Manure to Save Mankind” that manure may become a more valuable product than much of what is currently produced on farms.

One of the problems facing farms today is that “animals are all kept in barns that are too small, so the manure builds up quickly,” according to Logsdon. People don’t know what to do with it. And the chemical fertilizers that farmers use instead may actually be hurting the land they’re fertilizing. Logsdon says they’re “lessening the amount of organic matter in the soil, and manure puts it back in.”

People need to figure out a way to use the waste created by animals, according to Logsdon, including pets and humans. He cites a statistic that says LA is dumping to 235 million gallons of primary treated effluent and 100 million gallons of secondary effluent every day into the ocean.

There’s still a cultural norm that says waste is dangerous, but Logsdon believes that’s all in the way it’s treated. He acknowledges that there are parasites in waste, but “if you put the manure in a composted pile, allow it to age for a year, almost everything is gone,” he says. “Allow it to age for two years, and really it’s as safe as anything you can put on the garden.”

The smell also throws some people off. “Fresh manure has an odor,” Logsdon says. “Composted manure, the longer it composts, it becomes a very earthy and kind of a nice smell. But it takes a little time to do that.”

More expensive chemical fertilizer may force the American agricultural system back toward more small farms, according to Logdson. ” If fertilizer becomes really really valuable, it will almost force farmers to go back to mixed grain and livestock farming,” he says. “Where the family farm will come out ahead on that is because relying on manure does almost demand that the farm be… distributed. More of them scattered out over the land, which almost by definition means that they’re smaller.”

Much of the hesitancy comes from the cultural norms. “I don’t know how to convince people that manure is not as bad a thing as they’ve been taught it is,” Logdson says. ” If manure was white and smelled like roses, we wouldn’t have a problem. That’s what I think.”

 Click here too listen to the podcast or read the original article.

Raw Milk Advocates Protest FDA on Capitol Hill

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

As far as I can tell, we are at war,” David Gumpert, a onetime journalist turned raw-milk advocate declared emphatically at a rally on Capitol Hill Monday. “We have been attacked by our own government.”

The attack, as Gumpert and other ardent supporters of raw milk describe it, occurred last month when the Department of Justice filed a permanent injunction against Rainbow Acres Farm in Kinzer, PA after the farm’s owner, Dan Allgyer, ignored warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for allegedly violating federal law by selling unpasteurized dairy into interstate commerce.The sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in more than half the states and raw milk is available, through cow shares and other means, throughout the U.S. There is no legal prohibition against consuming raw milk. But interstate sales are barred and the FDA is charged with enforcing that federal law.

“Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” said Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, noting that raw dairy can contain “a wide variety of harmful bacteria,” including E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.

To protest the agency’s action against Allgyer, well over a hundred of his customers, many of whom live in the greater Washington, D.C.-area, staged a spirited protest, sporting signs like: “FDA, pick on someone your own size” and “Farmers are not the enemy.” The rally organizers served up several gallons of raw milk and, to much fanfare, milked a jersey cow named Morgan right outside Senate office buildings in the shadow of the Capitol.

Small children donned T-shirts that read: “FDA Leave My Farmer and My Raw Milk ALONE!”

The FDA maintains the agency is simply protecting public health.

“Consumers count on FDA to protect them from food that can carry harmful bacteria,” the agency said in a statement provided to Food Safety News Monday. “Raw milk presents a clear and well-documented danger, especially to young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. In states where it is legal to sell raw milk and raw milk products, there are three times as many outbreaks caused by those products and nearly twice as many outbreak-associated illnesses associated with them than in those states where it is unlawful to sell raw milk and raw milk products. FDA has determined that preventing the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines saves lives and reduces illness.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics share FDA’s position on the issue, echoing similar caution toward young children and pregnant women.

Sally Fallon Morrell, co-founder and president of the raw-milk promotion group Weston A. Price Foundation and the hero of the so-called raw milk revolution, disagrees with the leading federal public health agencies.

“Children who start out on raw milk are very healthy children, as all of you know. They don’t have asthma, they don’t have allergies, they don’t miss days at school, they don’t get sick, they don’t have digestive problems,” said Fallon at the rally, to applause and cheers. “Raw milk is a magic food and we are here to defend that magic food.”

Fallon said the market for unpasteurized dairy is “growing exponentially” and predicted it would soon surpass the demand for conventionally produced, pasteurized products.

“There’s no force on earth greater than the educated, committed consumer, and passionate moms,” added Fallon.

Advocates claim nearly 15 million Americans are now consuming raw milk. And, numbers aside, there is no question the issue is becoming a symbol in the so-called food freedom debate and a rallying point shared by the Libertarian right and the foodie left.

Presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul introduced a bill last week to allow the interstate sale of raw milk, which would remove what he believes is an “unconstitutional restraint on farmers.”

“Many Americans have done their own research and come to the conclusion that unpasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk,” said Paul on the House floor last week. “These Americans have the right to consume these products without having the federal government second-guess their judgment or thwart their wishes. If there are legitimate concerns about the safety of unpasteurized milk, those concerns should be addressed at the state and local level.”

Speaking of local, a Capitol Hill police officer told protesters serving raw milk to post signs and warn passersby that they were drinking raw milk at their own risk because “the FDA and the local health department are freaking out.”

Organizers were then overheard saying “Drink at your own health,” as they handed out the unpasteurized beverage.

————

This article was orginally posted by Food Safety News by Helena Bottemiller

Read the full article here.


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