Archive for May, 2012


Watch: Michael Phillips Describes His Holistic Orcharding Approach

Friday, May 18th, 2012

If you’re just starting out with growing fruit trees, you’ll want to get the best advice possible early on, to avoid traumatizing your trees or making easy mistakes that can cause you a headache later on.

The following videos show Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way and The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist, in his Lost Nation Orchard in northern New Hampshire. Michael shares with us his growing philosophy and his holistic approach to orchard management.

Taking a whole-systems approach helps Michael produce some of the most delicious fruit around. His techniques include using herb teas to nourish the trees, boosting silica in his plants to ward off disease, and taking the utmost care in balancing the health and nutrition of his orchard’s soil. Michael currently grows 60-80 varieties of apples, including several heirloom varieties.

Have a look at the videos below to learn more.

 

Lost Nation Orchard – the Holistic Approach from Chris Conroy on Vimeo.

 

Lost Nation Orchard – Groveton, NH from Chris Conroy on Vimeo.

 

Phillips’s classic text The Apple Grower is available in our bookstore, along with his new book The Holistic Orchard.

Celebrate Asparagus Month and National Salad Month with Two Special Books

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There’s a special month, day, or commemorative week for just about everything. Eventually, if things go the way they are now, each and every day of the calendar year will be dedicated to some kind of celebration. A misanthrope like me simply doesn’t know what to say about this phenomenon. My natural pessimism and sense of the absurd are piqued endlessly when I look at lists of “special” holidays.

I mean, really culture? Do we need a special day to celebrate sporks (granted, this holiday may be fictitious)? Do we really care so much about irrational numbers? I have a similar feeling when driving around my current home of Los Angeles, and each highway interchange is named after a police officer. I question the logic of celebrating a person in this manner. I think, Aww, you were so great we named our favorite rush hour gridlock after you! Now everyone will associate your name with car fumes and bumper-to-bumper traffic forever.

But I digress.

May is a month of many holidays, as you can see by perusing a site like Holidays for Everyday. May Day is an international day of solidarity for labor, May is when the flowers are due after a rainy April, May is even Fungal Infection Awareness Month. …Who knew?

Most importantly, in the admittedly small worldview of this blog post, May is National Salad Month AND Asparagus Month. And even cynical me can agree, those two things are definitely worth celebrating!

In honor of Asparagus Month, we’re offering Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, a Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious, Easy-to-Grow Edibles on sale for 35% off.

Asparagus is just one of many vegetables profiled in Eric Toensmeier’s classic guide for permaculturists and any gardeners interested in moving away from replanting annual crops each year.

In honor of National Salad Month, check out The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, also on sale for 35% off.

Author Carol Deppe is a big fan of salads. She doesn’t even believe in using dressing, as she explains in this article, relying instead upon the rich, mingling flavors of herb leaves, varied lettuces, and other greens.

We hope you join us to celebrate the month of May — Salad and Asparagus month, that is — we might skip the Fungal Infection Awareness Month party.

Bon Appetit!

“What if we could make energy do our work without working our undoing?” – Amory Lovins

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

From TED.

In this intimate talk filmed at TED’s offices, energy theorist Amory Lovins lays out the steps we must take to end the world’s dependence on oil (before we run out). Some changes are already happening—like lighter-weight cars and smarter trucks—but some require a bigger vision. In his latest book, Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins shares ingenious ideas for the next era of energy.

Reinventing Fire was written by Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute’s many other experts. It outlines numerous ways in which industry—not government—can lead the charge toward greater efficiency and more sustainable sources of power, looking at transportation, buildings, manufacturing, and the way we make electricity. This talk is the best summary we’ve seen of the inspiring strategy the book reveals. If you’ve been feeling a bit blue about the state of things lately, Lovins’ talk should perk you right up.

On a related note, if you happened to be in New York City on the evening of May 10th you might have noticed a very tall and bright birthday card to Rocky Mountain Institute. To celebrate RMI’s 30th birthday, and in thanks for their help in completing the Empire State Building’s efficiency overhaul, the Building’s floodlights glowed bright green! Read more here.

A Guided Tour Through Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture

Monday, May 14th, 2012

If you’re a permaculture practitioner, you may know Paul Wheaton as the genius and webmaster behind the forums at permies.com—a fantastic resource if you’ve never checked them out. In the forums you can ask questions of other permaculture fans, troubleshoot your garden or fish pond, and learn about new techniques.

Over recent months Paul has been leading listeners of his podcast through our recently published book, Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture.

Sepp Holzer is a farmer, author and international consultant for natural agriculture. His farm, high in the mountains of Austria, now spans over 45 hectares of forest gardens, including 70 ponds, and is said to be the most consistent example of permaculture worldwide.

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture covers every aspect of Holzer’s farming methods—including practical details for planning and cultivation, and how to make a decent living from the land.

Paul’s podcasts go through nearly everything Sepp’s book has to offer. You can follow along by perusing the list of podcasts here.

To get you hooked, here are the podcasts on the Preface and Chapter One.

Thanks, Paul!

The New York Times: Madeleine Kunin “is almost unimpeachably right”

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The New York Times Sunday Book Review features — on its cover no less — a glowing review of Madeleine M. Kunin’s forthcoming title The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family.

Judith Warner’s review of Kunin’s book is juxtaposed against the new book by Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. One book is “right” and the other is “wrong,” and we’re pleased to report that Kunin’s book is the right one.

“[W]hereas Badin­ter’s argument is beautiful and essentially wrong, Kunin — Pollyanna-ish faith in the family-friendly nature of female politicians aside — is almost unimpeachably right, as she diagnoses what we in Ameri­ca need, why we’ve never gotten it, and how we may have some hope of achieving change in the future,” writes  Warner, the author of We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Warner lauds Kunin’s use of ample details and examples of what states — or countries — are enacting family-friendly policies that empower parents and support children.

But, as Warner observes, while there may be public support for much of what Kunin proposes as solutions to the work-family balance that is out of whack, how to get there?

“[T]here has to be a way to turn public opinion — which according to Kunin is overwhelmingly favorable to paid sick days and family and medical leave — into something like a movement. A movement as motivating, gut-­compelling and passionate as the forces now arrayed for and against abortion rights. She acknowledges this is a tall order. ‘Could we hold a march for family­/work policies in Washington? Would anybody come?’ she asks shrewdly. ‘Or would they be too tired, too busy, too scared of losing their jobs to attend?’

“It’s a good question,” Warner posits. “How do you get today’s moms, and all their equally overtaxed potential allies, to show up for a revolution? Perhaps we need a 21st-century Gloria Steinem, a multi­tasking, minivan-driving, media-savvy soccer mom (or dad) with just enough of a hint of glamour to make protest as appealing a prospect as Girls’ Night Out.”

Indeed. Any takers?

If so, chime in on Madeleine Kunin’s Facebook page. Or, send her a note on Twitter.

The New Feminist Agenda is available in stores now and officially launches Sunday, which is, appropriately, Mother’s Day.

Speaking of Sunday, Madeleine Kunin will be the featured author on the Firedoglake Book Salon, with a discussion led by author Amanda Marcotte. Be sure to log in and join the chat.

Provocative Book Presents Stark Reality for the Next 40 Years

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Forty years ago Limits to Growth addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth while in pursuit of limitless growth.

Next month, Chelsea Green will publish 2052, a provocative new book that examines what our future will look like in the next forty years. Written by Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of Limits, as well as its subsequent updates (Beyond the Limits and Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update), the book probes what the world will actually be like in forty years.

Guess what? It’s not looking good for humanity. That’s what happens when you ignore the warnings first issued in Limits. As in, you can’t push an economic model fueled by limitless profits and resources when, in fact, we live on a finite planet. Mix that in with dysfunctional democracies — such as ours in the United States — that are bought and sold by corporations who profit from our addiction to fossil fuels and the conflicts that erupt as a result (war, etc.)

Earlier this week, the Club of Rome — which commissioned the original report that culminated in Limits to Growth as well as the report that has culminated in 2052 – presented the book’s key findings at the annual conference of the World Wildlife Fund.

In his introduction (video linked here and embedded below) to delivering some of the book’s key findings, Randers  related the current work, and warnings, to those issued four decades ago.

“The big question at the outset, was: ‘Will the world overshoot and collapse?’ This was the warning that my friends and I made in 1972 in the Limits to Growth book where we basically said because of the decision delays in international governance systems, the world will be allowed to expand beyond its sustainable capacity, and then sooner or later it will be forced back down to sustainable territory and this will an unpleasant development. We are now forty years down the line and it is perfectly obvious that world has already overshot. At the time, in 1972, our critics said that human society is not going to be so stupid as to let the world move into non-sustainable territory. Well, we now are in unsustainable territory.”

A key example is global greenhouse gas emissions, and the rising temperature of the planet.

Reaction to the report’s findings and the media event has been swift, and rightly so, including this nice synopsis from New Zealand.

The book challenges the US-dominated belief that we can continue to tap the planet’s limited resources to fuel unlimited growth. In fact, the ecological footprint created by this type of economic activity is likely to do just the opposite.

In short, the US will see a general stagnation of growth for decades to come because our dysfunctional democracy — which bends to the needs of the private market rather than the social good — hinders us from focusing on solutions. I mean, let’s face it — members of Congress,  media pundits, and even the current administration continue to talk  up the need to increase our dependence on fossil fuels by drilling in the Arctic, boosting domestic oil production, or allowing tar sands to be imported from Canada.

Already critics are crying foul — this is some grand socialist, environmental whacko experiment to enslave us all to some UN colony. For some critics, Randers isn’t alarmist enough and they believe he is underestimating how quickly the planet will heat up, and the consequences of it — including poverty, famine and increasingly low birth rates as more families are forced to choose between survival and bringing new lives into the world.
Below is a video from Randers’ presentation at the WWF forum. Watch and determine for yourself whether you believe Randers is over, or under, estimating what could happen in the future.

Keep in mind as you listen: One of the original schematics laid out in Limits to Growth — rapid growth followed by what is called “overshoot” of resources and then a decline — has largely played out as predicted as this Smithsonian article demonstrates.

With such potentially depressing news, it’s nice to see the younger generation taking up the call to arms and suing their elders for screwing up things to badly. Maybe there is hope that change can be forced more rapidly than our failing democratic systems allow.

Bookbuilders of Boston Awards Two Chelsea Green Books “Best in Category” for Design

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England.

Each year Bookbuilders hosts The New England Book Show, an annual juried show that recognizes the year’s most outstanding work by New England publishers, printers and graphic designers. Winning books are selected for their design, quality of materials, and workmanship.

Last week Patricia Stone, Production Manager and Art Director, and Melissa Jacobson, Book Designer went down to Boston for the celebration and to accept awards for two books:

To learn more about Bookbuilders of Boston, and find out about the other winners, visit their site here.

Bookbuilders of Boston – New England Book Awards

Edward Hoagland on Dick Gordon’s The Story

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Producer Phoebe Judge talks with Edward Hoagland, the author of more than 20 books of memoir, essays and novels. He is an acute observer of nature and human nature and he talks about growing up with a stutter and using the natural world to help him find his voice.

Called the best essayist of his time by luminaries like Philip Roth, John Updike, and Edward Abbey, Edward Hoagland published Sex and the River Styx, a collection of essays on aging and love, with Chelsea Green last year.

Just last month, Hoagland was awarded the prestigious John Burroughs medal for nature writing.

Talking to The Story, Hoagland speaks about dealing with his stutter, and what he learned in one of his early jobs, working with animals at a circus.

The segment on Hoagland starts just beyond the half-way point in the overall piece.

Listen here.

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

George Lakoff, is a cognitive linguist and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant; Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

This excerpt from the book offers concise advice to progressives about how to win debates in the public realm. In it, Lakoff explains the notion of “framing”, and points out that even when you negate a frame you reinforce it by implicitly accepting the worldview behind it.

One example is the typical debate about abortion. The conservative frame is “pro-life”, not “anti-abortion”. Arguably, the latter is more descriptive, but the former is far more evocative, and the liberal reply of “pro-choice” is not nearly as attractive—linguistically that is.

Read up and get ready progressives! We’ve got a Presidential election year battle ahead and we need to be prepared!

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, An Excerpt from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

“In Transition 2.0″ Review — People of the Butterfly

Monday, May 7th, 2012

STIR is a new online magazine that publishes articles on “radical gardening, community-supported agriculture, climate activism, democratic education, permaculture, the occupy movement, the commons, grassroots sports, food justice, cooperatives, practical philosophy and more.”

STIR recently reviewed the new film on the Transition Towns movement, “In Transition 2.0.”

Interested in the film itself? STIR is giving away a copy, and has info on how to plan your own screening of the film:

 To Celebrate the release of the new In Transition 2.0 film, Stir Magazine is giving away a copy  to one lucky reader.  To be in for a chance to win, answer this simple question: In which town did the Transition Network begin?

Send your answers to [email protected] with ‘Transition’ in the title by 10th May 2012.  The Winner will be contacted shortly after the competition ends.

 

 

Find out about Transition groups in your area and join the movement by entering your postcode here.

Want to host a screening at your university, Transition initiative, social centre or somewhere we haven’t thought of? Organise a screening of In Transition 2.0.

And find out where you can see the film here.

Below is the review.

In an abandoned lot in Pittsburgh a boy is selling lettuce. Down Tooting High Street a carnival is in full swing. In a village in Portugal two men are walking in a field beside horses. In a fire station in Moss Side a film preview is taking place: “There was silence. You could have heard a pin drop.  And then a sound, kind of like a pin dropping. There it is again. And again, many times in rapid succession. Then silence. Nothing.”  This is Joel Prittie, writing about his experiences previewing  the film, In Transition 2.0, simultaneously with eleven other initiatives worldwide in February. He’s telling us how the machine jammed, how he resolved the dilemma, and how everyone cheered at the end.

It’s a small story. These are all small stories. You might not know they are happening or take much notice of them. But if you were curious, you would discover how that lettuce came to be growing in such an unlikely neighbourhood; why everyone in the carnival was wearing clothes made of rubbish; why the elders of the village were teaching the young people to plough; why Joel Prittie, ex double-glazing salesman, knocked on 1100 doors in the rain in Manchester. If  you pulled these stories together, you would notice they all had a common thread. That’s the moment  you realise it’s a big story. The story in fact. The story of how people are coming together in the face of difficulties and making another kind of future.

That’s the story of Transition 2.0.

Background

The Transition movement began in 2005 in the market town of Totnes in Devon and since then has sparked off 900 initiatives worldwide. There are initiatives in cities and rural villages, towns and bioregions. Originally billed as a “community-led response to climate change and peak oil”, Transition provides a structure for communities to engage in order to become resilient in the face of these challenges.  The term, borrowed from ecology, means the ability for systems to adapt and survive great shocks.

Living within a dominant corporate monoculture where communities are often fragmented and there is little mainstream media attention on these global realities, this is a big ask for most modern people. Every aspect of our industrialised lives has been made possible by cheap fossil fuels, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. We live, however, mostly in the dark about these facts, or the effects of our daily actions on the environment. Or if we do know them, we see them as information and do not take action.

In Transition 2.0  focuses on the moves groups of people are making to look at the future squarely, to make connections with one another and to find ways to thrive in challenging times. In 2012, resilience also means the capacity to deal with Transition’s third driver, the economic crisis. The shock of the shock doctrine — the crushing blow of austerity, as people everywhere feel the consequences of our growth-at-all-costs culture and the increasing consolidation of wealth for the few.

In its typical pragmatic, positive way In Transition 2.0 doesn’t analyse this situation within a political frame. It acknowledges the big picture, and then gets down to work relocalising the neighbourhood. The film lays out the three drivers briefly at the start, then follows the track of the second book, The Transition Companion, dividing its attention on the different stages Transition initiatives go through, from the start up phase — forming a group and raising awareness — to building up local social enterprises. Rob Hopkins, the co-founder of the Transition Network, explains these stages, and the film looks at the projects that best illustrate the way Transition works.

In many ways the documentary is a tool, a showcase for people who may know nothing about Transition’s aims and structures. It is a mild watching experience, with interviews and information, and you might wonder why someone who has been involved in two initiatives and immersed in Transition communications for almost four years would have anything to find in it. What more did I need to know?

But the fact is: this is a big story. Resilient systems enforce their connections by constant feedback. You are consciously connecting with others through a vast communications network, that works like the mycorrhizal fungi in soil. I might know what is going on in the neighbourhood, but I don’t know what is going on in Portugal or Maryland. You don’t know for example that the first Transition initiative in India has created 400 vegetable gardens in Tamil Nadu. You don’t know how the co-operative Handmade Bakery in Yorkshire set up business, how the Brixton Pound (Britain’s first e-currency) works in the market, or that the mayor of  Monteveglio in Italy has adopted an energy descent plan for the whole region. Most of all you realise that the crisis which up to this point has seemed academic is now very real in many places.

Unlike the first film which focused on the start up exhilarating phase of Transition, this had a darker, deeper tone. Here are initiatives who are undergoing the shocks of climate change and the collapse of top-down infrastructure. Here is Japan after the nuclear disaster, New Zealand after two earthquakes. Transition groups that had already been working together were able to respond collectively to the crisis. Thanks to the connections already made though the Lyttelton time-bank, the initiative was able to pull in help to deliver water and food all over the devastated town.

“We are setting up structures, pioneering them and putting them in place for the future,” explained Dirk Campbell of Ovesco in Lewes, Britain’s first community owned solar power station (see right). “It’s difficult and takes enormous amounts of effort, commitment and time.”

Facing the crisis

There are many criticisms of Transition. It is not political, realistic, activist enough; it is white and middle class; it lacks structure; it’s too structured, too fluffy and feel-good. It doesn’t fulfill everything. It’s true, it doesn’t fulfill everything. But you would be hard pushed to find another method that can bring diverse people together within a frame of change. There are plenty of adversarial organisations that address climate change (Climate Rush, Greenpeace) and the financial system (UK Uncut, Occupy); there are plenty of low-carbon incentives (10:10, 350.org) and urban growing projects (Growing Communities in Hackney, Abundance and city farms in Sheffield). But what Transition does is address all these aspects simultaneously. It allows for many kinds of people to sit in a room together and work out ways to proceed. What is the most important ingredient or tool in the book (87 in all)? I asked Rob Hopkins at the Twitter launch of the Transition companion. The first one, Working in Groups, was his reply.

Our number one challenge is working in groups when we have been raised in an individualist hierarchical culture, taught to be hostile to the max. The film doesn’t show the struggle that most groups go though in dealing with this, though it does talk about conflict (including the testimony of Chris Hart from Transition Lancaster that collapsed and then reformed itself successfully a year later). Nor does it show the massive fall outs that happen when an old way of doing things (my will against yours) clashes with a new (our way together). How these old structures cling on. How the new ones demand massive inner shifts, but that if you manage to hold together extraordinary things start to happen.

What it does show is how Transition as a method, culture and network brings people together to work out solutions in places suffering from massive downturn. In the Portuguese village of Amoreiras the initiative held a meeting and asked everyone to dream. The village had suffered the fate of many rural places where most of the population had left for work in the cities. The group listened to everyone’s desires and then put their collective vision into motion. They painted the whole village, set up a local market, organised a working party to bring about better healthcare.

Here is Fred Brown in Pittsburgh, a city that in the 1970s and ’80s, lost 100,000 jobs when steel mills transferred their manufacturing to countries around the world. It’s a city where marginalised low-income neighbourhoods are threatened by incoming gentrification and big businesses. In his community of Larimer, Google have recently built a new facility, benefiting from millions of urban redevelopment funds that were intended to help the residents:

“The community doesn’t need or want more experts telling them what to do. We want partners and we want help to develop and implement our dream. Transition is helping us come together, deepen the vision, create working groups, get practical work done, and understand community-wide needs. It is also giving us language and a process for negotiating with those who seek to take, or to give on their own terms — empowering us to be proactive and co-creators.”

This is the hardest task. We are taught to listen to experts and to obey rules. Transition puts the decisions back into our hands and asks everyone to take the lead, become knowledgeable about how towns and councils work, talk with other local groups, find out about waste, alternative energy, sustainable food systems, how to write a press release, give a talk, keep bees, grow a lettuce. We are discouraged in our every attempt by the status quo. Keep shopping, keep distracted, keep listening to the old story! But there is new narrative out there, what Paul Hawken calls the greatest untold story of our time. Some of this is embodied in Transition. It’s hard work and rarely paid, but it brings rewards you don’t see on the surface, that are difficult to show on a film. These are the invisible connections between people, feelings of belonging, of meaning, of self-worth, boldness and possibility, the simple joy of sharing things, tools, knowledge, apples from your tree.

“I feel proud of where I live at and it’s changed me.”

Most of all it gives you an opportunity you never knew existed. Here’s next week’s schedule with my home initiatives of Sustainable Bungay and Transition Norwich: showing a documentary with Waveney Greenpeace in a local barn (Crisis of Civilisation), working in our monthly community kitchen (for a sit-down supper for 50), helping out at our Give and Take Day (free exchange of stuff), introducing people to medicine plants in an event called Walking with Weeds,  writing on two community blogs (one local, one national), setting up a newspaper (Transition Free Press).

None of these activities would happen without this small band of people I have been working with for the last four years. We would never have met. History and consumerism and the class system would have kept us separated from one another. Our library community garden would be bare brick. The bee-friendly wildflower meadow would be unsown. Norwich would not have an urban farm. I would never have met any of my fellow transitioners I am in daily contact with, or the many affiliated groups that write in our blogs from Occupy Norwich to BiofuelWatch to the new bicycle workshop off Magdalen Street.  I would not be writing this piece. You would not be reading it. The film and everything that happens in its 66 minutes would not be happening.

Except that it is happening: and it’s worth seeing if only to know that these seeds are being sown in a time when everything seems set against us and all life on earth.

There is a story that underpins what we do and sometimes we tell it to each other in the hard times. The caterpillar keeps munching his way voraciously across the green planet. One day he buries himself in a cocoon, and unknowingly begins the process of transformation. His body starts to dissolve and as it does imaginal buds start to appear from nowhere. At first the caterpillar’s immune system attacks and defeats this new form. Then the buds rise up again. This time they link up and the defence system can not destroy them. They hold fast. The old structure dissolves. The butterfly begins to emerge.

It’s a form you would never have imagined, something beautiful emerging in world that appears only to profit the greedy and antagonistic. But sometimes in our struggle we catch a glimpse of the butterfly wing. In the flash of carnival costume, in the mists over a Japanese mountain, in the sound of each others’ voices, in the smile of a boy holding a lettuce grown against all odds.

_____

Charlotte Du Cann is a writer and community activist, working with the Transition Network and the Dark Mountain Project. An ex-journalist, she now edits several community blogs, This Low Carbon LifeThe Social Reporters Project and the OneWorldColumn. Her book 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth i(Two Ravens Press) will be published on August 1. You can find a selection of recent writings on http://charlotteducann.blogspot.com.  This review was originally published at STIR, an excellent online magazine.


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