Archive for April, 2013


Five Cities that Could be the Next Chernobyl

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Twenty-seven years ago today, a power surge caused an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Pripyat, Ukraine. A plume of radioactive smoke spread fallout across Europe, making this the most devastating nuclear accident since we first smashed atoms to make electricity.

Could your town be the next Chernobyl? If you live near one of these five nuclear plants you might want to invest in a family-pack of haz-mat suits.

No power plant is completely problem-free, but five are the worst because they’ve suffered from the most dangerous accidents, or have had an abnormal number of near-misses, or are located near massive numbers of people who would suffer in a catastrophe. Despite a dodgy record of ignoring safety abuses and refusing to reprimand violators, even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agrees that these plants are accidents waiting to happen.

From New York City to San Diego, the danger of nuclear catastrophe hits far too close to home. Literally in the case of Vermont Yankee, which is, unfortunately, on this list. We’ve put together a slideshow of images of the five plants, as well as an excerpt from Nuclear Roulette that details the inexcusable mistakes and alarming history of mismanagement that makes them all so scary.

What has Four Legs, Says “Moo,” and Could Save the Planet?

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Many of us have been taught that overgrazing, methane-emitting livestock turn green pastures into arid deserts and are responsible for the widespread desertification that threatens precious biodiversity, soil quality, and more.

Not so, as Allan Savory explains in his TED Talk, “We were once just as certain that the world was flat. We were wrong then, and we are wrong again.” You can see in the photograph below the difference between properly managed land on the right, and overgrazed, eroded and degraded land on the left:

In the aptly-titled Cows Save the Planet, journalist Judith D. Schwartz debunks the myth that cows and livestock pose threats to our land. You may think it unlikely that these pastured grazers are the soil saviors we need, but it’s true. Through holistic management and planned grazing, cows can help rebuild soil and restore land to its rightful state—improving carbon sequestration, natural water cycles, and soil fertility and nutrient density.

The solution to climate change, and a host of other environmental ills, is right under our feet, Schwartz explains. And what better time than the week of Earth Day to join Schwartz and the many scientists, ecologists, farmers, and experts (including Savory) featured in Cows Save the Planet and uncover all the reasons why we should be celebrating cattle as a way to improve our soils.

When managed properly, soils can help reverse the effects of:

  • climate change
  • desertification
  • biodiversity loss
  • droughts, floods
  • wildfires
  • rural poverty
  • malnutrition
  • and obesity

In the foreword, Gretel Ehrlich puts it best: “Judith Schwartz’s book gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans—serial destroyers that we are—can actually turn the climate crisis around. This amazing book, wide-reaching in its research, offers nothing less than solutions for healing the planet.”

Cows Save the Planet is available now and on sale for 35% off. Read the introduction below.

Cows Save the Planet: Introduction

Take Back Earth Day: 35% Off Books to Get You Dirty!

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

It’s time to reclaim Earth Day’s original spirit and celebrate in a new way: get dirty!

It turns out that the cure for what ails our planet is right at our feet. This Earth Day, learn about the importance of soil, the danger of encroaching desertification, and how you can help stop climate change — starting right in your own backyard.

Happy reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

Cows Save the Planet: And Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth

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“Judith Schwartz’s book gives us not just hope but also a sense that we humans—serial destroyers that we are—can actually turn the climate crisis around. This amazing book, wide-reaching in its research, offers nothing less than solutions for healing the planet.” —Gretel Ehrlich, from the foreword

 

 

Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems

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“The future of food is local. But how do we transition from our current globalized, supermarket-centered food world to one that’s human-scaled and ecosystem-friendly? This book shows us how. If you eat, you really should read it.” —Richard Heinberg, author of The End of Growth and Peak Everything

 

 

 

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times

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“Growing food is among the most positive changes anyone can make in the face of uncertainty about the future. The Resilient Gardener is an information-packed resource for people starting or expanding a garden practice.” —Sandor Ellix Katz, author, The Art of Fermentation and Wild Fermentation

 

 

 

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The Truth Behind Three Common Marijuana Myths

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy 4/20! To help you celebrate responsibly, here are three common marijuana myths, debunked by the authors of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Marijuana is Safer was Scribd’s most-read book of the year in 2010, when we offered it for a free download. Since then, the nation has seen expansive marijuana laws go into effect, especially in Colorado. The argument in Marijuana is Safer — that the public health outcomes of pot legalization make it a policy no-brainer — were what won the day in Colorado. As the fight for reasonable marijuana regulation continues the book will continue to be important for activists and politicians.

Have you heard these myths repeated in the media? Don’t be fooled — learn the facts behind the humble cannabis plant and its much-maligned psychoactive properties…

This is an excerpt from Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? It has been adapted for the web.

The origins of cannabis prohibition are steeped in prejudice, misinformation, and fear mongering. Inflammatory accusations against marijuana and marijuana consumers are typically unsubstantiated, while evidence refuting these claims often goes ignored.

Today, the U.S. government and many law enforcement officials continue to justify the need for cannabis prohibition by promoting alarmist myths that distort the truth about marijuana. Some of these distortions, such as the claim that pot smoking is linked to violent and psychotic behavior, date back to the “Reefer Madness” era of the 1930s. Other myths, like the claim that today’s cannabis is highly addictive, are more recent yet equally specious. Nonetheless, this propaganda serves as the basis for the criminal prohibition of marijuana today.

Therefore, we want to dispel some of the more prominent myths about cannabis by providing sound scientific, health, criminal justice, and economic data. We hope that you will keep these facts in mind the next time you hear government officials spreading lies about cannabis.

  • MYTH: Using marijuana will inevitably lead to the use of “harder” drugs like cocaine and heroin.
  • FACT: The overwhelming majority of marijuana users never try another illicit substance.

Although pot is consistently referred to as a “gateway drug,” the authorities neglect to mention that virtually everyone who has ever used cannabis tried tobacco and alcohol first. Yet it is hard to imagine that even the most ardent prohibitionist would argue that this sequential correlation would justify criminally prohibiting the use of booze or tobacco by adults.

It should come as no surprise that the majority of people who use highly dangerous drugs like heroin or crack cocaine have previously used the far more popular and safer drug marijuana. But despite pot’s popularity, Americans’ use of other illicit substances remains comparatively low. Data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that only 3.5 percent of U.S. citizens have ever tried crack, and fewer than 2 percent of Americans have ever tried heroin. As for cocaine, the next most commonly used illicit drug in America after cannabis, fewer than 15 percent of Americans have tried it.

But what about those minority of cannabis users who do go on to use other illicit drugs? Isn’t the pot to blame? Not at all. In fact, experts generally identify “environmental circumstances,” not the prior use of a drug, as the primary reason why a handful of people transition from the use of marijuana to harder drugs.

If U.S. policymakers legalized marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol—thereby allowing its sale to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other, hard drugs—the likelihood is that fewer, not more, marijuana smokers would ever go on to try any another illicit substance. In short, it is marijuana prohibition, not the use of marijuana itself, that functions as a gateway to the potential use of harder drugs.

  • MYTH: Marijuana is highly addictive. Millions of Americans seek treatment every year because they become dependent upon marijuana.
  • FACT: Marijuana lacks the physical and psychological dependence liability associated with other intoxicants—including tobacco and alcohol. Very few cannabis users voluntarily seek drug treatment for pot “addiction.” The majority of marijuana smokers in drug treatment were arrested for pot possession and ordered into treatment as a condition of their probation.

Is cannabis addictive? Let’s look at what the science tells us. Numerous reports, including one by the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet and another cited in the New York Times, have found cannabis’s risk of physical or psychological dependence to be mild compared to most other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. In fact, two experts in the field—Drs. Jack E. Henningfield of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco—reported to the New York Times that pot’s addiction potential is no greater than caffeine’s.

According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, fewer than 10 percent of those who try cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of “drug dependence” (based on DSM-III-R criteria). By contrast, investigators reported that 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users, and 15 percent of alcohol users meet the criteria for “drug dependence.”

  • MYTH: Smoking marijuana impairs driving in a manner that is worse than alcohol. Marijuana consumption is responsible for tens of thousands of traffic accidents every year.
  • FACT: Marijuana intoxication appears to play, at most, a minor role in traffic injuries.

While it is well established that alcohol consumption increases motor vehicle accident risk, evidence of marijuana’s culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is nominal by comparison. That’s not to say that smoking marijuana won’t temporarily impair psychomotor skills. However, pot’s psychomotor impairment is seldom severe or long lasting, and variations in driving behavior after marijuana consumption are noticeably less pronounced than the impairments exhibited by drunk drivers.

Unlike motorists under the influence of alcohol, individuals who have recently smoked pot are aware of their impairment and try to compensate for it accordingly, either by driving more cautiously or by expressing an unwillingness to drive altogether. As reported in a 2008 Israeli study assessing the impact of marijuana and alcohol on driving performance, “[S]ubjects seemed to be aware of their impairment after THC intake and tried to compensate by driving slower; alcohol seemed to make them overly confident and caused them to drive faster than in control sessions.”

Of course, none of this information is meant to imply that smoking marijuana makes you a “safe” driver. In closed-course and driving-simulator studies, marijuana’s acute effects on driving include minor impairments in tracking (eye-movement control) and reaction time, as well as variation in lateral positioning, and speed.

To summarize, a motorist who has just smoked marijuana is a safer driver than one who has just consumed alcohol (even quantities of alcohol that are well within the legal limit for drinking and driving in most countries), but he or she is arguably not a “safe” driver. As with alcohol or most over-the-counter cold remedies, cannabis consumers are best advised to abstain from operating a motor vehicle for several hours after imbibing, and they should always designate at least one person to act as a sober designated driver.

How to Use Crowdfunding to Finance Your Sustainable Book Project

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

When Jacob Deva Racusin and Ace McArleton decided to write the essential book on natural building techniques, they knew who the publisher should be, and they knew the subject like the backs of their hands — but they were missing some key research that would help their book stand apart.

So, the two builders harnessed the power of the crowd, raised almost $3000, and the results of their research (how straw bale buildings perform energy-wise in cold climates) became a key component to the design and building processes detailed in The Natural Building Companion, published in 2012, and furthered the needed research into straw bale building designs in cold climates. They also identified where further testing and research should be directed.

Using Kickstarter to fund their research, “forced us to ingratiate ourselves to our community, which turned out to be great networking, and it was incredible to see how much people wanted to support our work,” said Racusin. “It compelled us to work on communicating about what we are doing and why. It required a lot of work, not an easy passive process, but was worth it at the end of the day.”

Racusin said the research itself was critical to the final book and “turned out to be one of the most legitimizing components to the book, and has opened many doors for us to present at conferences and engage in conversations with a much broader professional community.”

As evident with Racusin and McArleton, if harnessed properly, crowdfunding can be a powerful tool in the aspiring author’s kit. Reaching out to potential readers before the book is even underway allows you to begin the grassroots process of promotion—a step that often doesn’t occur until after a book is published. Crowdfunding also allows an author to activate that waiting audience, by keeping them apprised of the book as it’s being written, and possibly learn from readers about what the book should address. And because the crowdfunded book starts off as a community effort, it touches upon the notion of a gift economy, one based on relationships, place, and concern for the earth instead of mere profit margin.
Funders get gifts in return for their support, depending on how much they donate, but in many cases signing up as a funder isn’t any more complicated than pre-ordering a copy of the book.

Want to take part in this bottom-up financing revolution? Right now two of our authors are seeking community-based funding for exciting and necessary book projects. Sign up to help today and take a look at what you’ll receive in exchange for your help!Farming the Woods is a forthcoming book on agroforestry — or building edible forest gardens. The authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel are more than half way to their fundraising goal of $8000. Help them out before May 6th and you’ll receive:

  • A signed copy of the book for a $50 donation;
  • Give $100 and get a signed copy of the book plus free admission to an upcoming mushroom inoculation workshop in New York state (includes a mushroom log to take home);
  • Give $1000 and get all the gifts offered to smaller contributors, plus a day-long workshop on your property (and the authors will leave you with tons of ideas plus 100 inoculated shiitake logs)!

For more information, and to donate, go here, and check out this video about the project:

Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise Lot, Perennial Vegetables, and star of the Perennial Vegetables DVD, believes that tree crops are the key to fighting climate change, and he’s fundraising to write the book that proves it: Carbon Farming: A Global Toolkit for Stabilizing the Climate with Tree Crops and Regenerative Agricultural Practices

  • Give $50 and receive a signed copy of the book plus Toensmeier’s collected articles from 2010-13;
  • Give $150 and get a copy of the book plus a “perennial staple crop sampler” of at least three different perennial staple crops, with recipes or instructions for consumption;
  • Give $500 and get a 30-minute phone consult about the garden or farm of your choice and a customized list of fifty useful plant species suited to your site.

Find out more about this exciting book and how to donate, here, and watch Eric’s video about the project:

If you’ve got an important project that needs a boost to get off the ground, crowdfunding might be your ticket to success. Give it a try!

Our Best Chance at Saving the Planet is…Cows?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

When Allan Savory was a young man, he killed 40,000 elephants in an effort to save the African landscape. Common wisdom, and even the best science at the time, suggested that overgrazing was the main cause of the desertification they were seeing. But Savory and his team of scientists were wrong.

Instead of seeing the desertified land rebound with plant life, the areas cleared of elephants only got worse.

“Loving elephants as I do, that was the saddest blunder of my life, and I will carry it to my grave,” Savory said in his recent TED talk. “But one good thing did come out of it. I have devoted my life to finding a solution.”

That solution focuses on an unlikely tool in the fight against climate change: the soil. And Savory’s innovative system of soil-care hinges on the work of a much-maligned partner: livestock.

Far from being the scourge of grasslands and mass emitters of methane that the environmental movement has made them out to be, sheep, goats, and cattle — properly managed — can do more to heal the planet than any other solution we’ve got. When livestock are managed to mimic nature, they improve the health of grasslands, encourage the building of topsoil, and create landscapes that can absorb and retain more water.

Grasslands evolved alongside massive herds of grazers, who had to bunch together to defend themselves from predators, and had to keep moving as they deposit manure on their food source. Their grazing, pooping, and trampling (as long as they keep moving in a bunch), knocks down mature grass to allow new growth to reach the sunlight. Roots grow more lushly as new shoots emerge, and more roots mean more water retention.

When soil retains enough moisture, it stores carbon as organic matter. Store enough organic matter in the soil and voila: you’ve fixed climate change! You can see the transformation Allan Savory’s methods have achieved in this before and after image:

This kind of regenerative healing is exactly the opposite of what agriculture is currently doing. Industrial farming contributes 7% percent of US carbon emissions, much of that from depleted soils giving off the carbon they ought to be storing. As climate change accelerates, extreme weather events are happening more and more frequently. Droughts last summer killed 500 million trees across the US and destroyed an estimated $11 billion worth of crops and livestock.

But desert prophets like Allan Savory are not without hope that we can change the game in favor of soil. In his soon-to-be-released book Growing Food in Hotter Drier Lands, Gary Paul Nabhan shares lessons from dry-climate farmers around the world who have found ways to steward marginal lands and reclaim them from desertification. And Judith Schwartz’s forthcoming book Cows Save the Planet explains how management methods like those pioneered by Savory are transforming our ideas of what livestock can do.

35% Off: Books for a Thriving Local Economy

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Want a new economy, one that cares for people and the planet over pure profit? These books will teach you how — and they’re all on sale until April 30th.

Be a part of the “next American revolution”, one where green jobs and worker-owned companies make wealth democratic! What Then Must We Do? is a must-read book for anyone who cares about the future.

Are you a entrepreneur working to make your community better? You’re not alone! Judy Wicks is the woman who invented local economies, and her memoir Good Morning, Beautiful Business will show you how a cooperative business can bring prosperity to you and your community.  

Happy Reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

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Are You Part of the Next American Revolution?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In 1886 Leo Tolstoy wrote a slim pamphlet entitled What Then Must We Do? about the abject state of the peasants in his country. He wrote, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.”

Gar Alperovitz has taken Tolstoy’s mysterious title for his own new book, What Then Must We Do? After all, with an economy as systemically unequal as ours, the question is still painfully relevant. Capitalism seems to have failed us, but for decades we have believed in the Thatcher-era dictum, “There Is No Alternative.” The mere mention of socialism sends politicians running for the hills, and Tea Partiers scrambling to scribble protest signs.

Alperovitz’s new book explains that, in fact, there is an alternative to corporate capitalism, one that is working to democratize the ownership of wealth, and is already taking root in some of the communities hardest hit in the recent economic crisis. This “next American revolution” is an economy based on empowered worker-owners, green jobs, and communities that can take care of themselves. In the excerpt below, Alperovitz tells the curious story of Youngstown, Ohio, a town that lost its steel mill and launched a quiet economic revolution in response.

Booklist says, “Alperovitz’s deliberately informal, conversational style makes normally rarefied economic concepts accessible to a wide audience, enhancing his inspiring message that, with the right strategies, a wholesale economic revolution is not only possible but achievable by well-organized, average citizens.”

Get the book for 35% off this week.

An Initial Way to Think About System Change: An Excerpt from What Then Must We Do? by Chelsea Green Publishing

We Need Slow Money…Fast. Come to the National Gathering!

Monday, April 1st, 2013

It’s clear: we need a new economy, one where wealth is based on the health of the soil, and the true well-being of people. Ever since the publication of Woody Tasch’s book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, Chelsea Green has been a prominent supporter of projects that push for a more-just way of doing business — and last year we even made the shift to employee ownership, ensuring our own legacy of financial independence and economic justice.

At the forefront of the movement to make a better economy a reality is Woody Tasch’s organization Slow Money, and later this month you can join the excitement at Slow Money’s 4th National Gathering in Boulder, Colorado, on April 29-30.

Looking for a new kind of social investing for the 21st century? If so, plan to join Slow Money’s emerging network of thought leaders, investors, donors, farmers, social entrepreneurs and everyday folks for two days of conversations, network building and action planning in a food-loving town. What could be better?

The event’s complete list of speakers is phenomenal, and includes several Chelsea Green authors, such as:

There will also be investment presentations from two dozen small food enterprises and break out sessions on topics ranging from New Visions of Corporate Philanthropy to Exploring Seeds and Biodiversity to Impact Investing, plus the opportunity to collaborate with folks from around the country who are finding new ways to connect money, culture and the soil—including members of the 16 chapters channeling millions of dollars into local small food enterprises.

The Slow Money National Gathering brings together people who are rebuilding local food systems across the U.S. and around the world. More than 2,000 people attended the first three national gatherings—with more than $22 million now invested in more than 185 small food enterprises!

Join this forward thinking group now. For details and to register, click here.

Chelsea Green will have a table set up, so stop by and say hello!

And stay tuned for our next great book on building a Slow economy, Raising Dough: The Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business. The author, Elizabeth Ü, will be at the Slow Money National Gathering as well. Here’s a preview of what the book’s about, in her own words:


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