News posts from Shay's Archive


Dr. Seuss, Petrochemicals, and the War on Bugs

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

While movie-goers recently lined up to see the Disney-fication of The Lorax (replete with marketing tie-ins to dish soap and automobiles … hmm), we here at Chelsea Green were reminded of an unflattering side to that beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss — one you don’t read about very often.

Before I give you the dirt on Dr. Seuss’ dark side, I’ll be the first to say that Dr. Seuss has brought us some of the great allegorical books of the modern age — The Lorax, The Sneetches, The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? (OK, maybe not so much the last one) — and each of his tomes is dog-eared and readily recited in my household.

However, before Dr. Seuss emerged as one of the great children’s book authors he toiled away as a cartoonist under his given name — Ted Geisel. Geisel inked cartoons for some of the nation’s major chemical companies who were looking for ways to dump their wartime nasty concoctions on an unsuspecting US public.

Voila! Pesticides and other agro-chemicals were born.

Author and farmer Will Allen (of Cedar Circle Farm here in Vermont) wrote about the rise of chemical farming in his 2007 book, The War on Bugs.

As a result, we here at Chelsea Green are offering —for a limited time — a salient chapter from Will’s book as a free download. In this chapter, Allen delves into Geisel’s early cartooning work replete with pro-pesticide, pro-patriotic toons for the agrichemical industry. In particular, Geisel helped to make Flit — and the Flit gun — a household word in this “war on bugs.”

As Allen notes in his book, many believe the positive, pro-environmental themes of The Lorax stemmed from Geisel’s own attempt to scrub clean his early cartooning legacy that helped to introduce chemicals into the food supply and everyday life.

Allen notes, “Perhaps Dr. Seuss realized his earlier mistakes and indiscretions with Standard Oil’s Flit and tried to make amends with The Lorax. Geisel must have known that Flit’s cartoons and his World War II cartoons for DDT had an enormous impact on the public’s use of pesticides and acceptance of DDT.”

He must have known, right?

Unless.

PS: Will Allen is also pretty active right now in Vermont’s effort to pass legislation requiring food that contains GMOs to be labeled as such. Check out his AlterNet article detailing Monsanto’s threat to sue if the law is passed, and find out how you can help by chiming in on our Facebook page.

WaronBugs: Pesticides, Household Poisons, and Dr. Seuss

Chelsea Green Authors Named Finalists for Three National Awards

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Chelsea Green is proud to announce that two of its authors have been named finalists for major book awards, while a third is a finalist for a readers’ choice award.

The news of these three authors comes on the heels of essayist Edward Hoagland being named the 2012 winner of the John Burroughs Medal, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for environmental essay writing, for his book Sex and the River Styx. He will be awarded the medal at a ceremony in April.

This trio of authors addresses everything from the impact of the decades-old wars fought in Afghanistan, cooking seasonally for both flavor and health from homegrown and wild herbs and edibles, and gardening for resiliency and community.

The authors are:

Ed Girardet is one of five finalists to receive the 2012 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for his memoir, Killing the Cranes. Girardet’s memoir reflects on his more than three decades of experience covering war-torn Afghanistan, and the impact this has had on Afghani people. Established in 1987, the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism is given annually to a journalist whose work has brought public attention to important issues and includes a $15,000 cash prize. The winner will be announced on June 5.

Didi Emmons is a finalist for this year’s International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook awards for her book Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm, which offers wide-ranging recipes that reflect the shifting seasonal harvest but also show us how wild edibles and cultivated herbs add flavor to our food and improve our health. IACP is considered the gold standard among cookbook awards, and has been presenting its awards for more than 25 years. Winners will be announced on April 2.

Carol Deppe has been selected as a finalist in the 2012 About.com Readers’ Choice Awards for “Best New Gardening Book Since 2010” for her book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. Deppe’s book demonstrates how resilient gardeners and their gardens can flourish even in challenging times and help their communities to survive and thrive through everything that comes their way — from tomorrow through the next thousand years About.com — which is owned by the New York Times Company — is a consumer-focused website that offers expert advice and reviews on a wide variety of topics. Winners will be announced March 30 (voting runs from Feb. 22 to March 21).

Carol has also launched a new seed catalog, which editor Ben Watson wrote about here.

Chelsea Green Author Wins Prestigious Environmental Writing Award

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Chelsea Green is proud to announce that author Edward Hoagland will receive one of the nation’s most prestigious environmental writing awards — the John Burroughs Medal — for his 2011 book of essays, Sex and the River Styx.

Hoagland will receive the medal in April at a special ceremony of the John Burroughs Association, to be held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

The John Burroughs Medal has been given annually since 1926 for books that combine scientific accuracy, firsthand fieldwork, and creative natural history writing. Past Burroughs medalists include Rachel Carson, Barry Lopez, Gary Nabhan, Julia Whitty, and Ted Levin, among others.

This is the second time a Chelsea Green author has won the prestigious Burroughs medal. In 1988, Lawrence Kilham won the award for his book On Watching Birds.

“Chelsea Green congratulates Edward Hoagland on this well-deserved award, and we’re proud to have worked with him on this collection of essays,” said Margo Baldwin, Chelsea Green’s president and publisher. “His book reflects a deep commitment to rekindling our human connection to the natural world; something we seem to have lost in today’s literature.”

Baldwin, and the book’s editor Joni Praded, will join Hoagland at the April ceremony.

John Updike called Hoagland, “The best essayist of my generation.” Edward Abby, Philip Roth, and Annie Dillard have all praised Hoagland’s writing and his insight into the natural world and our human place in it.

For more than 50 years, Hoagland has been one of America’s most celebrated observers of both human nature and the natural world. In Sex and the River Styx, readers follow Hoagland as he travels to Kampala, Uganda, Tibet and into his own personal memories as he ruminates about aging, love, and sex.

The Hell Child: Citizens United Enters the Terrible Twos

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Today marks the second anniversary of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United. Yes, it’s true, our little devil-may-care campaign spending hellion is now entering his terrible twos.

And it shows.

If any one felt as if the United States was a plutocracy wearing democracy as a fig leaf, Citizens United stripped away the remaining fragments of illusion and laid it all bare. The problem, is do enough people actually care?

Cries from the dozens of Occupy Wall Street protests and encampments around the country included calls for an end to the influence of limitless corporate donations on our elections, if not an end to the notion that somehow corporations are people. I mean, really, can they be turned into Soylent Green? I think not.

If you think we’ve seen the worst of big-money influence on our elections, think again: Read this eye-popping report from our pals at AlterNet, which outlines just how much money some corporations are prepared to spend — and others to earn — thanks to Citizens United.

How to stop it?

It’s not as easy as it seems, as Stephen Rosenfeld points out at Alternet, but the Internet-wide effort to thwart proposed “piracy” legislation gives some hope that a focused, concerted “strike” against those in power can have a positive, if potentially short-term, effect and victory.

The electoral system is rigged against actual populist uprisings and what ordinary folks want from their politicians and the government. In this game, free speech is most protected for those who can spend more. Most of us can’t pump unlimited monies into a SuperPAC — or have a platform like satirist  Stephen Colbert to mock these Hydra-esque offshoots of Citizens United.

As Gina Kim at Moyers.com points out in this great interview with Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, there may be ways in which we can bring greater attention to the companies and individuals donating to these SuperPACs as a way to better inform voters about who’s behind these groups. Legislation is in the works that would force donors to be listed publicly. Gee, imagine that!

A recent court ruling in California gives hope that local laws aimed at blunting the worst effects of Citizens United can be written in such a way as to stand the test of a court challenge.

We need more local efforts like that out of San Diego to combat Citizens United as it’s likely attempts at the federal level will meet with strong resistance by those who benefit from the status quo created under Citizens United.

Here in Vermont, lawmakers recently introduced a resolution — which, if adopted would be the first of its kind by a state legislature — calling on Congress to initiate a constitutional amendment to undo the damage of Citizens United. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has launched a petition calling for support of just such a constitutional amendment — one that he’s introduced in the Senate. Close to 190,000 people have signed the petition so far — have you? You should.

There’s also a statewide effort in Vermont to get folks on Town Meeting Day to also call on Congress to amend the constitution. The state’s largest city has already approved the question to be placed on its ballot. More are expected to follow suit this month. Town meetings are held in communities across the state in March and, while not binding votes, can help to send a clear message to policymakers about what citizens expect from their government.

You should be asking your local representatives and elected officials to be doing the same.

If I recall correctly, the preamble to the Constitution reads, “We the People …” not “We the People Corporations … .”

A Strike for Internet Freedom

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

We’ve been asked by some of our readers if Chelsea Green will go on strike today in solidarity with dozens of larger sites, and hundreds of smaller ones, protesting two proposed pieces of federal legislation that have the potential to greatly infringe upon the Internet and free speech.

The answer is no, we’re not blacking out the site, but we do stand with our fellow online free speech advocates and organizations in opposing the legislation and support efforts to ensure these bills never see the light of day.

Besides, today is more like holding up a protest sign in the street. A good start, but to really ensure the government doesn’t quash free speech and access to information on the Internet action must be taken.

This site has a list of the major players who are on “strike” today to protest these bills — largely because they are rightly concerned with the government given too much leeway to shut down websites allegedly selling pirated material. There is little in the bill that actually combats piracy, rather it gives large companies more tools to shut down sites they deem a threat and using the government and the courts as their sledgehammer.

The bills are known as SOPA and PIPA and they stand for the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which is in the U.S. House, and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which is in the U.S. Senate.  ProPublica has a cool feature that shows you where your Representatives and Senators stand on the bill.

If you don’t like what you read, drop ‘em a line and let ‘em know. Congress reconvenes on Monday and the Senate vows to take up the legislation despite growing outcry over key provisions.

Here in Vermont, our senior senator U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, is the lead Senate sponsor of PIPA. He also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over the legislation.

Leahy has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from lobbyists and organizations who have been pushing SOPA and PIPA. And, last fall the Directors Guild of America feted Leahy in New York City for his “unflagging commitment to safeguarding the content created by DGA members and others in the creative and business communities against the ravages of digital theft and counterfeiting.” Read: He did our bidding and how we’re going to throw him a party.

More than a dozen groups that promote free speech — including the American Library Association and Reporters Without Borders — are urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to tone down the proposed law.

In a May letter to Leahy, the coalition wrote that the bill “makes nearly every actor on the Internet potentially subject to enforcement orders under the bill, raising new policy questions regarding government interference with online activity and speech.”

If pissing off librarians wasn’t enough for Leahy and his ilk, they’ve since upset major Internet companies, too.

Here are a few great sites where you can learn more about the dangers lurking in SOPA and PIPA , including the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF has also set up an easy way for you to contact your federal representatives and voice your opposition to these bills.

As EFF notes, today is just the start of a series of actions. Some of the bigger efforts come next week when the House and Senate return from their “recess” and take up the legislation.

Though Leahy has offered to dump some of the more controversial sections of the legislation, expect the bill to rear its ugly head again. PIPA, in fact, was simply another Internet censorship bill — the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act — gussied up and given a new name. COICA never came up for a full Senate vote, and died a natural death at the end of the last session of Congress. Let’s hope the same happens with PIPA.

Yesterday Leahy castigated the strike, calling it an act of self-censorship that misstates the intent of PIPA. He urged his colleagues to debate and approve the bill next week.

All I can say is that if this “strike” is successful in mobilizing enough people to kill this bill, perhaps we should be thinking more broadly about physical, national strikes across all sectors of the economy to protest bad government policies. You know, the policies that seem to only benefit the 1 percent and leave us 99 percenters behind.

Just a thought.

Chelsea Green Announces New Hires, New Plans for 2012

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Coming off a strong financial finish for the year, Vermont-based independent book publisher Chelsea Green today announced a series of new hires and strategic reorganization for 2012.

“We had a very strong finish to the year, with significant growth overall for both print and digital. We remain focused on the content, acquiring the very best books in our niche, but we’re also strategically experimenting with digital content and enhanced ebooks,” said Margo Baldwin, President and Publisher of Chelsea Green.

In 2011, Chelsea Green reorganized its in-house sales staff to focus its efforts on key markets — such as book trade, library, academic, corporate and special sales, and digital — rather than geographic territories. In 2012, Chelsea Green is returning to using independent commission groups to represent its books to the independent bookstores, where it has spearheaded an innovative branded area program with select stores.

In 2012, Chelsea Green expects to expand its digital book offerings and further enhance its online presence as an effort to further meet the needs of its readers and to help build a stronger sense of community around the company mission, its books, and authors.

To further its digital book development across multiple ebook platforms and to introduce enhanced ebooks for key titles, Chelsea Green hired Justin Nisbet, formerly of Workman Publishing, as its director of digital development.

To augment its communications and outreach strategy with its readers and its community, Shay Totten, a longtime journalist and former editorial director at Chelsea Green, has been named communications director.

Chelsea Green also hired Melissa Jacobson, formerly of Quirk Books, as its in-house book designer in order to better handle the demands — and costs — of ebook production.

In addition, Chelsea Green opened up an office in Burlington, VT, in late 2011. This office houses key communications, website, and author-events staff. Moving these functions to a new office was an effort by Chelsea Green to attract high-quality talent in a more urban setting, said Baldwin.

Pluck ‘em!

Friday, January 6th, 2012

With all the doom and gloom about the future of the book industry, it can feel like book sellers and publishers are being led, like lambs — or chickens — to the slaughter.

Which gave us an idea here at Chelsea Green: Pluck ‘em!

Why limit ourselves to publishing books about sustainability and regeneration and small-scale farming? Why not diversify our holdings? Spread our wings, so to speak.

Our idea is a combined mobile poultry processor and bookmobile. Wait, I can explain.

Sure this move could ruffle some feathers in the book-publishing world (or leave us with egg on our face), but that’s part of Chelsea Green’s mission and joie de vivre.

The inspiration for our mobile bookstore and poultry plucker was inspired by a notice issued today from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. It turns out the state is looking to offload its successful “mobile poultry processing unit.”

Their press release read:

Calling all Vermont meat producers and processors! The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Mobile Poultry Processing Unit is currently available for purchase. The mobile unit, which was the first of its kind for farmers to process poultry under state inspection right on the farm, has been a huge success in developing Vermont’s poultry industry. With the market for locally produced poultry and rabbit continuing to rise, this piece of infrastructure offers a great business opportunity.

( …)

The mobile unit has a daily processing capacity of 250 chickens or 100 turkeys, with two operators. It can be docked either at farms or at fairgrounds across the state.

The mobile unit is currently listed for sale at http://www.auctionsinternational.com/item.cgi?show_item=0000077280. There will be an open house on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the north end of the Waterbury State Complex parking lot.  To RSVP for the open house, please contact Chelsea Bardot Lewis at 802-828-3360 or [email protected]   The bidding process closes at 6:00 p.m. on January 13, 2012.

What better way to put into practice what we preach? By bringing fresh, local meat from small-scale farmers directly to market we’d put more money into the pockets of local farmers and growers rather than giant agri-business; we’d also help put a chicken in every pot.

The attached bookmobile would allow farmers and their guests to browse some of our inspiring food and farming titles – like Harvey Ussery’s The Small-Scale Poultry Flock: An All-Natural Approach to Raising Chickens and Other Fowl for Home and Market Growers — while we process the poultry. Or whatever small farm animal is on the menu.

I can see the slogan now: “We Chop, While You Shop.”

Electing Women

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

Madeleine M. Kunin was a guest recently on WAMC (a public radio station that broadcasts across parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont), and spoke about the themes behind her new book, Pearls, Politics & Power.

While reviewers often place their attention on Madeleine’s support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, this interview proves there is much more to this book than meets the eye.

Madeleine, who was a three-term governor in Vermont (and the first woman governor in our home state), is asked to speak about women in politics, and how to get more women into elective office. This interview offers a great synopsis of why she is so sought after.

Click on this link to hear the interview.

Maine town says no to GMOs

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Hats off to the folks of little Montville, Maine, a town of about 1,000 people where there is no post office, no store, and no school. But those facts don’t mean they are lacking in spirit or smarts.

Two weeks ago at their annual town meeting, residents passed an ordinance banning genetically-engineered crops.

According to an article in the Portland Press Herald, supporters say Montville is the first American community outside California to do this.

The article adds:

The Maine Legislature also weighed in on the issue last week. After more than a year of debate — lawmakers approved a compromise that, among other things, offers some legal protection to organic growers who unintentionally are exposed to genetically engineered seeds.
But it’s hard to find middle ground in the Montville ban, and that’s causing controversy. A Maine group that represents large biotechnology companies says the ban could chill research and development efforts and hurt the state’s economy. Meanwhile, the Maine Department of Agriculture is asking the attorney general for an opinion on whether Montville’s ordinance is legal, or violates the state’s right-to-farm rules.

Let’s hope this is a seed that is replanted across the country.

I scream, you scream, we all scream for food irradiation!

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Well, no we really don’t scream for that. But, apparently the USDA and their pals at the American Chemistry Society think we do.

According to the folks at Natural News, who have a great article on the topic, USDA researchers conducted a study to see what worked best to kill bacteria on leafy greens like spinach. Here’s a snippet from the Natural News feature:

To conduct the study, they bathed spinach a solution contaminated with bacteria. Then, they tried to remove the bacteria using three methods: Washing, chemical spraying and irradiation. Not surprisingly, only the irradiation killed nearly 100 percent of the bacterial colonies. That’s because radiation sterilizes both the bacteria and the vegetable leaves, effectively killing the plant and destroying much of its nutritional value while it kills the bacteria.

The USDA claims this is a huge success. By using radiation on all fresh produce, they claim, the number of food-borne illness outbreaks that happen each year could be substantially reduced. It all makes sense until you realize that by destroying the nutritional value of all fresh produce sold in the United States, an irradiation policy would greatly increase the number of people killed by infections and chronic diseases that are prevented by the natural medicines found in fresh produce!

Click here for the full story.


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