Green Building Archive


Celebrating 30 Years of Publishing and Planting Trees

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The internationally best-selling book The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, with wood engravings by Michael McCurdy, appeared in Chelsea Green’s first catalog in 1985 and has remained in print ever since. This powerful ecological fable continues to remain relevant, as you can read for yourself below, and best exemplifies our core publishing mission.

The following excerpt of this award-winning book appears in the forthcoming book, The Chelsea Green Reader, which is being published in celebration of our 30th anniversary as a book publisher. Each book excerpt is preceded by a short introduction, which we have included here.

Enjoy!

Jean Giono, one of France’s most celebrated twentieth-century novelists, wrote this ecological fable in the early 1950s. It was far ahead of its time. Chelsea Green persuaded the wood engraver and fine press publisher Michael McCurdy to make twenty engravings that dramatically enhance the book’s simple but powerful narrative. For the first time—almost three decades after its publication in Paris in Vogue magazine—the story appeared in book form in 1985. In time it became an international bestseller, and in 1992 Chelsea Green created an audio edition, with Boston’s WGBH classical music host Robert J. Lurtsema reading and original music by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

1ManWho

There was peace in being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural—or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.ic by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his. His pasture was in a valley. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed toward where I stood. I was afraid that he was about to rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away.

There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.

After the midday meal he resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had sprouted. Of the twenty thousand he still expected to lose about half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.

That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

The oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understood that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before—that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed—and rightly—that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.

Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villages I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzéard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposition. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificent generosity?

To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

Chelsea Green Publishing Turns 30!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Explore a slideshow of cover images from some of our most iconic books over the past 30 years. Excerpts from these books and close to 100 others are all part of a new Chelsea Green anthology celebrating our 30th anniversary – The Chelsea Green Reader.

This collection offers readers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

Take a walk down memory lane with us and check out this selection of book covers from 1985 to the present.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

Replacing Windows? Understand Your New Glass Options

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Having been in my passive solar home for 35 years, my original Alcoa windows were showing their age. The time had come to upgrade. My current experience of selecting which window and glass type to purchase turned out to be more formidable than I anticipated even as a professional in solar home design. There now are multiple choices of window types. Some of these new high efficient windows, however, may actually decrease the effectiveness of a passive solar home.

I didn’t expect to run into any problems with purchasing my new windows. Unfortunately, I was in for a surprise. What follows are some useful tips that I hope will help others select which glass option to purchase and help them to navigate the confusion, mis-information and lack of knowledge that I encountered.

When I was designing and supplying prefabricated Green Mountain Solar Homes, Alcoa windows were a ”price” product. Those Alcoa windows, along with other material savings, allowed me to supply these homes at affordable costs – including my own.

As Green Mountain Homes grew, we became Andersen window dealers. Having had lots of experience with Andersen’s products, I decided to use Andersen’s casement windows in our prefabricated homes.

When I built my solar home, I used Alcoa’s standard dual glazed windows with U-Value of 0.52 and Shade Coefficient of 0.88 (1993 ASHRAE Handbook Values). As some readers may know, the windows and patio doors in a passive solar home serve as solar collectors and are strategically placed on the east, south and west walls of the home. The U-Factor and Shade Coefficient are important considerations in choosing windows as solar collectors. The lower the U-Factor, the less heat is lost back out the windows. The higher the Shade Coefficient, more free solar energy is passed through the glazing.

For folks who have read The Passive Solar House, note that the Shading Coefficient (SC) has been succeeded by Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) in the United States, however older windows and doors may still refer to their SC value. The relationship between SHGC and SC may be approximated as: SHGC = SC × 0.87. [As a side note: The SHGC is not to be confused with the Solar Heat Gain Factor (SHGF). Solar Heat Gain Factor’s for each North Latitude are published in the ASHRAE Fundamentals and are also listed in Appendix 2 of The Passive Solar House. The SHGF is used to calculate the total amount of heat gained for each month.]

To refresh your memory, U-Factor is a measure of the rate of heat loss. SHGC defines the amount of solar radiation that will pass through the glass. Again, the lower the U-Factor, the less heat is transmitted out the window. The higher the SHGC, the more solar radiation (free heat) will be transmitted into the home.

Going to Andersen’s website, I found that the Series 400 is available with four different types of Annealed Glass:

1. Low-E4
2. Low-E4 Sun
3. Low-E4 SmartSun
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun

Note: The above designations are all registered trademarks of the Andersen.

Now the decision of which of the above would be the correct choice for my solar home in terms of efficiency in heat loss and effectiveness as solar collectors.

Using the “No Grilles” coefficients, the U-Factor and SHGC are as follows:

U-Factor                  SHGC

1. Low-E4                                       .28                         .32
2. Low-E4 Sun                               .28                          .20
3. Low-E4 SmartSun                     .27                          .21
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun                 .30                          .54

Note the significant changes in these coefficients from my original Alcoa windows to Andersen’s Low-E4 PassiveSun:

Old Style Alcoa Dual Glazing                                 New Low-E4 PassiveSun

U-Factor                                                      .52                                                                              .28
SHGF (SC x .87)                              .88 x .87 = .76                                                                       .54

In other words, Low-E4 PassiveSun will lose about half of the heat of my old style glazing, but will admit only 71 percent of the solar radiation. Low E glass has almost become the new standard window; however, if I selected Low-E4 glass, only 59 percent (.32/.54) of the free solar heat will get into the house. It’s obvious that Low E glass is best for applications that are purposely trying to keep heat out.

To help me further I decided to do some comparative calculations.

1. As the basis of the calculations, I will use the Saltbox example given in Chapter 6 of The Passive Solar House, which has the same windows in my own home. Table 6-15 shows the Saltbox to be 48 percent solar in Hartford, Connecticut.

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year

2. Substituting Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing and entering the same data into CSol (The Design Software included in The Passive Solar House), we get the following comparison:

The Passive Solar House book example using old style glazing:

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 48

Using Andersen Low-E4 PassiveSun Glazing:

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 34,970,000 Btus/year or 356 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 37

Note that the percentage of Solar went from 48 to 37 but the Purchased Energy is almost the same.

3. One more example, let’s see what happens if we select the now standard Low-E4 glazing.

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 42,760,000 Btus/year or 436 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 23

The above examples make it clear that the best choice for my replacement glass for my passive solar home in Vermont is the Low-E4 PassiveSun glass option. Using the standard Low-E4 glass simply was not the correct choice for me, as it would result in higher fuel usage (22.5 percent) in my Vermont solar home.

Armed with this information, I went to two suppliers for price quotations. One is a national supply house and the other a local supplier. They couldn’t price out my requested Series 400 Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing option because Andersen’s pricing software only allows the supplier to price out the first three options listed above. In fact, both suppliers had never heard of Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. It took several emails and phone calls to Andersen to find out that there is an upcharge for Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. Further after placing the order, I later was advised that there would be a delay in getting my “special” order.

The lesson? Whether you are building a new passive solar home or upgrading an existing one, great care has to be taken in choosing what window type will be best for you.

This is a guest post by author James Kachadorian, who wrote The Passive Solar House, Revised and Expanded Edition.

New Inspiring Books from our Publishing Partners

Friday, August 29th, 2014

From learning how to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives to building a low-impact roundhouse, we’re bringing a handful of new books to US readers for the first time.

At Chelsea Green Publishing, we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books on sustainable living to a wider readership in the United States. Below is the latest selection of books available from one of our strongest publishing partners, Permanent Publications. They publish books that encourage people to live more healthy and resilient lives, as well as the internationally recognized magazine Permaculture: Practical Solutions for Self-Reliance which is read in 77 countries.

New Books from Permanent Publications:

Sacred Earth Celebrations explores the eight Celtic festivals, how they were celebrated and understood in the past, the underlying changing energy of the Earth, and the ways we may use this energy to create meaningful celebrations for today to deepen our connection to the Earth and our fellow human beings. It is an uplifting and inspiring source book for anyone seeking to celebrate and honor the changing rhythms and seasons of the Earth and her cycles.

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse is a captivating story of one of the UK’s most unique homes. Now in its third edition, Author Tony Wrench shares his many years of experience, skills, and techniques used to build this affordable low-impact home. He offers advice on roofs, floors, walls, compost toilets, wood stoves, kitchens, windows, and planning permission. Complete with color photographs of life in and around the dwelling, this is both an engaging story and a practical “how to” manual for anyone who loves the idea of low-impact living.

The Unselfish Spirit is an essential twenty-first-century guide to unlocking the secrets of how we as a race can collectively grow our consciousness to solve the complex web of challenges that threaten life on Earth. Author Mick Collins draws inspiration from such diverse fields as cosmology, new biology, and quantum physics, along with insights from depth psychology, occupational science, and mysticism. More than just a learned exploration about psycho-spiritual transformation, this book is a pathway to evolving entirely new ways of living creatively and harmoniously as a species.

7 Ways to Think Differently explores ways to address personal, social, and environmental concerns in simple practical steps in our daily lives, helping us to make incremental, achievable changes. As well as addressing our internal landscapes, author Looby Macnamara explains how individuals and communities can work together to achieve positive change. This book is for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world. It offers potent medicine for a world full of challenges. (this book is available September 24, 2014)

New Book Explores a Net Zero Energy Future

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

The new threshold for green building is not just low energy, it’s net-zero energy. In The New Net Zero, architect Bill Maclay explores green design’s new frontier: net-zero-energy structures that produce as much energy as they consume and are carbon neutral.

In a nation where traditional buildings use roughly 40 percent of the total fossil energy, the interest in net-zero building is growing enormously—among both designers interested in addressing climate change and consumers interested in energy efficiency and long-term savings. Maclay, an award-winning net-zero designer whose buildings have achieved high-performance goals at affordable costs, makes the case for a net-zero future; explains net-zero building metrics, integrated design practices, and renewable energy options; and shares his lessons learned on net-zero teambuilding.

From mobile homes to commercial office buildings, Maclay puts his vision on display in this fully-illustrated book that includes case studies, and even a twelve-step guide to creating a net zero building.

Maclay’s book, and his long-term vision, were featured in The New York Times as part of a Q&A with Home & Garden writer Sandy Keenan. Here’s how she opened her piece:

Books by architectural firms are often vainglorious marketing efforts that keep the content glossy and light. But an ambitious new book from William Maclay, an architect in Waitsfield, Vt., and his associates, challenges the genre.

Four years in the making, “The New Net Zero: Leading-Edge Design and Construction of Homes and Buildings for a Renewable Energy Future” (Chelsea Green Publishing, $90) marshals detailed architectural drawings and impressive pie charts to show that net-zero-energy buildings (those that make as much — or more — energy than they consume) not only offer long-term advantages for the planet, but can also save their owners money from the start. The book is an informed plea from a 65-year-old architect who has long concentrated on designing such buildings, making the most of renewable energy sources, such as solar and geothermal power.

You can read the whole story here.

While of interest to professionals, The New Net Zero will also be of interest to nonprofessionals who are seeking ideas and strategies to bring net zero principles to life. In fact, Maclay features a number of communities – in the United States and around the world – that are working to achieve net zero status, including the communities that are near Maclay’s Waitsfield, Vt. office.

Learn more about The New Net Zero in the excerpt below (the preface and chapter two) and save 35% off if you order your copy between now and July 3.

New Net Zero: Preface and Ch 2 – Defining the New Net Zero by Chelsea Green Publishing

Can We Afford to Keep Plundering the Planet?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Mineral treasures that took millions, even billions of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries—even decades. A central question that has been vigorously debated for the last two centuries is simple: Are we going to run out?

Ugo Bardi, author of Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet says, “We have been acting with mineral resources as if we were pirates looting a captured galleon: grabbing everything we can, as fast as we can.”

In Extracted, Bardi argues the issue is not purely one of depletion of mineral resources, but also that most minerals are becoming gradually more and more expensive to extract as the easy access to high-grade ores becomes progressively scarce.

For example, in the oil industry, scientists have examined the amount of energy needed to extract crude oil and compared it to the amount of energy that oil can produce. In the past, oil was an excellent investment with returns close to 50-100 to 1, but today, Bardi writes, “oil extraction is nearing that fateful point of non-return in which it becomes a useless exercise of energy waste.”

Skeptics will continue to claim there is an abundance of natural resources available beneath the Earth’s crust. They believe human ingenuity and technological advances will develop the mining machines necessary for extraction. However, the question remains, at what cost?

The issue of cost, and the broader global impacts, is a crucial reason that Library Journal had this to say in a review of the book: “With input from other mineral experts, Bardi also rebuts critics who argue that emerging technologies, like a ‘universal mining machine,’ will be able to solve most of these problems. A skillfully written guide to a crucial, little-understood subject and an urgent wake-up call.”

Or, as Jorgen Randers (2052) explains in his foreword, Bardi’s book arrives at a critical time when countries are beginning to question the headlong belief that we can continue to extract minerals at no incremental cost – either financial or environmental.

“At a time when discussion of mineral depletion often resorts to black-and-white analyses of what we are running out of, what has peaked, and how we might cope without it, Extracted offers a full-bodied analysis that illuminates the real consequences of relentlessly plundering the planet for its mineral riches: an altered landscape, massive pollution issues, potential economic upheaval, and, among other serious results, the unleashing of greenhouse gases by mining and burning fossil fuels,” writes Randers.

At present, with Russia flexing its natural resource muscles in its annexation of Crimea and the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report warning policy makers that the world must take action now to save our climate balance, it seems clear we have reached a crossroads in our state of mineral wealth. Bardi’s Extracted reads like a road map of our mineral history and explores how we can use this knowledge to navigate toward a more sustainable future.

Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet is available now and on sale for 35% off until May 5th.

 

Extracted: Foreword and Preface by Chelsea Green Publishing

Living the Simple Life: William Coperthwaite

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Late last year architect, maker, visionary, homesteader, and Chelsea Green author William Coperthwaite died in a car accident just miles from his Machiasport home in Maine.

The entire Chelsea Green family was saddened by his death, and perhaps none moreso than Peter Forbes who had been inspired by Coperthwaite’s work and contributed the foreword and photographs to Coperthwaite’s award-winning book A Handmade Life.

Friends have set up a remembrance page honoring Coperthwaite’s life and inspiring work, which includes this moving passage from Forbes after he and his wife Helen Whybrow returned from burying Coperthwaite.

“My wife, Helen, and I got back from Dickinson’s Reach late last night after a very powerful and important three days. On Saturday, a group of us dug a six-foot-deep grave at the spot where Bill wanted to be buried. Another group made his casket and yet another group planned how to get his body from the mortuary back to his home. Bill wanted his body left however he died, untouched by doctors or undertakers. On Saturday morning, which was cold and stormy, six of us paddled out in two of Bill’s canoes across Little Kennebec Bay to Duck Cove where we were met by a hearse. We took his body out of the black plastic bag, wrapped him in his favorite blanket, and placed him gently into his pine box. We lashed the canoes together with four posts and tied the casket to the posts creating a catamaran to bring him home. The return was calm except for when we made the turn into his bay when a great wind picked up and blew us all the way into Mill Pond. We were met there by about 30 others who carried Bill in silence up from the beach past each one of his yurts. We paused at the most recent one as this was the place where Bill expected to die. We then brought him to his grave site, had an hour of reminiscences, and then buried him. And now we’re home trying to figure out what life means.”

Coperthwaite

Coperthwaite “embodied a philosophy that he called ‘democratic living’ which was about enabling every human being to have agency and control over their lives in order to create together a better community,” noted Forbes after Coperthwaite’s death. “The central question of Mr. Coperthwaite’s life and experiment has been ‘How can I live according to what I believe?’”

Over the years, thousands of people made the 1.5 mile walk to see his homestead, to be inspired and to learn from his approach to simple living by working alongside him [See the project below, "How to Make Your Own Democratic Chair"]. Intentionally avoiding electricity from the grid, plumbing and motors, he showed that it was possible to live a simple life that is good for themselves and the planet.

Born in Aroostook County Maine, Coperthwaite received a scholarship to attend Bowdoin College and after graduation he turned down another scholarship to Annapolis Naval Academy to claim conscientious objector status in the Korean War. Bill did alternative service with the American Friend Service Committee where he connected with the teachings of American pacifism. Bill would become close friends with Richard Gregg, a central figure in that movement. Though they had 50 years difference in age, Coperthwaite and Gregg found a strong bond and Gregg introduced Coperthwaite to the work of Mahatma Gandhi and to Helen and Scott Nearing, legendary social radicals who had pioneered their own experiment in self-reliant living in Vermont and later in Maine. The influence of pacifism, nonviolence and simple living would lead Coperthwaite far out in to the world to learn from other ways of living, particularly handcraft traditions.

As Forbes noted, “Bill will be remembered by his friends for his commitment to his principles, his deep love of life and people, and his great intellect, humility and humor. Our nation has lost one of the links in the chain of great people working quietly with all their unique powers to foster a better world.”

Peace.


 

Project: Make Your Own Democratic Chair

The following project is from A Handmade Life: In Search of Simplicity by Wm. S. Coperthwaite.

Is there such a thing as democratic furniture? If so, what would a democratic chair look like?

Most of the fine chairs we see today, if handmade, take nearly as much skill as boat building and, if made with power tools, require much investment in equipment and acquiring the skills needed. I would like to see what those who are reading this might come up with for ideas for a handmade chair that is light, comfortable, strong, beautiful, simple to make from easily found materials. (All we seek is perfection.)

Utopian? Or impossible, to create an egalitarian chair? Not at all. As a society we have simply not yet focused on this problem. When we do, there will be some elegant chairs as a result (or boats . . . or houses . . . or wheelbarrows . . . (not necessarily in combination—although, come to think of it, there have been some very comfortable wheelbarrows, some very fine houseboats, and several wheelbarrow boats. . . .)

My suggestion for the most democratic chair follows. This is not provided to represent an ideal but in hopes of stimulating even better designs from you, the readers.

To Make the Democratic Chair:

    1. Saw and whittle out the four pieces shown in diagram, using white pine 7/8-inch thick.


(Click for larger version.)

  1. Bevel the front edges of the two base pieces to meet at the angle shown, then nail together.
  2. Fit seat in place, and screw to the base with four screws.
  3. Place the back piece in the notches in the base, and screw to the base and the seat.

Reinventing Fire at the End of the Oil Age

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Forty years ago, key members of OPEC embargoed oil exports to the U.S. and other countries. Oil was scarce and prices soared. So what have we learned from the 1973 incident?

In short, not much. We are still largely living under the illusory belief that we can burn oil forever.

Four times since 1980, U.S. forces have intervened in the Persian Gulf to protect not Israel but oil. The Gulf hasn’t become more stable. Readiness for such interventions costs a half-trillion dollars per year—about ten times what we pay for oil from the Gulf, and rivaling total defense expenditures at the height of the Cold War. And burning oil emits two-fifths of fossil carbon, so abundant oil only speeds dangerous climate change that destabilizes the world and multiplies security threats.

In 2011, Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute penned a comprehensive guide to weaning the United States completely off oil and coal by 2050. Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era details how, by 2050, the United States could triple its energy efficiency while switching to more renewables and increasing the economy with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy and one-third less natural gas. All of this could cost $5 trillion less than “business as usual” and allow the United States to run a 158 percent bigger economy.

Reinventing Fire is a wise, detailed and comprehensive blueprint for gathering the best existing technologies for energy use and putting them to work right now to create jobs, end our dependence on climate-changing fossil fuels, and unleash the enormous economic potential of the coming energy revolution,” writes President Bill Clinton.

Now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the oil embargo, we’re releasing Lovins’ book in an updated paperback edition.

Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts, notes Lovins. The end of the conflict-creating, climate-threatening Oil Age is coming clearly into view, and not a moment too soon.

“Imagine fuel without fear,” writes Lovins in the Preface. “No runaway climate change. No oil spills, dead coal miners, dirty air, devastated lands, lost wildlife. No energy poverty. No oil-fed wars, tyrannies, or terrorists. Nothing to run out. Nothing to cut off. Nothing to worry about. Just energy abundance, benign and affordable, for all, for ever. That richer, fairer, cooler, safer world is possible, practical, even profitable—because saving and replacing fossil fuels increasingly works better and costs no more than buying and burning them. We just need a new fire.”

Reinventing Fire (Paperback edition) is available now and on sale for 35% off until October 23rd. Read an excerpt of Chapter One: Defossilizing Fuels below.

Defossilizing Fuels – An Excerpt from Reinventing Fire

Renewable Energy for Resilient Communities

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

How can we successfully bring our neighbors together and relocalize our food, energy, and financial systems?

To glean some of the best ideas percolating throughout the United States, and the world, sign up for the Community Resilience Chats—a webinar series that delves into details essential for communities that are ready to take the necessary steps to reclaim their future. These online discussions stem from The Community Resilience Guides co-published by Post Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green.

These online chats are co-produced by Chelsea Green, Transition US, and Post Carbon Institute.

In the next chat — Power from the People — community clean power visionaries, Lynn Benander of Co-op Power and Lyle Estill of Piedmont Biofuels will share their experiences in moving away from big energy. Join the conversation:

Community Resilience Chat: Power from the People – Webinar
September 10, 2013 at 2:00pm (EST)

The webinar is free, but space is limited so don’t wait to sign up. Participants will receive an exclusive 35% discount on Greg Pahl’s Power from the People. There will be a presentation and time for Q&A, but send in your burning questions on community clean power in advance to help shape the conversation.

If you missed the first Community Resilience Chat: Rebuilding the Foodshed with Philip Ackerman-Leist, you can watch it here:

 Next up on Community Resilience Chats: Local Dollars, Local Sense. Michael Shuman’s perspective sheds light on rebooting the economy to meet the needs of investors and entrepreneurs for a healthy and secure local economy.

Want to learn more about these books and how to make your community more self-reliant? Chelsea Green is offering  The Community Resilience Guides series as a special book set to make sure you and your neighbors have the tools and strategies you need to become more resilient.


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