Nature & Environment Archive


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

Lies, Damned Lies, and Fracking

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Peak oil? Bah! Fracking will save us and keep us energy independent for centuries – right? Wrong.

In Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future — now available through Chelsea Green — Post Carbon Institute’s senior fellow Richard Heinberg explains in detail how and why the oil and gas industry – aided and abetted by allies in the government and on Wall Street – are selling us a pack of lies when it comes to the promise of fracking.

Heinberg systematically debunks the snake oil sales pitches to provide readers, and anti-fracking activists, the real information they need – along with critical arguments to combat industry lies.

Stitching together proprietary industry data and years of his own research, Snake Oil tells the story about shale gas wells that cost more to drill than their gas is worth at current prices; Wall Street investment banks driving independent oil and gas companies to produce uneconomic resources just so brokers can collect fees; and official agencies that have overestimated oil production and underestimated prices consistently for the past decade.

Heinberg also relates stories gathered from people who live close to the nation’s thousands of fracked oil and gas wells—a tale of how drinking water, air, soil, livestock, and wildlife are poisoned or degraded; how companies fail to pay agreed lease fees; how property values actually decline; and how neighbor turned against neighbor.

In Snake Oil, you’ll find out why:

  • The oil and gas industry’s recent unexpected successes will prove to be short-lived, far shorter than we’ve been led to believe.
  • Their actual, long-term significance has been overstated because they are often double counting, or counting reserves that are too expensive to access given current technology.
  • New unconventional sources of oil and gas production come with hidden costs (both monetary and environmental) that society cannot support in the long-term, and maybe not the short-term.

Heinberg’s chief conclusion and observation is that the oil and gas industry’s exaggerations of future supply have been motivated by short-term financial self-interest, and, to the extent that they influence national energy policy, they are a disaster for America and for future generations.

Previously, Chelsea Green Publishing and Post Carbon Institute combined forces to produce the Community Resilience Guide series — three books that examined how to relocalize food, monetary, and energy systems. Despite the stranglehold that multinational corporations have on these three resources, there are local solutions that you, and your community, can use to become more sustainable and resilient for years to come.

 

Get Hip to Hemp: It’s Hemp History Week

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

It’s that time of year again — Hemp History Week. A time when we hemp enthusiasts celebrate this versatile crop that has been kept from being planted in U.S. farm fields due to an outdated and misguided Federal policy – created in the 1930s.

Ah, but change is in the air this 5th annual Hemp History Week. The federal Farm Bill signed into law earlier this year will allow hemp crops to be planted for the first time in more than a half century. Well, sort of. The crops must be for research only, not commercial, and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has to allow seeds to be imported.

One step forward …

Here at Chelsea Green Publishing – now in our 30th year as a book publisher – we are proud to be a supporter of this year’s Hemp History Week. We published our first book about hemp in 1997 (Nutiva founder John Roulac’s book, Hemp Horizons).

We returned to the promise of hemp — environmentally, agriculturally, and economically — with investigative journalist and goat farmer Doug Fine and the publication of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. In this book, Fine introduces readers to a variety of innovative hemp applications from riding in a hemp-powered limo to testing hemp-based building insulation.

Join Hemp History Week

To learn more about Doug’s book and just how hemp could be the next billion-dollar plant that’s going to change our diet, restore our soil and wean us from petroleum, check out this post. And, test your hemp history knowledge with this Hemp Quiz. To find a Hemp History Week event near you, check out Hemp History Week’s event page.

Fine kicked off Hemp History Week with a Q&A as part of the Firedoglake Book Salon, and we’re hosting a Hemp History Week Book Club on Wednesday. RSVP here and get a discounted copy of Fine’s book and join the hemp revolution.

Hemp History Week (June 2-8, 2014) is an industry-wide education initiative of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp designed to amplify support for hemp farming in the U.S.

Check out this video – “It’s Time to Grow” — from our friends at Hemp History Week.

 

Permaculture Special: Last Chance!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

This is it. Your last chance to reap the savings on all of our permaculture books. But hurry – sale ends June 1st.

By adding a permaculture twist to your garden design you can spend less effort, improve the health of your soil, and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for key home-scale permaculture books for thirty years. Learn more about this simple but revolutionary system with these groundbreaking books—on sale for a limited time.

Happy reading from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. In case you missed it for the month of May we put our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal. Take a peek at the last Q&A posts here: Are Swales Right for You; Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix; and Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade.


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)
Permaculture Sale: until June 1st

 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00
Edible Perennial Gardening
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $29.25
Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
Retail: $150.00
Sale: $97.50
Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Paradise Lot
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
The Permaculture Kitchen
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Grass, Soil, Hope
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
Perennial Vegetables Set
Retail: $35.00
Sale: $22.75
Edible Cities
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Food Not Lawns
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Top-Bar Beekeeping
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Natural Beekeeping, Revised and Expanded
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
Permaculture in Pots
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Letting in the Wild Edges
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sowing Seeds in the Desert
Retail: $15.95
Sale: $10.37
Outdoor Classrooms
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Earth User's Guide to Permaculture
Retail: $37.95
Sale: $24.67
People & Permaculture
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
The Basics of Permaculture Design
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
Desert or Paradise
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Woodland Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 2
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Permaculture
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Pioneers
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Permaculture Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Earth Care Manual
Retail: $75.00
Sale: $48.75
The Permaculture Garden
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Uses of Wild Plants
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
How to Make a Forest Garden
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Plants
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Permaculture Design
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Permaculture in a Nutshell
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $8.42
Getting Started in Permaculture
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Holistic Orchard with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books
already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or
more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only)

Finding Hope in an Era of Climate Chaos

Monday, May 19th, 2014

There is no shortage of stories about how climate change is affecting us now, rather than in some distant future. It can seem overwhelming to watch the news about extended droughts, extreme weather events, melting ice caps and not feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

So, can a book about soil and carbon give us … hope? Award-winning author Michael Pollan thinks so.

“Hope in a book about the environmental challenges we face in the twenty-first century is an audacious thing to promise, so I’m pleased to report that Courtney White delivers on it,” writes Pollan in the foreword to White’s new book, Grass, Soil, Hope.  “He has written a stirringly hopeful book, and yet it is not the least bit dreamy or abstract. To the contrary, Grass, Soil, Hope is deeply rooted in the soil of science and the practical work of farming.”

Pollan notes that White’s key achievement is “that it asks us to reconsider our pessimism about the human engagement with the rest of nature. The bedrock of that pessimism is our assumption that human transactions with nature are necessarily zero-sum: for us to wrest whatever we need or want from nature—food, energy, pleasure—means nature must be diminished. More for us means less for it. Examples of this trade-off are depressingly easy to find. Yet there are counterexamples that point to a way out of that dismal math, the most bracing of which sit at the heart of this book.” Read Pollan’s full foreword in the excerpt below.

In his new book, Quivera Coalition founder and author Courtney White sees hope in some of the groundwork being done by permaculturalists, ranchers, farmers, and citizens all around the world. Grass, Soil, Hope is White’s journey into what he calls “Carbon Country.” A country where we live, we breathe, and we eat. Why carbon?

“Carbon is key.  It’s the soil beneath our feet, the plants that grow, the land we walk, the wildlife we watch, the livestock we raise, the food we eat, the energy we use, and the air we breathe. Carbon is the essential element of life. Without it we die; with too much we suffer; with just the right amounts we thrive,” writes White in his prologue, which you can read below.

It is the hopefulness of White’s book that has garnered praise from key visionaries who have shown that it is possible to keep more carbon in the soil and produce healthier livestock and food, without the use of invasive agricultural practices that require extra water and pesticides.

Read praise for Grass, Soil, Hope from Allan Savory, president and founder of the Savory Institute and other environmental leaders.

The best part is that anyone can be part of the solution, because we all live in White’s Carbon Country. “Whether you live in a city, go to school, graze cattle, enjoy wildlife, grow vegetables, hike, fish, count grasses, draw, make music, restore creeks, or eat food—you live in Carbon Country. We all do. It’s not a mythical land; it exists.”

Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country is available now and on sale for 35% off until June 1.

Grass, Soil, Hope: Foreword and Prologue 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

Think Like a Creek: Using Water to Repair Rivers, Rebuild Floodplains

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Let the Water Do the Work is the book that introduced people to the important concept of “thinking like a creek,” or learning how to harness the regenerative power of floods to reshape banks and rebuild floodplains along gullied stream channels.

The Chelsea Green edition of this important book aims to bring its innovative contributions to the field of riparian restoration—including the concept of Induced Meandering—to a wider readership.

Induced Meandering is at once a science, an art, and a philosophy of river restoration; it is an artful blend of the disciplines of geomorphology, hydrology, and ecology that govern channel-forming processes. The river “self-heals” as the growth of native riparian vegetation accelerates the meandering process. Floodplains are essential to the proper functioning of many, but not all, types of rivers—serving as pressure relief valves, escape ramps for rivers swollen by rainfall or melting snows.

Let the Water Do the Work includes sample field charts, diagrams, project outlines, and step-by-step instructions on how to evaluate, implement, monitor and maintain a restoration project.

Let the Water Do the Work is on sale for 35% off. But hurry – it only lasts until May 1!

Anyone with an interest in natural resource management in these uncertain climatic times should read this book, put these ideas to work, and learn how to go with the flow.

Praise for Let the Water Do the Work

“This book is equally at home in the class as it is in the field, expertly bridging theory and practice throughout. It is a unique contribution that provides students of ecology and resource management with a powerful set of tools to manage what is quickly becoming our most valuable natural resource.”—Craig Conley, PhD, Natural Resource Management, New Mexico Highlands University

“Truly one-stop shopping to tackle a hands-on stream restorative project at almost any scale.”—Owen Hablutzel, Permaculture Whole Systems Design and Holistic Management Certified Educator

“Anyone interested in natural resource management will find this book helpful and thought-provoking.”—Ann Adams, Holistic Management International

 

How to Start a Traditional Compost Pile in Your Yard

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

As a society, we make a lot of waste, especially in this culture of on-the-go single-serve disposables. As we work toward the Zero Waste Solution with Extended Producer Responsibility and other government mandated universal recycling of solid waste in the works, there is plenty you can do to reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill.

Use less, recycle and reuse packaging materials, and compost your organic waste. And if you’re a gardener, there’s no reason to throw away this beneficial (and cheap!) source of nourishment for your soil. Compost is the key to a flourishing garden. Easily turn your kitchen scraps and yard waste into food your garden will love.

******

The following is an excerpt from Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting by R. J. Ruppenthal. It has been adapted for the Web.

If you have enough space to start a compost pile in your yard, make sure your local city and county ordinances permit it. Some of them have restrictions because open piles can attract rodents and create odors. Assuming that your area allows open-air composting, consider whether you can fit three piles in your yard: one for new compost, one for aging compost, and one for the finished stuff that goes back on your plants. If you just have room for one, that is fine, but in order for your pile to fully break down, you will need to stop adding new material at some point and let it decompose.

Some compost piles are hot, while others never get very warm, and this is a function of the biological activity in the pile while the organisms do their thing. Getting your pile to heat up naturally depends on a long list of factors, including pile size, materials, layering, moisture, external heat, and other variables. But even if it does not heat up much, sooner or later the stuff will break down and you’ll have some good dirt to use on your plants.

Cold compost is perfectly acceptable stuff; it just takes a bit longer to make. Some gardening purists hold that the nutritional content of hot-cooked compost is far superior, but if you are using it as more of a soil amendment than a fertilizer, then this should not matter much. If you want to follow the pure wisdom, then the minimum size for a hot pile is about 4′ x 4′, which will allow enough internal space to create the proper conditions for this biological activity to take place.93 In lieu of this, any untidy heap will break down at its own pace.

Compost Bin

What should you put in your compost pile? Will it stink? Do you have to turn it regularly? The answers are: anything organic, a bit, and not really.

Dead leaves, lawn clippings, food scraps (except meat or fat), newspaper, cardboard, and manure are all organic matter and will break down in your compost pile. Ideally, you want to add a diversity of ingredients.

The pile will break down faster if you add both “browns” (dry ingredients such as dead leaves, newspaper, and cardboard) and “greens” (wet stuff such as food scraps, lawn clippings, and fresh manure).

“Greens” contain plenty of nitrogen while “browns” have more carbon, and your pile needs both. Conventional wisdom holds that the proper ratio is 2 parts “browns” to 1 part “greens,” but you can vary this ratio somewhat. Just remember that a pile of 100 percent leaves takes a lot longer to break down, and 100 percent food scraps may turn into a very wet and slimy mess long before it breaks down. Also, the more diverse sources of waste you add, the better its nutritional output will be for your soil.

Your new pile will stink a bit at first, but if you have never composted before, then you will be pleasantly surprised. It’s not as smelly as you would think. In its early stages, you can cover the compost pile with burlap, a tarp, or a layer of “brown” ingredients such as leaves or cardboard, which will help seal in the moisture and limit any odors. As the compost ages, it begins to smell more earthy, a fragrance that some actually enjoy.

Your compost is finished when you can no longer recognize the individual materials that went into it.

Aerating the pile is optional, but it may speed up the process by delivering oxygen where it’s needed. Use a pitchfork to turn the pile and make sure that both air and moisture are reaching each part. You can do this weekly or less often. And, if you do not want to turn the pile, then it will aerate naturally with time as the layers break down and settle.

Dealing with Bear Encounters

Monday, April 7th, 2014

In this excerpt from Out on a Limb:What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition author Ben Kilham provides insight on best practices when it comes to keeping bears from feeding at your back door, and offers his tried-and-true tips on what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild — tips you’re not likely to find from other so-called experts.

*****

Up to 900,000 black bears live in North America, and in many regions, like my own, they live in close proximity to humans. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in many regions humans live in close proximity to bears—and that we are moving deeper and deeper into their habitat all the time. So, it’s not surprising that bears and people meet up unexpectedly, and frequently. But of the millions of interactions between bears and people every year, very few result in human deaths.

Bears, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Many are shot, either as a fear-based first resort or after other techniques have failed to deter what we’ve come to call “nuisance” bears. These are the bears that wander into backyards, campgrounds, landfills, or other places where food is often lying around. People can and sometimes do get injured by these nuisance bears, but even these incidents could be mitigated by understanding how to read and understand bear behavior. Not only would this knowledge help officials deal more effectively and humanely with nuisance bears, but it would also help individuals who find themselves in bear–human encounters.

In short, the solution to the nuisance bear problem is not so much about managing bears; it’s about managing people.

Stop inviting bears to dinner 

First, the best way to end what we consider the nuisance–bear behavior is to just stop inviting bears to dinner. If the food sources in problem residential areas are reduced to a minimum, these areas will no longer be worth the risk to the bear and the problems will cease. How to do this?

    • Remove bird feeders, and any other food placed outside to attract wildlife.
    • Don’t feed pets outside.
    • Keep any livestock feed indoors.
    • Don’t put kitchen scraps in your garbage can. Composting your kitchen scraps in a smell-proof way is as good for the environment as it is for avoiding bear encounters. Try a bear-proof composting container, or an indoor vermiculture bin (in which worms help digest the waste). Or, if you’re using an open compost pit outside, layer fresh waste underneath material that is already decomposed, or add a layer of lime, wood ash, or sawdust to mask the odor that can draw a bear’s interest.
    • If you cannot compost, then secure your garbage can in an indoor area, such as a garage, or freeze your garbage until it’s time for disposal.
    • Use bear-resistant food containers while camping, never keep food of any kind in your tent, and follow local guidelines for cooking or disposing of anything that smells of food, even the water you’ve used to wash your pots, pans, and dishes.
    • Clean outdoor grills, barbeque pits, and coolers after use to remove odors.
    • Remember, the secret to controlling bears is controlling smell.

It’s no surprise, then, that when people do start feeding bears, it ends badly. They get into a situation that they can’t stop by themselves. There are, though, nonlethal measures that can be used to resolve the issue.

With bears and people encountering each other more and more frequently, it is essential to understand how to properly handle an unintended meeting in the backyard or on a hiking trail. The vast majority of all bear aggression toward people is protective, not predacious, and it is entirely possible for people to manage these protective encounters without injury. A key to doing so is to understand how bears communicate.

The most important thing to understand is that when a bear wants to intimidate you, keep you at a safe distance, or otherwise modify your behavior, it will square off its lips—drawing them forward so that they appear square and the face looks long. Then it will perform any of the following behaviors in varying degrees of intensity: chomping its teeth or lips, snorting or woofing (blowing air through the nose or mouth), huffing (inhaling and exhaling air rapidly), swatting, or false charging. These are actions that bears take to help reduce the chance of attack whenever two unfamiliar individuals come together. However, this behavior does not reflect the bear’s true mood. Bears are able to turn this behavior on and off like a light switch. They are simply trying to delay confrontation long enough for communication to take place.

Moods, on the other hand, come and go very slowly. It is therefore necessary to analyze the bear’s mood when it is not displaying these behaviors, its intentions when it is, and then to apply both to the context of the situation. This may be a tough concept to apply in the field, but a necessary and important one to understand. Being faced with a bear that false charges or bluffs is actually a good thing as it means you have time to analyze the bear’s intentions and modify its displeasure or fear.

How do you know the bear is false-charging and not attacking?

The false-charge is done in combination with other bluff displays, like chomping, huffing, and snorting. Depending upon the situation, this usually reflects the bear’s desire to delay or avoid direct confrontation.

However, if you find yourself in such a situation and act in a reckless manner while the bear is within critical distance—as when a bear holds its ground and displays rather than flees—you can escalate this kind of situation into an attack. Reckless behavior would include breaking sticks, yelling or screaming, making yourself big by raising or waiving one’s arms, or basically doing anything in which you could not anticipate a correct response. A safe response would be to de-escalate the situation by standing erect and speaking softly to the bear, thus signaling to the bear that you are dominant but not a threat.

When you have an encounter with a bear, it is always important to try to put yourself in the bear’s shoes. Does the bear have any reason to harm you? Have you provoked the bear intentionally or unintentionally? Is the bear already nervous about other bears in the area? Remember that bears, like all other animals, including humans, have four major drives: hunger, love, fight, and flight. These drives are usually in conflict with each other.

How Close Are You?

It is also important to assess just how close you are to the bear. While it’s always important not to take any action that leaves you unable to predict the reaction of the bear, it is particularly important if you and the bear are in close proximity (normally less than twenty-five feet) and the bear appears reluctant to leave. This twenty-five foot distance is known as the “critical distance” outside of which bears and many other animals are likely to flee. Within this distance, they are hesitant and uncertain as to whether they should act in self-defense or flee.

A conflicted bear in this situation will act as described above. My advice is to stand erect with eyes toward the bear. Do not attempt to stare the bear down but rather maintain a normal facial expression and speak softly. Standing erect and keeping eyes toward the bear will keep him or her honest. Bears, like dogs and humans, may choose to enforce dominance when the opportunity arises. If you show weakness (by lowering your eyes, turning your back to them, lying down on the ground, or showing fear), it increases the chance that they will take advantage and advance on you.

My advice to keep your eyes on the bear conflicts with almost every other message given about what to do when you are in close proximity to a bear. I look at the bear to remain dominant while I decrease the threat level with my voice. Others will argue that you should avert your stare because a direct stare is aggressive and may provoke an attack. My experience tells me that this is not the case with bears. Animals that live in group-social environments often have hard, top-down hierarchies. A stare at an alpha chimpanzee or wolf may be perceived as a challenge to its position of authority. Bears are different; they interact and cooperate with strangers on a regular basis and are used to negotiating with unfamiliar individuals.

Baby Bears

The bear that gets too close is usually a sow with cubs. Her concern is the threat you present. She is perfectly capable of assessing that threat. Give her a chance, and she will walk away from you, sometimes even leaving her cubs up a tree nearby. I have been inside that critical distance with more than thirty wild sows with cubs, been false-charged and circled (bears circle to check scent, to see who you are), and have then gone on to peacefully spend up to two and a half hours with them. Every female will exhibit a different level of aggressiveness. Most of the wild sows and cubs I have encountered ran, hid nearby, and waited for me to leave. There are many myths about sows with cubs—the prevailing one being that if you get between a sow and its cub you are toast. The reality is that sows with cubs have been responsible for only 3 percent of the fatal attacks on humans in the last 109 years. Their cubs are usually safely up a tree when close encounters occur. Having preconceived ideas in your head at these times will only make it more difficult to control the situation.

So, imagine that you meet a sow with cubs on a trail. You are torn between running and standing your ground. She is torn between running and defending her cubs. She would like to run, but her cubs are up a tree. She chooses to display aggressively in an effort to prevent you from attacking. You would like to run, but you know that she can run faster. You try to relax, knowing that fearful behavior could be seen as a threat. You speak softly to her as a gesture of appeasement. She acknowledges your gesture by reducing the intensity of her displays. Be patient. Eventually, she will stop displaying altogether and her true mood will be revealed with a relaxed facial expression. Slowly, she will walk off. For obvious reasons, the drive to escape is generally stronger than the drive to fight. She knows a fight could leave her wounded or dead. Yelling and screaming to drive away a female bear away, on the other hand, may inadvertently frighten her cubs and escalate the situation.

If you meet a male bear, the situation may go somewhat differently, but the same advice about handling the encounter applies. Male bears are much more likely to run off than be caught inside the critical distance. If you see a bear coming in your direction, it is a good idea to let it know that you are there. Bears read scent in the wind, but sometimes the wind is coming from the wrong direction and a bear may be completely unaware of your presence. Let the bear know that you are there by moving, talking to it, or making other noise; it will run off.

But there are situations where attacks are more likely. A bear that is surprised while eating–or while its senses are otherwise compromised—may strike out without warning. For instance, a bear feeding on a carcass is highly concerned that other bears may be attracted to the carcass by smell and is preconditioned to attack. A person who suddenly appears in this situation may trigger that preconditioned attack.

Bears are highly tolerant of humans

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bear encounters every year where humans do everything wrong without any negative response from the bear. It’s important to remember, though, that in the vast majority of cases, black bears are dangerous only if you make them so. The situation is in your control; they tend to signal their intentions, and you can modify your own behavior to influence theirs.

Hemp, Hemp, Hooray! Get Ready for America’s Next Agricultural Revolution

Monday, March 24th, 2014

You can eat it, drink it, read it, tie it, wear it, drive it, live in it, and make money growing it, all while saving the soil and protecting the climate.

What is it?

Hemp. That’s right, hemp.

How can a single plant possibly live up to all this hype? Glad you asked. Here’s just a sampling of what this incredible plant can do: 

 

    • Hemp fibers can be stronger than steel and are found in today’s BMW, Mercedes and Dodge door panels;
    • Hemp plant by-products can be used as a biofuel and, with more research, could create sustainable energy independence in the US. According to a recent study, an acre of hemp can produce power equivalent to a thousand gallons of gasoline;
    • With foot long, soil-restoring taproots that require half the water of a corn crop, hemp can be used as a successful rotational crop;
    • Hemp-fed laying hens can pass on the plant’s impressive essential fatty acid profile (omega-3 and omega-6) into the eggs we eat; and,
    • Hemp can be used as a construction material to build new homes that create a carbon-negative foot print.

Given this impressive list, is it any wonder that after 77 long years of prohibition, hemp supporters across the country are shouting, “Hemp, hemp, hooray!”

Check out this video to see some hemp applications in action. Click here to test your hemp knowledge with our Pop Quiz and to dig even deeper into the History of Hemp.

2014 Farm Bill

In February, President Obama, together with the US Congress, passed the 2014 Farm Bill which included an amendment allowing hemp to be cultivated for university research.

This is a huge first step in hemp’s domestic comeback, officially distancing itself from its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, and growing across party lines — from conservative Senators Mitch McConnell  (R-KY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to liberal Congressman like Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Even the American Farm Bureau has jumped on the bandwagon and opposed the classification of industrial hemp as a controlled substance. This is an important action according to Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer because, “It shows the growing movement by agriculture leaders to embrace industrial hemp as a crop of the future.”

Author Doug Fine, for one, is ready for that future. In his latest book, Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, Doug explains why one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is poised to rejuvenate the U.S. economy and help save the planet.

Praise for Hemp Bound

So, what are people saying about it?

Willie Nelson (yes, the Willie Nelson) calls it “a blueprint for the future of America.” Put that in your pipe and … oh, never mind.

Mark Frauenfelder, founder of Boing Boing calls Doug’s book, “engrossing and eye-opening.” While William Martin, senior fellow, drug policy, at Rice University’s Baker Institute agrees: “This is an important story, engagingly told.”

Fine’s enthusiasm for the subject leaps off the page when he advocates for hemp. “It’s effective because it’s all true,” he said. “I’ve found that anytime someone gives me five minutes, and I get to discuss the facts, hemp’s role in the founding of our country and where we’re going next as a nation, that person is a convert. I think I’m batting a thousand on that.”

Whether you are a farmer, entrepreneur, investor, or just a curious reader, this book could turn you into the next voracious hemp consumer and leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop in the first place.

Hemp Bound: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution is available now and on sale for 35% off until March 30th. Also, check out Doug Fine’s emerging Post-Prohibition Hemp Planting Tour with stops in Colorado, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, DC, and more.


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