Nature & Environment Archive


In Memory of Lynn Margulis

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Lynn Margulis died in late November 2011. She was a longtime friend of Chelsea Green Publishing, and collaborated with us on the Sciencewriters Books imprint to develop outstanding science books for the general public.

A recent article in Orion (“State of the Species”) by Charles C. Mann, captured some of Lynn’s unbending scientific mind matched by an equally caring and playful spirit. Mann lives in Amherst and would often encounter Lynn while walking through town.

What follows is a brief excerpt from the article, but if interested you can also listen to Mann talk about Lynn in this Orion podcast interview about the article.

Bacteria and protists can do things undreamed of by clumsy mammals like us: form giant supercolonies, reproduce either asexually or by swapping genes with others, routinely incorporate DNA from entirely unrelated species, merge into symbiotic beings—the list is as endless as it is amazing. Microorganisms have changed the face of the earth, crumbling stone and even giving rise to the oxygen we breathe. Compared to this power and diversity, Margulis liked to tell me, pandas and polar bears were biological epiphenomena—interesting and fun, perhaps, but not actually significant.

Does that apply to human beings, too? I once asked her, feeling like someone whining to Copernicus about why he couldn’t move the earth a little closer to the center of the universe. Aren’t we special at all?

This was just chitchat on the street, so I didn’t write anything down. But as I recall it, she answered that Homo sapiens actually might be interesting—for a mammal, anyway. For one thing, she said, we’re unusually successful.

Seeing my face brighten, she added: Of course, the fate of every successful species is to wipe itself out.

Pure Lynn.

When Lynn died, she left behind a groundbreaking scientific legacy that spanned decades and inspired thousands of scientists, environmentalists, writers, and thinkers around the world. This unique anthology, collated by her son Dorion Sagan, includes essays that cover her early collaboration with James Lovelock, her critique of neo-darwinism, her support of David Griffin’s critique of the official account of 9/11, her love of Emily Dickinson, her inspiration of young scientists, especially women, and much more.

The book includes contributions from Dorion Sagan, Jorge Wagensberg, Moselio Schaechter, Andre Khalil, James Lovelock, Bruce Clarke, Niles Eldredge, Michael F. Dolan, Jan Sapp, Michael J. Chapman, Martin Brasier, Denis Noble, Josh Mitteldorf, Stefan Helmreich, William Irwin Thompson, David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb Jr., David Abram, Peter Westbroek, Rich Doyle, Joanna Bybee, Terry Y. Allen, Penny Boston, Emily Case, David Lenson, Betsey Dexter Dyer, and Lynn herself.

Below are some early reviews, and praise, for this tribute to Lynn’s lasting legacy.

“Margulis’s complex personality beguiles, frustrates, charms, and elevates various writers, resulting in a stunning portrait that no single remembrance could have captured.” — ForeWord Reviews

“Her insistence that most evolution involves symbiogenesis led to a lifetime of debate. It also leads to some inspired writing in this book of essays. This is a captivating read for anyone interested in what powers great scientists.” — Publishers Weekly

“I can’t imagine what the world of biological science in the twentieth century would have been had Lynn Margulis not come along. In this volume, we can read about some of the vast range of intellect she influenced.” — Wes Jackson, president, The Land Institute

“Lynn and I often argued, as good collaborators should, and we wrangled over the intricate finer points of self-regulation, but always remained good friends, perhaps because we were confident that we were right.” — Dr. James Lovelock, contributor, and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia

“It was life—profligate, teeming life in all its weirdness—that held the magic for her, not this featherless biped with its confused aspirations. Lynn intuited and doggedly gathered evidence to show that most anything we two-leggeds take special pride in—our capacities for cogitation, conviviality, and culture—had been invented, eons before, by the microbial entities that compose us.” — David Abram, contributor, and author of Spell of the Sensuous

“It’s the ideas that really matter—and Lynn certainly had hers. They were novel and profound, and she simply wanted all the rest of the world to adjust their thinking to accommodate and embrace what she saw were the simple, beautiful truths that she had uncovered.” — Dr. Niles Eldredge, contributor, and author of Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life

“I hope that in due time she will be recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers of our time.” — Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

To see “indomitable Lynn” for yourself, watch this video of her debate with Richard Dawkins at Oxoford.

And for sense of the reverence and love the book contains, read Dr. James Lovelock’s essay, On Lynn.

Now Available: Nuclear Roulette

Monday, November 19th, 2012

“Since the first toss of the atomic dice at a desert test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, incalculable harm has been done to our planet—its air, its water, its land, and its peoples. Tragically, much of this damage will remain as an invisible legacy that will shadow the lives of our children for generations. But if we continue to marshal our outrage, energy, and intelligence in the cause of principled and progressive change, there is still time to start turning our poisoned planet away from the deadly atom and toward a future where the sun shines far brighter than the lethal core of a reactor. We must demand a new paradigm for planetary survival, and a large part of that transformation will require a new conservation ethic and renewable renaissance.” — From the Introduction to Nuclear Roulette

Nuclear energy has entranced the industrialized world since it first emerged as a (supposedly) safe and benign use of the horrific power unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Praised as pollution-free, and “too cheap to meter,” atomic power seemed almost too good to be true. And it was.

Gar Smith’s new book, Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, is now available in our bookstore, and it explains with crystalline clarity the reasons why this magical energy source is too dangerous to use. From the insolvable problems of storing radioactive waste products, to weapons proliferation, to the surprising fact that if you look at the total life cycle of a plant nuclear power isn’t even efficient, the book lays out a strong case against this power source.

Also featured in the book are the five worst reactors in the country. Including the infamous Entergy plant Vermont Yankee.

Below is the Foreword by the late Ernest Callenbach and Jerry Mander, as well as Gar Smith’s introduction to the book.

Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

Playing Nuclear Roulette in Vermont

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Vermont’s lone nuclear reactor — Entergy-owned Vermont Yankee — has been named one of the five worst reactors in the United States, according to the new book Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, published by Chelsea Green Publishing.

For much of the past Vermont Yankee has been the focus of ongoing state and federal regulatory investigations, legislative battles, and ongoing courtroom drama. It started running in 1972, and was recently given a 20-year operating extension by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

This coming weekend, and into next week, activists will renew their attention to the aging reactor in hopes they can finish the work of the Vermont Senate a few years ago — close down Vermont Yankee permanently.

In this new work — which we’re offering on sale this week — investigative journalist Gar Smith lists five nuclear facilities as the “worst reactors” in the United States. They were chosen because they are representative of the poor regulatory oversight that has endangered the public, and poisoned the environment. Many other nuclear power sites around the country have equally disturbing records of poor performance, emergency shutdowns, and close calls, which Smith details in ample supply in Nuclear Roulette.

“The consequences of poor regulatory oversight can be seen in the operating histories of the country’s nuclear reactors,” writes Smith in  Nuclear Roulette.

The other four reactors are: Entergy-owned Indian Point in New York; Davis-Besse in Ohio, and Diablo Canyon and San Onofre in California.

Here is the section devoted to Vermont Yankee, which also exemplifies what happens when the industry and its lapdog regulators team up against the wishes of a state’s citizens and elected officials:

Vermont Yankee: The Green Mountain State vs. the NRC

On March 10, 2011, the NRC unanimously approved a 20-year license extension for the troubled Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Within hours of the decision, three similar General Electric Mark 1 reactors were knocked off-line by an earthquake in Japan—and all three overheated and exploded. Despite the devastation in Fukushima Prefecture, the NRC stood by its decision to allow the 40-year-old Vermont Yankee plant to continue operating through 2031. Given Vermont Yankee’s history of breakdowns and cover-ups—and the fact that a reactor accident here could put more than a million Americans at risk—the watchdog group Beyond Nuclear excoriated the NRC’s decision as both “audacious” and “reckless.”

Vermonters received another jolt when it was revealed that the NRC had voted to extend Vermont Yankee’s license even though its inspectors had discovered that critical electric cables powering the plant’s safety systems had been “submerged under water for extended periods of time.”

It was not the only maintenance failure of Entergy Corp., which had acquired the plant in 2002. The company has a reputation for “buying reactors cheap and running them into the ground.” In 2004, a poorly maintained electrical system set off a large fire in the plant’s turbine building that forced an emergency shutdown. In 2007, Vermont Yankee experienced a series of maintenance problems that included the dramatic collapse of a cooling tower. A waterfall of high-pressure water burst from a ruptured cooling pipe and tore a gaping hole in the plant’s wall. Entergy was able to hide the damage—but only until a concerned employee leaked a photo of the wreckage to the press. The huge gap in the side of the building was reminiscent of the hole in the side of the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks.

Tritium + Entergy = Perjury

During state hearings in 2009, Entergy executives were asked if radioactive tritium detected in the soil and groundwater near the reactor could have leaked from the plant. Company officials repeatedly swore under oath that this was impossible since there were no underground pipes at the plant. It was not until January 2010, after a leak of radioactive tritium was traced to a series of subsurface pipes, that Entergy changed its story. While the plant didn’t have “underground pipes,” Entergy now explained, it did have “buried pipes.”

Attorney general William Sorrell began a 17-month investigation during which Entergy’s former executive vice president Curtis Hebert admitted that the company’s statements about the pipes “could have been more accurate.” The state ordered Entergy to remove more than 300,000 gallons of radioactive water fron the soil and ground water at the reactor site, and Vermont governor Peter Shumlin demanded the plant’s closure.

There’s another waste problem at the plant: a large and potentially lethal stockpile of used fuel rods. While Fukushima’s six reactors had between 360 and 500 tons of slowly dying fuel rods on-site, the nuclear graveyard at Vermont Yankee is filled with 690 tons of dangerously radioactive waste. And the storage pools for this spent fuel lack both backup cooling systems and backup generators.

Beyond Nuclear’s “Freeze Our Fukushimas” campaign, which aims to close all 23 Mark 1 reactors in the United States, hoped to score its first victory when Vermont Yankee’s 40-year operating license expired on March 21, 2012. The odds were improved by the fact that Vermont is the only state that gives lawmakers the authority to veto a nuclear power plant. In February 2010, a month after Entergy’s tritium scandal was exposed, the Vermont Senate voted 26–4 against issuing a new “certificate of public good” that would allow Vermont Yankee to continue operating.

Entergy Sues Vermont

In April 2011, Entergy’s lawyers responded by suing the governor and the state, claiming, “We have a right to continue operation.” On January 19, 2012, federal judge Garvan Murtha ruled that only the NRC could close a nuclear plant, and therefore Entergy was entitled to its new 20-year operating license. Murtha also made it clear that the Green Mountain State was not entitled to raise any questions regarding plant safety or the prices charged for nuclear power—under federal law, only the NRC could raise such matters.

The decision alarmed Beyond Nuclear and other critics who feared the nuclear industry and the federal government were working in concert “to pre-empt a state’s right to self determination for an energy future in the public good.” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) quickly weighed in. “If Vermont wants to move to energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” Sanders told the Burlington Free Press, “no corporation should have the right to force our state to stay tethered to an aging, problem-ridden nuclear plant.”

Eight days after the judge’s decision, Entergy refused the state’s second request to investigate the source of a tritium leak that had poisoned a drinking well on the plant’s property. On July 25, 2011, Entergy further demonstrated its disregard for due process by announcing a $60 million refueling project—an investment that would pay off only if the power plant won its extension.

Entergy’s lawyers publicly confirmed their understanding that the company still needs the permission of Vermont’s Public Service Board (a quasi-official board that oversees Vermont’s utilities) if it is to continue operating its reactors. In a responding press release, however, the state’s Department of Public Service (which represents the interests of utility customers in cases brought before the Public Service Board) cautioned, “Past experience shows Entergy cannot be taken at its word.”

In a daunting struggle that pits 600,000 Vermonters against the US government, the nuclear industry, and the NRC, the state attorney general vowed to appeal Judge Murtha’s decision—all the way to the US Supreme Court, if necessary.

“People don’t trust the NRC,” Bob Audette, a reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer told a film crew from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR). “They think it’s the lapdog of the industry. They think it’s there basically to affirm everything the industry does. It’s too cozy with the industry.”

In another interview with the CIR, Anthony Roisman, a legal consultant for New York and Vermont, expressed his concerns with the NRC: “This regulatory agency does not regulate effectively. And until it does, there is no way that the public can have any confidence that plants, whether they are licensed or re-licensed, won’t have some catastrophic event. No one will benefit from a post-catastrophic-event hand-wringing that says, ‘Oh we should have done this and we’ll do better next time.’ The consequences are unimaginable.”

Coming Soon: Nuclear Roulette

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Energy is one of the biggest problems facing the industrialized human race. In recent years the world has seen a growth in the use of renewable power sources such as wind and solar, but it’s not enough to outpace the rising demand for electricity.

This conundrum has encouraged many to look to nuclear energy. Its proponents say it’s safe, clean, and creates no greenhouse gases — but Nuclear Roulette, a new book by the editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, Gar Smith, says these claims are nonsense. The subtitle says it all, “The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth.”

Nuclear Roulette is available for 25% off this week.

Booklist calls Nuclear Roulette a “thorough, insightful dissection of nuclear power’s weaknesses,” and Kirkus Reviews praises Smith for “lay[ing] out an impressively researched narrative, drawing on facts from a wide range of sources, and mak[ing] a strong case that will be hard for even nuclear-power advocates to dismiss out of hand.”

Nuclear Roulette is a great introduction to the failures of atomic energy, but don’t take our word for it! Listen to author Gar Smith make the argument himself, in a conversation with David Swanson here, and one with natural health advocate Gary Null here.

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Lynn Margulis

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of A Scientific Rebel is now available in our bookstore.

Publishers Weekly recently praised the collection, saying, “There are two kinds of great scientists, writes former American Society of Microbiology president Moselio Schaechter in this eclectic, sometimes electrifying, book about biologist Lynn Margulis. There are those making ‘impressive experiments’ and those making ‘groundbreaking theoretical syntheses.’ Margulis was the latter….This is a captivating read for anyone interested in what powers great scientists.”

Collated by Margulis’s son Dorion Sagan, the book includes contributions from many of Lynn’s colleagues and friends — all of them revolutionary thinkers of one kind or another. This unique anthology includes essays that cover her early collaboration with James Lovelock, her critique of neo-darwinism, her support of David Griffin’s critique of the official account of 9/11, her love of Emily Dickinson, her inspiration of young scientists, especially women, and much more.

Other recent reviews have also praised this collection of essays as a fitting tribute to a rebel who influenced, and inspired, many.

“Taken as a whole, Sagan’s collection is a fitting tribute to a woman whose life and legacy have touched so many others,” noted Foreword Reviews. “As [Sagan] notes, her indomitable spirit lives on through her children, grandchildren, colleagues, and students—and most of all, through the work that she championed so well.”

Don Mikulecky wrote this thoughtful and in-depth review of the book for DailyKos, saying, “If you know about Margulis’ work you still need to read this book because it is a multifaceted view of this magnificent person and her ideas and puts her wok into a context that enriches our understanding.”

Margulis was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1983, received the prestigious National Medal of Science in 1999, and her papers are permanently archived at the Library of Congress. Less than a month before her untimely death, Margulis was named one of the twenty most influential scientists alive— one of only two women on this list, which include such scientists as Stephen Hawking, James Watson, and Jane Goodall.

Pre-Release Special: Lynn Margulis!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

“It was life—profligate, teeming life in all its weirdness—that held the magic for her, not this featherless biped with its confused aspirations. Lynn intuited and doggedly gathered evidence to show that most anything we two-leggeds take special pride in—our capacities for cogitation, conviviality, and culture—had been invented, eons before, by the microbial entities that compose us.”

David Abram, contributor, and author of Spell of the Sensuous

When scientist Lynn Margulis died last year, the world lost a true intellectual revolutionary — but her vibrant legacy lives on.

Margulis’s son and longtime collaborator Dorion Sagan collected essays from his mother’s colleagues and friends, and compiled them into a beautiful tribute. To celebrate the book’s arrival, we’re putting Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel on sale this week for 25% off.

Sagan remembered his mother in an “evolutionary eulogy”, adapted from what he told his children after Margulis’s passing.

Your grandmother was so smart, talked so fast, and about so many subjects that hardly anybody—maybe even not she herself—could always understand everything she said.

She said: “Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth. ”

She said: “The idea that we are ‘stewards of the earth’ is another symptom of human arrogance. Imagine yourself with the task of overseeing your body’s physical processes. Do you understand the way it works well enough to keep all its systems in operation? Can you make your kidneys function? . . . Are you conscious of the blood flow through your arteries? . . . We are unconscious of most of our body’s processes, thank goodness, because we’d screw it up if we weren’t. The human body is so complex, with so many parts. . . The idea that we are consciously caretaking such a large and mysterious system is ludicrous.”

Read the entire essay at Seven Pillars House of Wisdom.

Lynn Margulis touched the lives of many scientists and other thinkers, many of whom contributed essays to the book. James Lovelock, who first articulated the hypothesis that the Earth’s many interconnected biotic systems essentially behave as a unified organism (what came to be known as the Gaia Theory), write in the excerpt below about first meeting Margulis.

Lynn Margulis: Essay by James Lovelock

“Frankenstorm” Sandy is Coming, Are You Prepared?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Only a little more than a year has passed since Tropical Storm Irene slammed into the Eastern Seaboard. Authorities in New York City mobilized to prepare, and people laughed when she passed over the Big Apple without event.

But people in the Hudson Valley and Vermont were not laughing, and given the storm’s original trajectory were largely unprepared for what Irene would unleash. The storm dropped huge amounts of rain, and catastrophic flooding hit the narrow river valleys of New England, collapsing roads, washing away houses and stranding entire communities for days on end.

We were lucky. Our office, and the homes of our staff were spared the worst of the damage. Vermont has rallied to repair the washed out roads, and even the wrecked covered bridges are being rebuilt.

But here comes Hurricane Sandy at more than 500 miles wide and no signs of slowing down as she barrels to make landfall Monday night.

Conditions in the Atlantic where the storm is projected to pass are “unprecedented,” with warm water temperatures and a cold front sweeping in from the west. This storm has even typically sober national weather services sounding the alarm. Sandy has been labeled a “Frankenstorm,” and, once again, the East Coast is bracing for the worst.

Which brings us to the real subject of this post: Are you prepared?

Mat Stein’s latest book, When Disaster Strikes, outlines what to gather and what to expect from a few different types of natural disaster — including hurricanes. The excerpt below, in combination with his guidelines for putting together a 72-hour grab-and-go survival kit, will help you weather the storm.

Hurricanes and Floods – An Excerpt from When Disaster Strikes

Remembering Lynn Margulis: An Evolutionary Eulogy

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

When renowned scientist Lynn Margulis died last November, she left behind a vibrant legacy. Her inspiring, innovative work on evolution touched scientists, environmentalists, and nature writers alike. This winter, Chelsea Green is publishing a book to celebrate her memory, filled with essays by her colleagues, collaborators, and other thinkers who were influenced by her work. Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel, will be available in mid-October. Foreword Reviews recently wrote,

“In this thoughtful and expertly curated collection, Margulis’s son and long-time collaborator, Dorion Sagan, calls her ‘indomitable Lynn.’ A fearless and zealous advocate of her theories who could also display a loving heart, he writes, ‘[H]er threat was not to people but to the evil done to the spirit by the entrenchment of unsupported views.’

In other essays, Margulis’s complex personality beguiles, frustrates, charms, and elevates various writers, resulting in a stunning portrait that no single remembrance could have captured. Luminaries throughout the scientific world share their memories of her bulldog attitude and scientific contributions, showing that although she’s gone, her work definitely still resonates and informs evolutionary biology and other fields.”

The article below was written by her son, Dorion Sagan. For more information, click here.

Grandma Lynnie is dead. But what is life? Where do we go when we die?

It’s a funny thing: Death is the opposite of life. But so is birth. Your birth continues the life of your parents—here Zach, Jenny, Robin, and Jeremy—just as your parents’ lives continued the life of their parents.

What does this mean? It means that life and death are not so simple.  Although a body may disappear, its form—with some changes—continues. We are one of the changed forms of our parents.

Your grandmother studied an organism—it may look like a plant, but it’s a bryozoan, an animal—named Pectinatella magnifica—in this very pond. It is a funny-looking, puffy creature that looks kind of like a brain on a stick. And she made a discovery: it lives with other organisms, purple bacteria I think, that help it grow. She was still working on this when she died.

When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it changes, and when a butterfly lays its eggs, it changes again: We say the butterfly dies when the body that lays the eggs dies, but, if you think about it, the cycle goes on. We could say that the caterpillar dies and the butterfly is born.

Focusing on this idea, we could say that her body died, but part of her—you and me—has already been born again: not in a religious sense but as your bodies and minds, which don’t know as much as her yet, but do contain some of the same thoughts and feelings.

So we should not be so sad. You are not just a grown up who is twenty or thirty or forty years old, or a kid who is 8 or 9 or 10 or 11 or 12 years old. You are part of a collection of microbes, including symbiotic bacteria that joined forces—fast ones and slow ones, oxygen breathers and those that could live in the mud, green ones and transparent ones—billions of years ago. Life on Earth is 3.8 billion years old and it has not stopped reproducing since it started. You may disappear but you may also become part of a new form—not a ghost, but a grandchild.

She and I wrote about this in What is Life?. We tried to show that life is not just a thing, a body, but a process—and that looking at it this way was not make-believe, but scientific.

“‘What is life?‘ is a linguistic trap. To answer according to the rules of grammar, we must supply a noun, a thing. But life on Earth is more like a verb. It is a material process, surfing over matter like a strange slow wave. It is a controlled artistic chaos, a set of chemical reactions so staggeringly complex that more than 4 billion years ago it began a sojourn that now, in human form, composes love letters and uses silicon computers to calculate the temperature of matter at the birth of the universe.”

Your grandmother was so smart, talked so fast, and about so many subjects that hardly anybody—maybe even not she herself—could always understand everything she said.

She said: “Evolution is no linear family tree, but change in the single multidimensional being that has grown to cover the entire surface of Earth. ”

She said: “The idea that we are ‘stewards of the earth’ is another symptom of human arrogance. Imagine yourself with the task of overseeing your body’s physical processes. Do you understand the way it works well enough to keep all its systems in operation? Can you make your kidneys function? . . . Are you conscious of the blood flow through your arteries? . . . We are unconscious of most of our body’s processes, thank goodness, because we’d screw it up if we weren’t. The human body is so complex, with so many parts. . . The idea that we are consciously caretaking such a large and mysterious system is ludicrous.”

She said: ‘The notion of saving the planet has nothing to do with intellectual honesty or science. The fact is that the planet was here long before us and will be here long after us. The planet is running fine. What people are talking about is saving themselves and saving their middle-class lifestyles and saving their cash flow.”

She said: “We are walking communities. . . Of all the organisms on earth, only bacteria are individuals.”

By that she meant that we are not who we think, just animals, but also bacteria, and other microbes. These bacteria help us make vitamins, they live in and on our bodies, and, though they sometimes make us sick, they also come together to make new forms of life. The amoebas and Paramecia and Pectinatella that Grandma discovered in this pond, which she swam across every day this summer, are examples of such creatures that bring together bacteria and other kinds of life in their bodies. They are connected. So are you. We are connected not only to the beings inside us, but also to the beings outside us, of which we are a part. So remember this—and when you think of grandma gone and are sad, remember also that her body is going back to the water and the ground, and that her memory is now part of you, and you are part of her, and that in a sense she is not leaving us but coming back to us in another form.

Related Links:

Image Notes: 1. Lynn Margulis on November 13, 2011, just nine days before her passing on November 22, 2011, at Uxmal Pyramids, Yucatan, Mexico. (Photo credit: Amarella Eastmond.)

Dorion Sagan is a science writer, essayist, and theorist. He is author of numerous articles and twenty-three books translated into eleven languages, including Death and Sex, and Into the Cool, coauthored with Eric D. Schneider. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Times Book Review, Wired, and the Skeptical Inquirer. Look for Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel, an anthology of essays about the late Lynn Margulis, from scientists and philosophers around the world, due out this fall.

Article originally published by Seven Pillars Press.

Be Prepared!

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

September is Preparedness Month!

We never want bad things to happen, but they’re inevitable. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods or man-made disasters like fires, or power outages and fuel-price spikes can easily disrupt our way of life.

We want you to be ready no matter what, so in honor of Preparedness Month we’ve put select books on sale this week to help you be prepared for unexpected, short-term emergencies as well as long-term emergencies.

From survival guides to forecasts of the future and how-to guise to help communities be more self-reliant and resilient, this set of books should help you take stock and make plans to keep yourself and your family safe from harm and discomfort.

To get a sample of what author Mat Stein — whom Chris Martenson recently called a guru of self-resiliency — check out his recent interview that is posted on Martenson’s website, Peak Prosperity.

“Whether you’re concerned about the fallout from a breakdown of today’s weakened global economy, or simply want to be better able to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster if you live in an earthquake/hurricane/flood/wildfire/tornado-prone part of the world, the personal resiliency measures Mat recommends make sense for almost everyone to consider,” writes Martenson.

Couldn’t have said it better. Enjoy this thoughtful and thorough interview (audio and a printed transcript are available) and then check out Mat’s books below.

Books are on sale for 25% off until September 19.

Reg. Price:$35.00
Sale Price:$26.25

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency

There’s never been a better time to “be prepared.” Matthew Stein’s comprehensive primer on sustainable living skills—from food and water to shelter and energy to first-aid and crisis-management skills—prepares you to embark on the path toward sustainability. But unlike any other book, Stein not only shows you how to live “green” in seemingly stable times, but to live in the face of potential disasters, lasting days or years, coming in the form of social upheaval, economic meltdown, or environmental catastrophe.

 

Reg. Price:$24.95
Sale Price:$18.71

When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival

In this disaster-preparedness manual, Matthew Stein outlines the materials you’ll need—from food and water, to shelter and energy, to first-aid and survival skills—to help you safely live through the worst. When Disaster Strikes covers how to find and store food, water, and clothing, as well as the basics of installing back-up power and lights. You’ll learn how to gather and sterilize water, build a fire, treat injuries in an emergency, and use alternative medical sources when conventional ones are unavailable.

 

Reg. Price:$24.95
Sale Price:$18.71

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years

What does our future look like? In the book 2052, Jorgen Randers, one of the co-authors of Limits to Growth, issues a progress report and makes a forecast for the next forty years. To do this, he asked dozens of experts to weigh in with their best predictions on how our economies, energy supplies, natural resources, climate, food, fisheries, militaries, political divisions, cities, psyches, and more will take shape in the coming decades.

 

 

Reg. Price:$12.00
Sale Price:$9.00

Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change

Permaculture co-originator and leading sustainability innovator David Holmgren outlines four scenarios that bring to life the likely cultural, political, agricultural, and economic implications of peak oil and climate change, and the generations-long era of “energy descent” that faces us.

 

 

 

Reg. Price:$17.95
Sale Price:$13.46

Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity

The first in our Community Resilience Guides series – in partnership with the Post Carbon Institute – this book explains how local investment can make for a strong economy.

 

 

 

 

New Arrival: Dreaming the Future!

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The world is entering a period of great change. The natural environment is collapsing. Social disruption abounds. Societies across the globe are breaking down.

Out of this chaos, however, comes the opportunity to avoid complete collapse and instead foster a breakthrough: to reimagine our future, our connection to each other, and to nature.

A world where people live in harmony with nature. Sounds like a nice dream, doesn’t it? But is it possible?

Our latest book says yes. In Dreaming the Future Kenny Ausubel, award-winning social entrepreneur, author, journalist, and filmmaker, and cofounder (with his wife Nina Simons) of the Bioneers Conference, shares with readers his hope that by learning from the natural world we can change human society to something more sustainable, more just, and less destructive. Toward that end, Ausubel examines some of the biggest ideas, overarching trends, and important developments of our time.

Dreaming the Future is available now. For a preview of Ausubel’s witty and poignant prose, take a look at this excerpt, “Honey, We Shrunk the Planet.”

Honey, We Shrunk the Planet – An Excerpt from Dreaming the Future by Kenny Ausubel


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