Politics & Social Justice Archive


5 Shareable Strategies for Creating Climate Action

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Frustrated about climate change? You’re not alone. Most people in our society find themselves somewhere on the spectrum of depressed about our climate situation to flat-out denying that it exists. In fact, the more information about global warming that piles up, the less we seem to do to combat it.

What is the reason for this paradoxical truth?

The answer can be found in how our brains respond to information about climate change, says economist and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.

In What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, Stoknes identifies five psychological barriers that keep us from taking widespread, large-scale climate action:

  • Distant: We distance ourselves from the climate issue
  • Doom: We avoid messages of doom and sacrifice
  • Dissonance: We experience cognitive dissonance
  • Denial: We rid ourselves of negative feelings of guilt and fear through denial
  • Identity: We resist criticisms of identity, jobs, lifestyles, etc.

The good news is that there are solutions for pushing past these psychological barriers.

As Stoknes notes, we “can view our task as one of overcoming the Five D’s, or we can frame it as finding ways to circumvent or bypass them. Therefore, the first principle is to turn barriers upside down. We can jujitsu them to become key success criteria for new climate communications.”

To bypass barriers, successful climate communication should: make the issue feel near, human, personal, and urgent; use supportive framings that do not backfire by creating negative feelings; reduce dissonance by providing opportunities for consistent and visible action; avoid triggering the emotional need for denial through fear, guilt, self-protection; and reduce cultural and political polarization on the issue.

Here are the five strategies Stoknes provides for how we can talk about global warming in a way that creates action and cultivates hope:

1. Social: Use the Power of Social Networks

Use social norms to motivate others to:

  • Reduce power and water consumption;
  • Spread social norms through green products and services (rooftop solar, eco-apps); and,
  • Improve recycling efforts.

Use groups and word of mouth from trusted peer messengers to:

  • Clarify the scientific consensus;
  • Join Earth Hour or similar initiatives;
  • Set up home parties; solar panel buying clubs; local-patriotism climate conversations;
  • Introduce the topic of climate in existing networks (churches, clubs, sports, etc.); and,
  • Join Carbon Conversations and Transition Town efforts.

2. Supportive: Use Positive Framings

When speaking of climate, frame it as:

  • Insurance against risk;
  • Health and well-being;
  • Preparedness and resilience;
  • Values and a common cause; and,
  • Opportunities for innovation and job growth.

3. Simple: Use Green Nudges to Make it Simpler to Act

Some examples

  • Make life-cycle costs salient on all appliance price tags;
  • Make smaller plates in restaurant buffets the default;
  • Include voluntary CO 2 price fees in plane tickets as the default.
  • Increase the frequency and speed of buses and biking while reducing car parking and access to city centers.
  • Bundle home reinsulation with attic cleaning and renovation; and,
  • Make double-sided printing the default.

4. Stories: Tell Better Climate Stories

Avoid apocalypse narratives, and instead tell stories about:

  • Green growth;
  • Happiness and the good life;
  • Stewardship and ethics; and,
  • Re-wilding and ecological restoration.

When telling stories, make them:

  • Personal and concrete;
  • Vivid and extraordinary;
  • Visual, as in “show, don’t tell;” and,
  • Humorous and witty, with strong plot and drama.

5. Signals: Integrate Climate Communications with New Indicators of Progress

How we respond to signals, or indicators, depends on how accessible, interactive, and relevant they are. “Just numbers” don’t mean much. But if we can make the signals vivid and interactive and available through social media and social norms, we may see them come alive among the public. When connected to stories, they create meaning. Getting the signals of our progress right is absolutely essential for the long-term success of climate communications. Otherwise the global climate data will have no impact on social decisions.

To support new stories, we need new indicators to provide feedback on progress, such as

  • Greenhouse emissions per value added;
  • Happiness, well-being, and integrated wealth;
  • A personal carbon budget that could be tracked like a bank account; and,
  • Ecosystem health and biodiversity, or nature, index.

Take a look at the following illustration of Per Espen Stoknes’ five strategies and help reshape how we talk about global warming.

Find more from Per Espen:

BoingBoing,  “The 5 Psychological Barriers to Climate Action” 

Common Dreams, “The Great Grief: How to Cope with Losing Our World”

Psychology Today, “The Coming Climate Disruptions: Are You Hopeful?

“Depressed About Climate Change? Good. Here’s How to Take Action”

Watch Per Espen Stoknes’ interview with Thom Hartmann:

Illustrations by Iona Fox

A Mini-Festo for Earth Day – Rebuild the Foodshed

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

For the past month, author Philip Ackerman-Leist has been on a Twitter MiniFesto campaign – each day sending out a new tweet designed to spark conversation and pass along some lessons he learned whilst working on his last book, Rebuilding the Foodshed.

You might also know Philip as the author of his memoir Up Tunket Road or as Director of the Green Mountain College Farm & Food Project and the Director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems at Green Mountain College. Or, from his carbon offset approach to commuting to work.

We know that Philip spends some of his time answering tweets and questions from his PastureFone (a mobile phone that doubles as a cattle herding device we think), and we all know that some of our best thinking can come when we’re away from devices, and getting dirty, or frustrated, with our daily chores.

So on this Earth Day we’re offering up the full Minifesto of Ackerman-Leist below, and a link to a downloadable and printable file that you should feel free to print and download, and then put up in the nearest outhouse wall, bathroom stall, or other popular, quiet reading places.

Your Revolutionary Minifesto Friends at Chelsea Green Publishing

Minifesto: Tweets for Rebuilding the Foodshed

I. Start from the grassroots—and move all the way down to the highest levels of government.

II. Sustainable farms are run by the sun: the rest of the food system needs daylight, too.

III. When thinking about farms: management first & scale second. You figure out where location fits. (Hint: about 1.5)

IV. Fully understanding the expanse between farm to plate demands the full distance between one’s ears.

V. Local was never intended to be universal.

VI. Small successes are easier to manage than big failures.

VII. Success leads; policy follows.

VIII.Crow tastes like chicken: Be prepared to eat some.

IX. Main ingredient in a recipe for disaster: sticking to the recipe when you don’t have all of the ingredients.

X. Two ingredients not needed in a recipe for success: us and them.

XI. Leave the selfie at the door. Shift to panorama mode.

XII. All white ain’t alright.

XIII. PC quickly becomes passé: Do what’s right, not necessarily what is correct.

XIV. Get off the can (BPA, dude!) and out of the box!

XV. Change comes more from victual sharing than virtual sharing.

XVI. Food is neither left nor right of center, but in our politics we are left with the right to food question.

XVII. Food system as economic driver: A job doth not a fair wage make.

XVIII. The divide is less urban/rural than it is have/have not.

XIX. Trust the windshield view more than the dashboard indicators.

XX. Don’t just move the needle. Bend it a little bit. When all else fails, consider a new dial.

XXI. Nuance provides precision–and it’s too often the victim of well-intentioned advocacy.

XXII. Numbers & values: sometimes the same thing, sometimes in opposition.

XXIII. Behind every label lies a story…some are fairy tales.

XXIV. Fields of expertise: Farmers & fishers need to be at the table, too—not just profs, chefs, wonks, & good intentions.

XXV. Finitude sucks. Prioritization rules.

XXVI. Don’t forget to dig! (We might even require ag in school if it weren’t so complex.)

XXVII. Old dirt, same story: New horizons in soils help cultivate common ground, common sense, & uncommon potential.

XXVIII. Food system waste is nothing more than a lack of ecological imagination.

XXIX. Tomorrow is only 1/3 of the answer.

XXX. Impatience is your most important ally; patience is your best friend.

To follow Philip on Twitter go to @ackermanleistp

Anno MMXV “Twitterus rebuildum”

 

Download the Minfesto, print it and spread the revolution!

 

Minifesto-RebuildingTheFoodshed Day30 by Philip Ackerman-Leist

Books in the News: ‘The Tao of Vegetable Gardening’ & More!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

What does Taoism have to do with gardening? That question is being answered in The Washington Post this week with a lengthy profile of Chelsea Green author Carol Deppe—gardener, plant breeder, seed expert, and geneticist based in Oregon—and her new book The Tao of Vegetable Gardening.

“Once I read The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, with its mix of sly humor, dirt gardening (how to use a hoe with the least effort), the art of non-doing (very Tao), how to cook greens and even freeze them (heretofore impossible in my kitchen), and passages from Deppe’s own translations of 2,500-year-old Chinese texts — well, I had to meet this woman,” writes reporter Anne Raver in her profile of Deppe, which appeared in the Post’s Home and Garden section.

The story is a mix of her visit to Deppe’s homestead back in February along with what she learned from that meeting and how she’s applying it to her Maryland homestead, and includes a photo slideshow of some of Deppe’s squash and corn, along with pictures of some of her greens that she grows.

Demand for Deppe’s insight and wisdom was not only evident in Raver’s article, but also in a review by Rachel Foster, garden writer for The Eugene Weekly, who wrote, “If you grow vegetables, or hope to, you need this book.” And, Library Journal recently listed The Tao of Vegetable Gardening as one of the bestselling gardening books nationwide. The top 20 list of books most ordered by librarians around the country also includes another Chelsea Green title, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation by Tradd Cotter.

Other authors in the news recently:

Speaking of Tradd Cotter and his bestselling mushroom book, he was recently on WSPA-TV Your Carolina to talk about growing mushrooms, their medicinal uses, and his recent workshops at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, NC. Our favorite question by the host: “What happened to you growing up that made you this way?” 

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds author Katrina Blair was recently on Sierra Club Radio to talk about the 13 weeds found anywhere in the world that are edible, and can also be used for medicine and self-care.

Per Espen Stoknes—author of What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming—had a front-page feature on BoingBoing.net about the five psychological barriers to taking action on climate change.

Author Gianaclis Caldwell (The Small-Scale Dairy, The Small-Scale Cheese Business, and Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking) was on Cooking Up a Story recently to talk about what it takes to run a small-scale, off-the-grid goat farm and cheesemaking business.

And, finally, it’s the one-year anniversary this week of the death of author Michael Ruppert (Confronting Collapse) and writer Frank Kaminski penned this tribute to Ruppert’s life and enduring legacy.

Depressed about Climate Change? Good. Here’s How to Take Action

Monday, April 6th, 2015

The facts about climate change are settled. Mostly. In fact, the news seems to get worse, and more urgent, every day. Yet, the more the facts stack up, the less resolve many people seem to have about getting behind solutions that will stem, or turn, the tide. What gives?

In What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming, economist and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes offers a refreshing take on why we’re avoiding the obvious, and inevitable, and how climate change believers can better talk to, and support, people who are having a hard time making sense of just what it is they are supposed to be doing—eat better, buy different light bulbs, drive less, walk more, all of the above?

For Further Reading

In his book, Stoknes masterfully identifies the five main psychological barriers to climate action, but he then offers up five new strategies that are social, positive, and simple, and lead to making climate-friendly behaviors easy and convenient. He also examines how the consistent doom-and-gloom messages from some climate activists have only reinforced those barriers to action, and how we can turn that around.

We posed a few questions to Stoknes about his new book and how he believes we can take steps to move beyond the “Great Grief” of climate change and move toward actions that are meaningful, and improve our future.

 A Conversation with Per Espen Stoknes

There are many surprises in your book, including your explanation of what really keeps people from taking action on climate change. It’s not always what people might expect. So, what keeps us from doing the right thing?

There are at least five main defenses—the five D’s as I call them—that keep us from acknowledging the need for change: We distance ourselves from the climate issue; we avoid doom and sacrifice messengers; we experience cognitive dissonance; we get rid of fear and guilt through denial mechanisms; and, automatically resist criticisms of my identity, job, and lifestyle.

And, I should be clear: It’s not that people don’t care. The problem is that people can’t see there are any effective solutions. Then they feel helpless, start distancing themselves from the issue, and give little priority to it. Our limited pool of what we most often worry about is often filled with concerns closer to us— our job, family, health, and education.

 

A key difference in your book, as compared to other recent climate books, is that you reveal how simple it can be to change behavior if we approach the topic differently. What should we be doing differently, and how are these new approaches proving effective?

For too long we’ve relied solely on a highly rational double push: More scientific facts will finally convince the wayward about climate change. And there must be a global price on carbon emissions. But neither is rooted in our messy, social reality or guided by how our brains actually think. Oddly enough, more facts and more taxes don’t build policy support among people.

It’s time for a different approach: Finding ways of engaging that go with the evolutionary flow of the human mind, rather than push against it. One starting point is to use the power of social networks. Most of us imitate others. If I believe everyone else is driving big cars and using more energy than me, then I’ll do the same—or more! Research has shown that if people believe their neighbors are conserving more energy and water than themselves, then they’ll start doing it, too—or more!

When working with social networks, we should avoid framing climate change as catastrophe, cost, and sacrifice. Rather, we should employ supportive framings by positioning climate change as opportunities for smarter growth solutions for our cities and companies, or as a national insurance issue, or as a public health concern.

 

SONY DSCYou point out that people often change their behaviors before they change their beliefs. So is it really possible to get a denier to make behavioral changes—to live a more climate-friendly life or back more climate change-friendly policies? And will that really lead to him or her accepting the facts, eventually, on climate change?

In reality, behavior nudges are also methods of climate communication. They help us get around the five main barriers that hinder support for climate policy: They work around the distance barrier by making the climate issue feel near and relevant to personal behavior. They nudge us out of the cost and sacrifice framing that haunts the climate issue and creates the doom barrier. They promote behavior that influences attitudes, helping us reduce the dissonance and denial barriers.

It is easier to behave consistently with our beliefs when nudged. Research shows that giving money or time to a cause strengthens our positive attitudes about that cause. So nudges that combine thinking and doing can turn cognitive dissonance around for the good: If I do all these things—insulate my house, go solar, have high-quality and efficient appliances, recycle—then the cause must be important, and therefore the science behind it right. This seems to be the way our minds work—more psychological than logical.

 

You define the feeling that many climate change activists and scientists have around the gloom and doom of global warming as the “Great Grief.” Are we working through the five stages of grief as the notion of a dying planet takes hold? Explain how we can move from depression to action.

Climate depression is … well, depressing! Despair, anger, sorrow, loss, and exasperation … all these types of feelings are creeping up on people who get into the reality of global warming. It feels devastating, looks inevitable and terribly destructive to the beautiful landscapes we love. Most want to move out of this darkness, and into hope and action immediately. Scientists in particular are trained to take their feelings out of the equations. But, maybe we should not discard the despair and depression so fast. That our individual grief and emotional loss can actually be a broadly shared reaction to the decline of nature is an idea that rarely appears in conversation or the popular media. This more-than-personal sadness is what I call the Great Grief, a feeling rising in us, in our psyche, as if from the earth itself at this time.

The challenge is to not shut ourselves out from this Great Grief when it comes to awareness. By entering more fully into the Grief, we may move through denial and bargaining, despair, and grief to a fuller acceptance of the mess we’re in. Paradoxically, as we travel through it – shaping it, expressing it – we may find a renewed way of caring for the land, air, ourselves, and others. Contact with the pain of the world can also open the heart to reach out to all things still living. Through this mourning we may gradually shift from helpless depression to a heartfelt appreciation and re-engagement. Going more fully down to the depths of despair can also bring healing. It cracks the stressed-out, numbed heart open to a deeper reconnection with the more-than-human world. Painful, yes, and potentially transformative.

Get More from Your Mission: The Social Profit Handbook

Monday, March 16th, 2015

For-profit institutions measure their success primarily by monetary gains. But nonprofit institutions are different; they aim for social profit, or improving the well-being of people, place, and planet.

The Social Profit Handbook draws from author David Grant’s decades of leadership in the education, foundation, and nonprofit worlds, and provides  leaders of social profit institutions with the tools they need to measure their success in entirely new ways, help clarify their visions, and better achieve their goals. Grant explains how organizations can reclaim impact assessment, making it an exercise for improving future work rather than merely judging past performance.

Written for those who lead, govern, and support mission-driven organizations—including for-profit, socially responsible businesses—The Social Profit Handbook tackles fundamental challenges facing these important change-makers.

“I think we are all aware of a big problem—a world awash in financial profit, or at least the pursuit of it, when what it needs is social profit,” writes Grant in the book’s introduction.”Yet my approach to the problem involves a relatively small change in the way staffs and boards of social sector organizations—and the new breed of socially conscious businesses—define and assess their successes in creating social profit.”

With fewer people believing that government — state, federal, or even local — can be trusted to solve problems, that trust is being placed in the cash-strapped “third sector” or “civic sector.”

“The sector is fragmented and cash-strapped, but collectively it can have enormous influence on the other sectors not only through its good work but also through its influence on voters and consumers. In short, I believe that social sector organizations can elevate the concept of social profit through the ways they define, pursue, and achieve the social benefits implicit in their missions. ”

You can read Grant’s complete introduction (including his elevator pitch speech to a prospective reader), along with Susan Kenny Stevens’ Foreword here.

Grant offers concrete strategies for achieving what matters most in the social sector: more benefits to society and stronger, more unified, more effective organizations prepared to make the world a better place. He does this by helping organizations implement “backwards planning” or starting from where you see your actions taking you, and working backward to determine the steps along the way that will help make that happen, and how to assess your progress along the way.

As you can see in this video clip below, Grant notes that most of us use this backwards planning technique on a regular basis. How? When we go on vacation. We don’t just pack our bags, show up at the airport and ask if there’s a plane leaving soon. We make a plan, an itinerary that we follow up to, and during, the vacation. Likewise, organizations need to set their sights into the future, and then define how best to reach those goals and achieve true, lasting, social benefits for society.

Buy your copy of The Social Profit Handbook today, get planning, and change the future.

Book Exposes Scientific Fraud, Collusion on GMOs

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is an important book that is long overdue in the United States, and Chelsea Green Publishing is proud to distribute this book to consumers who need to read the whole story behind how government officials and chemical companies have colluded to mislead the public about GM crops and foods.

With a foreword by Dr. Jane Goodall, this book is being praised by scientists for finally lifting the veil and exposing the collusion that has gone on behind the scenes between politicians, regulators, select scientists, and global seed manufacturers. Together they have joined forces to promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while ignoring the negative effects GMOs are having on our public food supply, health, and in the process has subverted scientific protocols.

The book was announced this week at a press conference in London, featuring Goodall.

“Without doubt, one of the most important books of the last 50 years,” writes Goodall in her Foreword. “It will go a long way toward dispelling the confusion and delusion that has been created regarding the genetic engineering process and the foods it produces. Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.”

Frederick Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and an expert on sustainable agriculture had this to say of the book: “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth is a remarkable work that may well change the public conversation on one of the most important issues of our day. If the numerous revelations it contains become widely known, the arguments being used to defend genetically engineered foods will be untenable.”

This book uncovers the biggest scientific fraud of our age. It tells the fascinating and frequently astounding story of how the massive enterprise to restructure the genetic core of the world’s food supply came into being, how it advanced by consistently violating the protocols of science, and how for more than three decades, hundreds of eminent biologists and esteemed institutions have systematically contorted the truth in order to conceal the unique risks of its products—and get them onto our dinner plates.

Altered Genes, Twisted Truth
gives a graphic account of how this elaborate fraud was crafted and how it not only deceived the general public, but Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Barack Obama and a host of other astute and influential individuals as well. The book also exposes how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was induced to become a key accomplice—and how it has broken the law and repeatedly lied in order to usher genetically engineered foods onto the market without the safety testing that’s required by federal statute. As a result, for fifteen years America’s families have been regularly ingesting a group of novel products that the FDA’s own scientific staff had previously determined to be unduly hazardous to human health.

By the time this gripping story comes to a close, it will be clear that the degradation of science it documents has not only been unsavory but unprecedented—and that in no other instance have so many scientists so seriously subverted the standards they were trained to uphold, misled so many people, and imposed such magnitude of risk on both human health and the health of the environment.

“If you have even the remotest interest in this topic, I would strongly encourage you to get a copy of this book,” urges Dr. Joseph Mercola in an interview with Druker. ” It is, without a doubt, the best book on the topic and provides a treasure trove of facts that will help you decimate anyone who believes that GMOs are safe.

“For close to 20 years, the American public has been exposed to these largely experimental, untested foods, which its own scientists said entail unique risks and could not be presumed safe,” adds Mercola. “The FDA claimed GMO’s could be presumed safe, and that there was an overwhelming scientific consensus backing up their decision, yet the evidence shows that is a bold-faced lie.”

Watch the full interview with Dr. Mercola and Druker:

 

A Man Apart: Remembering Bill Coperthwaite’s Radical Life

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

A Man Apart is the story—part family memoir and part biography—of Peter Forbes and Helen Whybrow’s longtime friendship with Bill Coperthwaite (A Handmade Life), whose unusual, and even radical, life and fierce ideals helped them examine and understand their own.

Framed by Coperthwaite’s sudden death and brought alive through the month-long adventure of building with him what would turn out to be his last yurt, Forbes and Whybrow deftly explore the timeless lessons of Coperthwaite’s experiment in intentional living and self-reliance. They also reveal an important story about the power and complexities of mentorship: the opening of one’s life to someone else to learn together, and carrying on in that person’s physical absence.

A review in Booklist puts it best: “In this loving tribute to Coperthwaite, Forbes and Whybrow have crafted an inspiring biography … Interweaving anecdotes of their own interactions with Coperthwaite, including the construction of a final, sunlight-filled yurt, the authors capture the full spectrum of this sometimes curmudgeonly man’s gregariousness, resourcefulness, and optimism. Although Coperthwaite’s dreams of worldwide cooperative and sustainable communities have not yet been realized, this reverent memoir will help keep his environmental ideals alive.”

We asked the authors about Coperthwaite’s life and his influence upon them and others. Here’s what they had to say.

Both of you had similar, but different experiences, as mentees of Bill Coperthwaite. How did they differ for you, how did they overlap, and how did you incorporate those different lessons into your own shared experience as a family?

Peter: Bill gave us both a powerful example of how to live a life: the role of work and how to protect what is most meaningful. Our decision to turn to farming and a life led closer to the land was given great encouragement by our relationship to Bill. I had little skill working with my hands before meeting Bill and he opened that entire world up to me. It’s very true that the experience of learning how to carve a spoon became the encouragement to do a great many other bigger things with my life that relied not just on my mead but on his head and my hands working together. That’s been enormously influential and satisfying in my life.

Finally, Bill’s model for how he lived on the land in deep relationship to place and nature changed how I thought about conservation and the role of people and community in land conservation. Directly because of Bill, people and their relationship to nature and to one another became a part of what conservation was meant to protect.

Helen: I think the fact that we knew Bill somewhat differently, and yet shared the understanding that he was central to our life together, makes our story richer and more layered. In some ways Peter’s relationship with Bill was more intimate, and yet as with all intimacy, that also made it more difficult. Bill and Peter did very important work together over the years with land conversation and creating community and it was not without its tensions. I was on the sidelines of that work, and yet Peter and I would have long conversations about it. My relationship with Bill had its own dimensions and really deepened as he aged and our children grew up.

What are some of his lasting lessons in your lives, and what do you think he’s left you to keep figuring out?

Peter: How to live the life you really want as opposed to the life society wants you to lead or the life your parents and family want you to lead. How do you stick with what is truly most important to you. Experience of life is far, far more important than possessions. How do you stay on the edge of experience as opposed to sinking into the comfort of possessions?

Helen: I think what I ponder most since his death is how we learn through life. He showed me that you never have to stop learning or being curious or even traveling in search of new experiences. He went to China when he was 83! He made me think a great deal about how we teach our young, how we treat our old, how the way we approach education is often against the grain of how we naturally learn best. He opened my eyes to how education should be rooted in multi-generational community life, and its goal should be to create empowered, self-aware citizens who want to come up with empathic and just solutions to the world’s problems, not just able to compete financially in a global marketplace and achieve individual status. We started home schooling our youngest daughter after Bill died, and almost every single day I want to talk to him about teaching. I’m left figuring out the How.

Bill Coperthwaite is often compared to Helen and Scott Nearing, and even described as a “modern-day” Henry David Thoreau. Is that accurate? Was he something else entirely?

Peter: Bill considered himself to be a public intellectual and social critic like Thoreau and Nearing, which is why those labels have stuck on Bill. But Bill’s life hasn’t yet achieved that same status because, in my view, he was actually more true to the dogma and less good of a writer than either Nearing or Thoreau. Bill’s experiment in living was more rigorous and true to his values and lasted longer than Thoreau or Nearing, but he didn’t have as effective ways to talk about it. Bill never got a phone and never went on the lecture circuit like Nearing regularly did. Bill remained in true opposition to society: from it but not of it. In this true sense, he lived the better example but it was a much harder example for people to find.

Helen: Like many things, it is and it isn’t accurate. When someone lives a life that is so unusual there are few examples to go by, and few comparisons to make that someone would understand. Bill was strongly influenced by Helen and Scott Nearing. He shared many of their values of how to live, how to be in service, and in particular he and Scott believed passionately in trying to live a life that was not part of a system of exploiting others. With Thoreau he shared an ardent pacifism, and a reverence for nature. He went well beyond Thoreau in his committed experiment in simple living. I think Bill shared an impish sense of humor that comes out in Thoreau’s writing at times. Scott Nearing, on the other hand, Bill thought to be “terribly dour.”

New Audio Books: Bears and Elephants Oh My!

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Whether you’re keen on learning more about the secretive lives of black bears or how to unlock the secrets of political framing, two recent Chelsea Green books are now available in audio so you can listen in the car, at home, or wherever you prefer.

To sample the audio of either book, check out the Soundcloud embeds below.

Happy Listening!

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!

dontThinkOfAnElephantGeorge Lakoff’s The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! (narrated by Chris Sorenson) — the revised and expanded 10th anniversary edition of his international bestseller Don’t Think of an Elephant! — has been the go-to book for progressives since it was first published in 2004. Called the “father of framing” by The New York Times, Lakoff explains how framing is about ideas—ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative, ideas that need to be communicated out loud every day in public. The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! picks up where the original book left off—delving deeper into how framing works, how framing has evolved in the past decade, how to speak to people who harbor elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews, how to counter propaganda and slogans, and more.

Howard Dean, the one-time presidential candidate, Vermont governor, and founder of Democracy for America, had this to say about Lakoff’s new book: “The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! is a must read, every bit as important as the first edition. This time we have to train ourselves to think for the long term. Buy this book, memorize it, and teach it to your children. Progressives may be smart, but we don’t communicate our ideas well. This book is the blueprint for how to do better.”

In the Company of Bears

IntheCompanyofBearsBen Kilham’s In The Company of Bears (narrated by George Backman) unveils his groundbreaking work in the field of black bears. Like others, he once thought that black bears were solitary. But he discovered that they actually have extraordinary communication and interaction with each other—creating and enforcing codes of conduct, forming alliances, and even sharing territory and food when supplies are ample. In the Company of Bears (originally released in hardcover as Out on a Limb) is more than a story about bears. It’s the story of a scientist once kept from a traditional science career by his dyslexia, only to find that thinking and seeing differently was his greatest gift and his best tool to interpret the non-human world.

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs, had this praise for Kilham’s book: “Ben Kilham’s In the Company of Bears is surely the most insightful book about animals written in the last 100 years. His observation of black bears is the best ever done, his data is flawless, and these attributes have created a landmark of science that as far as I know has not been equalled with any other species. And if that’s not enough, it’s also a page-turner and a must-read. It left me breathless.”

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.

In Memoir, Environmental Insider Calls for Radical Change

Monday, October 20th, 2014

As an influential figure in America’s environmental movement, Gus Speth can boast quite a remarkable resume–co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, founder of the World Resources Institute, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, environmental advisor to Presidents Carter and Clinton, and the list goes on.

Yet, as a southern gentleman, boasting isn’t really his style. Instead Speth prefers to acknowledge the long list of people that have helped him along the way—his “angels by the river, ” as he calls them.

Speth’s new memoir, Angels by the River, follows his unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism. He explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone who now believes the US inaction on climate change is, as he puts it, “the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the republic.”

If you are wondering how to make a difference in this increasingly complex world and looking for inspiration, let Gus Speth’s own life’s arc be a guide, and his clarion call for widespread system change be your call to action. Listen to his interview on Vermont Public Radio about his reflections on the environmental movement. Chelsea Green’s Shay Totten also sat down with Speth to talk about his new book and what it has been like to live his life on the front lines of change. See below for their conversation.

Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave “Gus” Speth is on sale now.

****

A Conversation with Author Gus Speth

ST: Let’s start with the title of the book – who are your angels, and what role did this river of your youth have in shaping your early thoughts about nature and life?

GS: Starting with a real river, the Edisto in the South Carolina lowcountry, I imagine my life as a journey down a river, and around almost every bend there have been angels waiting. It’s very clear to me that without the love, support and intense collaboration of the angels in my life, starting with my family, I would have gone off in some terribly wrong directions and many key things simply would not have happened. I wrote this memoir in large part to recognize these remarkable people.

Imagination aside, the Edisto, with its dark, tannin-stained waters and ample hardwood bottomland swamps, was where I first discovered the natural world, and girls.

ST: Your hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina was the scene of the horrific Orangeburg Massacre. That year, 1968, is often remembered as a pivotal year in US history. You were at Yale Law School at the time of the shootings, but you had been living in, and writing about, some of the tensions that preceded the shootings.

GS: In the mid 1960s I did what I could to support and encourage the moderate whites in Orangeburg to move forward on the civil rights demands of the town’s black community. And they did try, indeed try hard, but without success. I relate that story in the memoir.

Orangeburg had been a hotbed of resistance to racial progress since the early 1950s, and that continued through the 1960s. This situation helped set the stage for what happened there in 1968, a great national tragedy but one that has been little noticed outside the state, even today.

ST: Did attending a Northern school – Yale University and later Yale Law School – help to shape, or reshape, your views about the world, and in particular that of race? If so, how? What did you intend to study at Yale, and what did you end up studying?

GS: I devote a chapter in the memoir to what happened to me when I “went North” to school. The chapter is called “Things Fall Apart,” and at Yale my views on race, society, and the South did in fact come crashing down around me. As I explain in Angels by the River, that can be a terrifying experience, but I discovered in the end that that unmooring from the past was entirely liberating and that I was free to think afresh about the world. I realized also that I had uncritically accepted the status quo and that I never wanted to do that again.

I went to Yale to study science and was a biochemistry major for two years, but in the nick of time I realized I wasn’t getting a rounded liberal arts education and so switched to political science and later to an individualized curriculum Yale allowed me to create.

ST: You helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council. What was missing from the environmental movement at the time that the NRDC was created? Did it achieve what you had hoped?

GS: When big new causes open up, as happened for the environment in the late 1960s, there often occurs an intense period of institution building—a creative period when organizations rise to meet the occasion. In a chapter called “The Greening,” I describe how I and others, seeing the moment, were able to launch two much-needed environmental groups, NRDC and the World Resources Institute. Both are powerhouses today. I often joke that all my groups do better after I leave.

I shudder to think where we would be without the successes of our mainstream environmental groups, but it is obvious now that America’s mainstream environmentalism is not up to today’s environmental challenges, like climate change.

ST: What changed for you personally that led you, someone known for groundbreaking legal and policy work, to get arrested in front of the White House?

GS: In 2012 Wen Stephenson interviewed me for an online article and when it appeared, here was the title: “’Ultimate Insider’ Goes Radical.” I spend a generous portion of the memoir describing how a conservative, Southern white boy became a civilly disobedient, older, still white guy bent on transformative change to a new system of political economy. Among other things, we’ll need a new environmentalism in America to make this transition, one that is deeply committed not just to traditional environmental goals but also to challenging consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer, rejecting growthmania and pioneering a redefinition of what society should be striving to grow, challenging corporate dominance and seeking a redefinition of the corporation and its goals, joining the struggle for social justice and fairness, and launching a powerful assault on the anthropocentric and contempocentric values that currently dominate American culture.

To drive these deeper changes we’ll need a powerful movement and the rebirth of activism, protests, demonstrations, and sometimes civil disobedience.


Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com