Politics & Social Justice Archive


Renewable Energy for Resilient Communities

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Million Strong for Marijuana Is Safer

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Quick: What do one million Facebook fans and the U.S. Department of Justice have in common?

Apparently, they agree that it’s a waste of time to crack down on individual marijuana smokers. So, will the feds move toward legalization next? If they follow the leads of voters in states like Colorado and Washington, then perhaps we can end the prohibition era mentality when it comes to smoking pot.

In celebration of the Marijuana is Safer Facebook page gaining the support of more than one million fans, and the federal government’s announcement that it’s easing off it’s crackdown on individual smokers, we are offering a special discount on the updated and expanded edition of Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? – just use discount code MIS35 at checkout to take 35% off!

The position that marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol is sparking a conversation in communities and legislatures across the country—forcing the media, policy makers and citizens to pay attention to this issue.

Renowned brain surgeon and CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta recently defended and endorsed the use of marijuana in medicinal applications (and was rewarded with his very own aptly-named strand of the drug). Gupta also exposed hypocrisy of the U.S. government, and in the documentary Weed, examined the benefits and relative safety of marijuana. Between this level of exposure and growing interest in the debate, a policy shift is on the horizon.

Marijuana is Safer debunks many marijuana myths and provides research and evidence supporting the relative safety of the substance. This new edition includes the same message, but with even more research and facts, explains the Colorado victory, and lays out the talking points that can help enable change in your state and community.

Whether you’re in support or have yet to be convinced, Marijuana is Safer will educate you, open your mind, and empower you to take action.

Don’t forget to visit the Marijuana is Safer Facebook page and add your support to the one million (and counting) fans. And get Marijuana is Safer for 35% off with discount code MIS35 at checkout.

Get to know the issue. Learn about the facts. Share it with someone else. Make a difference.

Acres U.S.A.: Food Rights Under Fire with David Gumpert

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Increasingly, consumers are turning away from mass-produced and excessively processed foods, and seeking out local farmers and neighbors for antibiotic- and hormone-free milks, meats, and organic produce they can trust.

Meanwhile, as food-borne illnesses continue to appear in the industrialized U.S. food supply, regulators are cracking down on small-scale farmers.

In his new book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat, author David Gumpert tracks the increasing tension between consumers and regulators, industrial agriculture and small farmers, and what it means for access to, and the distribution of, raw, whole foods in the United States.

Chris Walters of Acres U.S.A. sat down with Gumpert and talked about some of the recent farmers who have gone on trial, and the significance of this emergent battle over access to food. In the interview, Gumpert comments on the growth of the movement, “We have a lot more awareness about food safety. Some might call it fearmongering about food safety, but certainly there’s been a lot more attention given to food safety beginning in the mid- to late 1990s, and it has grown in importance and attention. It has become a big issue in the legal arena.”

In this wide-ranging interview, Walters and Gumpert offer salient details of some of the larger trials and incidences of government attacks and retaliation on farmers and private food clubs, but also examine the fragile future of our right to buy private food; a right that earlier generations never thought could be jeopardized.

“We have a long tradition in this country of people being able to obtain food privately. Until the supermarkets sprang up after World War II, that’s how people obtained a lot of their food, direct from farmers or other food producers or small stores that obtained it directly from farmers. I grew up in Chicago and we always had food people coming around. In fact, even in suburban Boston through the 1970s we had a chicken man, an egg man and a milk man,” notes Gumpert.

Acres U.S.A. is giving Chelsea Green readers exclusive pre-release access to the interview. If you haven’t already, take a look at Acres U.S.A. – A Voice for Eco-Agriculture and consider a subscription – support another remarkable independent publisher with a focus on sustainable agriculture.

Read the full interview below.

Acres U.S.A. Interview with David Gumpert: Food Rights Under Fire by Chelsea Green Publishing

Coming Soon to a (Legal) Store Near You: Marijuana?

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Is marijuana the “new beer?” A new, eye-catching advertisement from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) emphasizes that marijuana is a safer, more desirable option than alcohol.

The ad was scheduled to air 72 times during NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 races but officials pulled it at the last minute as to protect the family-oriented audience at their event. Though many did not see the controversial ad at the races, it has spurred a heated discussion of the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana and questions about the safety of regulated substances. See the ad for yourself:

This same controversy and conversation led to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado in 2012, as well as the changing laws and policies in many other states.

The new updated and expanded edition of Marijuana is Safer reinforces the resonating message that marijuana is safer than alcohol. In addition to all the research and information in the first edition that exposes marijuana myths and reveals facts about the relative safety of the drug, this new edition includes a chapter on the Colorado victory, updates to the research that supports that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and information so that supporters can use Colorado as a model for change.

This updated and expanded edition of Marijuana is Safer is available now and on sale for 35% off for one week (until August 12, 2013).

In 2005-2007, pro-marijuana groups in Colorado began advocating for the legalization of the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In 2009, the regulation of medical use of marijuana was written into law. From that point to the 2012 presidential election, groups such as Sensible Colorado, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), MPP and many others started lobbying for the regulation and legalization of recreational marijuana use for all adults.

Fox, Armentano, and Tvert assert that, “The entire ‘Marijuana is safer than alcohol’ campaign had been designed for one purpose: to ensure that voters would not be afraid of cannabis when it came time to vote for its legalization…If all went according to plan, when deciding whether to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, voters would acknowledge cannabis as a less harmful alternative to alcohol, rather than an equally or more harmful vice. They would be able to vote ‘Yes’ with confidence instead of voting ‘No’ in fear.”

The change in public attitudes, as well as the campaign message itself, helped to win the vote in Colorado in 2012, and could work elsewhere. The topic has become such a national discussion that CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta is devoting a whole documentary on it — titled “Weed” — this coming weekend.

Show your support by reading the book, sharing it with friends and helping the Marijuana is Safer Facebook page reach over one million likes to further spread the message of a safer alternative to alcohol.

Read the foreword below.

Foreword

Community Resilience: Rebuild, Renew, Reform

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Increasingly, citizens are finding new and innovative ways to reclaim, if not rebuild, their food, energy, and financial systems — and with incredibly successful results.

How can you help your community join this growing relocalization movement and become more resilient?

Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Transition US and Post Carbon Institute to bring you Community Resilience Chats—a webinar series that delves into details essential for communities that are ready to take the necessary steps to reclaim their future. These chats stem from the Community Resilience Guides co-published by Post Carbon Institute and Chelsea Green.

In the first Community Resilience Chat, Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed, tackled the array of questions that arise in the face of the foodscape revolution. Missed it? Watch the video here:

The next chat is tentatively scheduled for July 24th at 11 AM (PST): Power From the People. Greg Pahl’s book fortifies community resilience through the planning, finance and production of reliable, renewable, clean, local energy for a sustainable future. Two of the people featured in the book will talk about how they launched community-based energy projects.

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

Want more? Chelsea Green is offering The Community Resilience Guide Series Set to keep you informed in the conversation on rebuilding clean food systems, creating renewable energy and reforming the economy as resilient community.

Raids, Crackdowns, and Armed Seizures: What Consumers Confront to Access Real Food

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Here’s the scenario: You decide to start selling the goods from your farm so that your community can enjoy fresh, unprocessed food from a local source. Somehow, the government finds out. How do they respond? Do they…

A)  Applaud you for your entrepreneurial spirit?
B)  Ask you to help them spread the word about other cow shares and co-ops in the area?
C)  Tell you that you could face jail time for privately selling food to local consumers?
D)  Take you away in handcuffs?

If you guessed A or B, wrong! If you’re Rawesome Foods, your answer is D. If you’re Alvin Shlangen or Amish dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger, then the government handed you C (in the form of a lawsuit).

Think you control the right to choose what you eat? Think again. “In the name of food safety…the U.S. government has declared war on people who would dare to exercise their most fundamental human right to choose their food,” writes Joel Salatin in the Foreword to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights by journalist David E. Gumpert.

Salatin continues, “The fact that neither the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution ever mentions the word food indicates that it was such a ubiquitous and common part of human experience that the framers of our country couldn’t imagine its restriction. Like air for breathing or sunshine for growing plants.”

This unprecedented government regulation and control has spurred activists and eaters across the country to cry out against such crackdowns and demand the right to choose what they put in their bodies.

Why are hard-working normally law-abiding farmers aligning with urban and suburban consumers to flaunt well-established food safety regulations and statutes? Why are parents, who want only the best for their children, seeking out food that regulators say could be dangerous? And, why are regulators and prosecutors feeling so threatened by this trend?

This erosion in the confidence of the food system carries serious implications. It financially threatens large corporations if long-established food brands come under prolonged and severe public questioning. It threatens economic performance if foods deemed “safe” become scarcer, and thus more expensive. And it is potentially explosive politically if too many people lose confidence in the professionalism of the food regulators who are supposed to be protecting us from tainted food, and encourages folks to exit the public food system for private solutions like the consumers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and elsewhere. Just look at the vituperative corporate response to recent consumer-led campaigns to label foods with genetically-modified ingredients.

As more consumers become intent on making the final decisions on what foods they are going to feed themselves and their families, and regulators become just as intent on asserting what they see as their authority over inspecting and licensing all food, ugly scenarios of agitated citizens battling government authorities over access to food staples seem likely to proliferate. It’s a recipe for a new kind of rights movement centered on the most basic acts—what we choose to eat.

“With incredible clarity and masterful storytelling, David Gumpert leads us on a journey into the trenches of America’s battle over food rights,” writes Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food. “No one knows this terrain and understands the implications as thoroughly as Gumpert, and the result is a book that will by turns enrage and inspire you. The battle for the right to nourish our bodies with real food must be won, and this book is an essential part of making that happen.”

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat is available now and on sale for 35% off.

Read the Introduction below.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: Introduction by Chelsea Green Publishing

Workers of the World Unite: It’s May Day!

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Most countries honor Labor Day on the first of May, but we Americans celebrate it at the end of summer, an excuse to barbecue and raise a glass to the passing season. Traditionally, May Day is not a beer and lawn chair kind of holiday, it’s a day of rallies, protests, and direct action in solidarity with the workers of the world, and a day of hope that our rights will be protected and upheld.

Workers have always been at the mercy of the owners of the factories, offices, and companies where they labor. In the often dark history of the industrial era, workers were routinely exploited, injured, and even murdered when they protested the inhumane conditions they faced each day. But when workers came together to form strong unions, they finally were able to defend themselves, at least a little bit.

Tireless labor leaders like Tony Mazzocchi fought for protection from toxic exposure, and ended up making meaningful progress toward a more humane version of capitalism. Mazzocchi’s work led to the passage of OSHA, which still regulates working conditions today. Les Leopold wrote a beautiful biography of Mazzocchi: The Man Who Hated Work But Loved Labor.

Today, labor unions are weaker than ever, and despite having won many important battles over the years, the state of worker power is eroding. Companies can easily outsource labor to more affordable markets overseas, and high unemployment makes it hard for workers to negotiate for better pay and benefits.

But there is a quiet revolution happening despite all this. Worker-owned companies are on the rise, from cooperatives that are wholly owned and operated by their workers, to gradual employee buy-out schemes like the Employee Stock Ownership Plan that Chelsea Green enacted last year.

Worker-ownership avoids the perennial conflict between labor and capital by understanding that the two can never be considered entirely apart from one another. Capital needs labor, and labor needs capital. Both need sustainability, and the only way to achieve that goal is to slow down, pay attention to place, and take care of all the people affected by the work of the company. As worker-ownership spreads, communities will be reinvigorated by increased wealth, and inequality will decrease because nobody in a company will hoard more wealth than is necessary for sustenance and encouragement. Learn more about this “next American revolution” in Gar Alperovitz’s new book, What Then Must We Do?

The Truth Behind Three Common Marijuana Myths

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Happy 4/20! To help you celebrate responsibly, here are three common marijuana myths, debunked by the authors of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?

Marijuana is Safer was Scribd’s most-read book of the year in 2010, when we offered it for a free download. Since then, the nation has seen expansive marijuana laws go into effect, especially in Colorado. The argument in Marijuana is Safer — that the public health outcomes of pot legalization make it a policy no-brainer — were what won the day in Colorado. As the fight for reasonable marijuana regulation continues the book will continue to be important for activists and politicians.

Have you heard these myths repeated in the media? Don’t be fooled — learn the facts behind the humble cannabis plant and its much-maligned psychoactive properties…

This is an excerpt from Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? It has been adapted for the web.

The origins of cannabis prohibition are steeped in prejudice, misinformation, and fear mongering. Inflammatory accusations against marijuana and marijuana consumers are typically unsubstantiated, while evidence refuting these claims often goes ignored.

Today, the U.S. government and many law enforcement officials continue to justify the need for cannabis prohibition by promoting alarmist myths that distort the truth about marijuana. Some of these distortions, such as the claim that pot smoking is linked to violent and psychotic behavior, date back to the “Reefer Madness” era of the 1930s. Other myths, like the claim that today’s cannabis is highly addictive, are more recent yet equally specious. Nonetheless, this propaganda serves as the basis for the criminal prohibition of marijuana today.

Therefore, we want to dispel some of the more prominent myths about cannabis by providing sound scientific, health, criminal justice, and economic data. We hope that you will keep these facts in mind the next time you hear government officials spreading lies about cannabis.

  • MYTH: Using marijuana will inevitably lead to the use of “harder” drugs like cocaine and heroin.
  • FACT: The overwhelming majority of marijuana users never try another illicit substance.

Although pot is consistently referred to as a “gateway drug,” the authorities neglect to mention that virtually everyone who has ever used cannabis tried tobacco and alcohol first. Yet it is hard to imagine that even the most ardent prohibitionist would argue that this sequential correlation would justify criminally prohibiting the use of booze or tobacco by adults.

It should come as no surprise that the majority of people who use highly dangerous drugs like heroin or crack cocaine have previously used the far more popular and safer drug marijuana. But despite pot’s popularity, Americans’ use of other illicit substances remains comparatively low. Data provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that only 3.5 percent of U.S. citizens have ever tried crack, and fewer than 2 percent of Americans have ever tried heroin. As for cocaine, the next most commonly used illicit drug in America after cannabis, fewer than 15 percent of Americans have tried it.

But what about those minority of cannabis users who do go on to use other illicit drugs? Isn’t the pot to blame? Not at all. In fact, experts generally identify “environmental circumstances,” not the prior use of a drug, as the primary reason why a handful of people transition from the use of marijuana to harder drugs.

If U.S. policymakers legalized marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol—thereby allowing its sale to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other, hard drugs—the likelihood is that fewer, not more, marijuana smokers would ever go on to try any another illicit substance. In short, it is marijuana prohibition, not the use of marijuana itself, that functions as a gateway to the potential use of harder drugs.

  • MYTH: Marijuana is highly addictive. Millions of Americans seek treatment every year because they become dependent upon marijuana.
  • FACT: Marijuana lacks the physical and psychological dependence liability associated with other intoxicants—including tobacco and alcohol. Very few cannabis users voluntarily seek drug treatment for pot “addiction.” The majority of marijuana smokers in drug treatment were arrested for pot possession and ordered into treatment as a condition of their probation.

Is cannabis addictive? Let’s look at what the science tells us. Numerous reports, including one by the prestigious British medical journal the Lancet and another cited in the New York Times, have found cannabis’s risk of physical or psychological dependence to be mild compared to most other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. In fact, two experts in the field—Drs. Jack E. Henningfield of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and Neal L. Benowitz of the University of California at San Francisco—reported to the New York Times that pot’s addiction potential is no greater than caffeine’s.

According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, fewer than 10 percent of those who try cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of “drug dependence” (based on DSM-III-R criteria). By contrast, investigators reported that 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users, and 15 percent of alcohol users meet the criteria for “drug dependence.”

  • MYTH: Smoking marijuana impairs driving in a manner that is worse than alcohol. Marijuana consumption is responsible for tens of thousands of traffic accidents every year.
  • FACT: Marijuana intoxication appears to play, at most, a minor role in traffic injuries.

While it is well established that alcohol consumption increases motor vehicle accident risk, evidence of marijuana’s culpability in on-road driving accidents and injury is nominal by comparison. That’s not to say that smoking marijuana won’t temporarily impair psychomotor skills. However, pot’s psychomotor impairment is seldom severe or long lasting, and variations in driving behavior after marijuana consumption are noticeably less pronounced than the impairments exhibited by drunk drivers.

Unlike motorists under the influence of alcohol, individuals who have recently smoked pot are aware of their impairment and try to compensate for it accordingly, either by driving more cautiously or by expressing an unwillingness to drive altogether. As reported in a 2008 Israeli study assessing the impact of marijuana and alcohol on driving performance, “[S]ubjects seemed to be aware of their impairment after THC intake and tried to compensate by driving slower; alcohol seemed to make them overly confident and caused them to drive faster than in control sessions.”

Of course, none of this information is meant to imply that smoking marijuana makes you a “safe” driver. In closed-course and driving-simulator studies, marijuana’s acute effects on driving include minor impairments in tracking (eye-movement control) and reaction time, as well as variation in lateral positioning, and speed.

To summarize, a motorist who has just smoked marijuana is a safer driver than one who has just consumed alcohol (even quantities of alcohol that are well within the legal limit for drinking and driving in most countries), but he or she is arguably not a “safe” driver. As with alcohol or most over-the-counter cold remedies, cannabis consumers are best advised to abstain from operating a motor vehicle for several hours after imbibing, and they should always designate at least one person to act as a sober designated driver.

Are You Part of the Next American Revolution?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In 1886 Leo Tolstoy wrote a slim pamphlet entitled What Then Must We Do? about the abject state of the peasants in his country. He wrote, “I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means—except by getting off his back.”

Gar Alperovitz has taken Tolstoy’s mysterious title for his own new book, What Then Must We Do? After all, with an economy as systemically unequal as ours, the question is still painfully relevant. Capitalism seems to have failed us, but for decades we have believed in the Thatcher-era dictum, “There Is No Alternative.” The mere mention of socialism sends politicians running for the hills, and Tea Partiers scrambling to scribble protest signs.

Alperovitz’s new book explains that, in fact, there is an alternative to corporate capitalism, one that is working to democratize the ownership of wealth, and is already taking root in some of the communities hardest hit in the recent economic crisis. This “next American revolution” is an economy based on empowered worker-owners, green jobs, and communities that can take care of themselves. In the excerpt below, Alperovitz tells the curious story of Youngstown, Ohio, a town that lost its steel mill and launched a quiet economic revolution in response.

Booklist says, “Alperovitz’s deliberately informal, conversational style makes normally rarefied economic concepts accessible to a wide audience, enhancing his inspiring message that, with the right strategies, a wholesale economic revolution is not only possible but achievable by well-organized, average citizens.”

Get the book for 35% off this week.

An Initial Way to Think About System Change: An Excerpt from What Then Must We Do? by Chelsea Green Publishing

Snapshots from the New Economy

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The top 400 wealthiest people in America own more riches than the bottom 180 million. The system is broken. But we don’t need to look far to find a better one.

Do you shop at a food co-op? Then you’re supporting a democratically-owned corporation that works to serve its members instead of distant shareholders focused merely on quarterly profits.

Do you bank at a credit union instead of a multinational corporate behemoth like Bank of America or Wells Fargo? Then you’re contributing your savings toward loans that go to help businesses, home owners, and people like you right in your community.

When you turn on the lights, does your power come from a municipally owned utility? If you live in Jacksonville, Florida, or Seattle, Washington it does. Now, what if you and your neighbors got together to demand your utility generate renewable energy? They’d have to listen, because you are their primary stakeholders.

Do you buy King Arthur Flour, rent cars from Avis, or buy books from Chelsea Green? If you do, you’re supporting companies that are owned by their employees, which means that the profits go to the workers — in other words to the people who make them possible.

Do you own a house through a community land trust — which made that house affordable, and will make sure it stays affordable when you decide to sell it. Or do you participate in a CSA or herd share that allows you to support a local farmer while making sure you get the fresh food you want? Or maybe when a restaurant or bookstore in your town threatened to go out of business you pitched in with some cash in return for discounts on your future purchases (the Slow Money model).

In Ohio, a state ravaged by the exodus of manufacturing, yet another example of a new-economy business model is starting up. The largest worker-owned greenhouse in the state is being financed by Evergreen Cooperatives, a unique partnership between public institutions, city government, and private nonprofits. The greenhouse will sell fresh produce to the hospitals and universities in the area, cutting the carbon footprint of those goods, and bringing good, green jobs to a neighborhood that needs them.

Gar Alperovitz is the founder of the Democracy Collaborative, a key partner in the project, and Gar has long been one of the leading champions of the worker-owned shift the economy so desperately needs. Next month his book What Then Must We Do? will explain how we must democratize wealth and build a community-sustaining economy from the ground up. Sustainable businesses are already changing lives and making money flow where it’s needed most. All we need is more of them.

These businesses define success as something deeper than profit. In doing so they’re living examples of what the new economy looks like. It’s not so complicated, it’s just what happens when business comes back down to earth.

(Illustration by Adrian J. Wallace)


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