Politics & Social Justice Archive


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)

A Permaculture Love Story, and Other New Books

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Tired of winter yet? Dreaming of spring? Our new crop of spring titles have arrived to give you something to read until the thaw comes — all on sale for 35% off until March 15th!

From natural beekeeping and saving seeds, to cold weather gardening and growing perennials, our newest books (and DVDs!) will teach you new skills for a holistic and sustainable future.

 If you’re a small farmer who wants to leave fossil fuels behind, Stephen Leslie’s book The New Horse-Powered Farm will teach you how to use draft horses to grow vegetables — and put your tractor out to pasture. For aspiring orchardists, we’ve brought a revised and updated edition of The Grafter’s Handbook back to print—this indispensable manual will remain the go-to guide for a new generation of orchardists.

In case you missed it, Anne Raver of the New York Times wrote about the “permaculture paradise” in Paradise Lot for Valentine’s Day: “It was the build-it-and-they-will-come principle…two self-described plant geeks [bought] a soulless duplex on a barren lot in this industrial city 10 years ago and turned it into their own version of the Garden of Eden. Their Eves, they figured, would show up sooner or later.” Spoiler alert: it worked!

We hope love grows in your garden this spring too.

Happy Reading from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

 

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New Arrival: Save 25% on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural towns to the most urban of cities streets, people are growing, fermenting, enjoying, and celebrating food produced close to home. “Local food” is a thriving movement and also a fad, an evocative trend that captures people’s imaginations — sometimes even moreso than it translates into actual regional food production. When even Frito-Lay can claim that its mass-produced potato chips are “local” because, lo and behold, the majority of them are grown in Hastings, Florida…then it’s time to take the conversation to the next level.

Rebuilding the Foodshed, a new book by Green Mountain College professor and farmer Philip Ackerman-Leist, refocuses the locavore lens on rebuilding robust regional food systems. Only by taking a systems-thinking approach can we successfully replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands both affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead as we face a shifting, unpredictable climate and uncertain fossil fuel supplies.

Publishers Weekly recently reviewed the book. “For a somewhat wonkish book about food policy, Rebuilding the Foodshed is unusually humorous and open-minded. Vermont farmer and professor Ackerman-Leist ruminates his way through the conundrums and possibilities of local food, demonstrating how words and their definitions can shed light on and transform our understanding of the rapidly evolving, often confusing, emotion-fraught questions of what people eat, where the food comes from, who has access to what, and how the answers to these questions affect the lives of eaters and growers. With insight, he demonstrates how communities can bridge and transcend the “false divides” he pinpoints in the local-food conversation: urban/rural, small-scale/large-scale, local/international, and all/nothing.

Rebuilding the Foodshed is the third installment in the Community Resilience Guides series. Chelsea Green Publishing has partnered with Post Carbon Institute to publish this series to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable efforts currently being taken to restore local supplies of capital, food, and power. We’ve made them available as a discounted set here.

Learn more about the series at Resilience.org.

Renowned chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison contributed the Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed, which you can take a look at below.

Enjoy! 

Deborah Madison’s Foreword to Rebuilding the Foodshed by

Fight for Food Freedom

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

One sunny day in August 2001, armed federal agents stormed the farmstand at Rawesome Foods in Venice Beach, California. The proprieter of the shop, James Stewart, was charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, and ended up spending four months in jail (you can follow the twists and turns of the bizarre and emotional story via David Gumpert’s blog, The Complete Patient). The raid of Rawesome Foods made headlines in Los Angeles, and was even spoofed by the Colbert Report.

It’s easy to imagine that this California farmer was doing something seriously illicit to draw the fire (almost literally) of the authorities the way he did. But Stewart was merely selling raw foods, particularly goat milk, yogurt, and kefir.

Stewart was not the first person in our “free” country to feel the wrath of the FDA for actively seeking the foods he wanted to eat — foods not typically available through the normal channels provided by our industrial food system. And agents marching in with guns at the ready aren’t the only forces keeping our food system from being free. In addition to bizarre government raids and oppressive laws that don’t make sense, we find massive corporations like Monsanto in control of seed supplies, and processors like Kraft and Cargill maneuvering politicians to do their will.

Government and large corporations work together to do what they think is a good thing: make lots of cheap food. And it’s hard to argue against the benefits of a full belly. Except that the fuller our bellies are with corn (especially high-fructose corn syrup) and soy (and meat that’s fed soy-based feed), the bigger those bellies are getting, and the less healthy our bodies are becoming. Obesity and diabetes are rampant public health problems in our country, and they can be directly tied to the style of agriculture we’ve created.

If we want to create a better outcome, for health, for our communities, and for the planet, we need to fight for a different system. If we do, we won’t be alone. As journalist David Gumpert outlines on his blog and in his forthcoming book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, the struggle to gain and keep access to foods like raw milk, yogurt, butter, kefir, fresh lacto-fermented vegetables, and others is drawing in stakeholders from all walks of life. Unlikely alliances are forming between Amish farmers trying to keep a traditional way of life afloat in a new century, and suburban soccer moms trying to feed their families healthfully.

At the forefront of this struggle is the Weston A. Price Foundation, with chapters in cities across the country. Weston Price advocates for a return to ways of eating that have historically made for healthy humans, and tend to avoid processed food, wheat, refined sugars, and soy. In an era obsessed with “nutrition” and terrified of saturated fats, it’s controversial to say that lard is a health food, and that you’d be better off eating a slab of rare steak than a hunk of wheat bread — but that’s exactly the kind of advice you’ll get from Weston A. Price champions like Sally Fallon Morrell.

Price was a dentist, and he studied diets from traditional societies around the world to find out which ones were the best for overall health. His research forms the basis of books like Nourishing Traditions, and makes for some delicious eating. But because of its promotion of raw foods — especially raw dairy — eaters who follow Price’s advice open themselves up to frightening persecution.

What do you think? Are food regulations too strict, or are they not strict enough? Certainly there’s ample evidence to support either opinion. For every raw-food buying club that gets raided there are hundreds of serious illnesses from contaminated industrial food.

Let us know what you think by visiting our Facebook page.

Happy Holidays! Save 35% with Code: CGFL12

Monday, December 17th, 2012

We continue our holiday sale this week, featuring books on the politics of sustainable living. Our political books are full of inspiring stories from the front lines of the movement to build resilient towns, and practical tools you can use to reinvigorate your own community.

Money is power, and local investment matters. Books like Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money by Woody Tasch, and Local Dollars, Local Sense by Michael Shuman show how bringing finance back home can improve the health of the soil, your local economy, and your pocketbook.

Power also comes from within. Books like our bestseller Don’t Think of an Elephant! by George Lakoff, and Get Up, Stand Up by psychologist Bruce E. Levine take the idea of politics to a personal level, and show that even the ways you think and speak affect how empowered you feel — and how much positive change you can enact in the world.

Stock up on inspiring and educational gifts for your friends and family from Chelsea Green (and don’t forget about yourself). Our books will inspire and empower you for years to come. Keep in mind that the last day for you to get holiday orders in is Thursday December 20th, as we will be closed for inventory from December 21st to January 2nd.

Happy Holidays from the Employee Owners at Chelsea Green Publishing!

P.S. Don’t forget to use the code CGFL12 when you checkout at chelseagreen.com.

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