Politics & Social Justice Archive


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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Playing Nuclear Roulette in Vermont

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vermont Yankee: The Green Mountain State vs. the NRC

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

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

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

Tritium + Entergy = Perjury

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

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

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

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

Entergy Sues Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock the Vote — Or Rock the Boat?

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Less than one week remains before the 2012 elections. Last month we rounded up the ballot initiatives we’re most concerned about. How are these campaigns faring as the final weeks pass? Here’s a quick update on key issues important to the sustainably-minded.

THE FIGHT AGAINST GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOODS HEATS UP IN CALIFORNIA

The biggest issue facing homesteaders and anyone who cares about the state of agriculture today is encapsulated by California’s Proposition 37. This bill is the first serious ballot initiative ever to insist that foods containing genetically-modified organisms be clearly labeled so that consumers can choose whether or not we want to eat them.

For months, the pro-labeling cohort in California was polling way ahead of the opposition — but since the opposition is funded by big biotech corporations to the tune of millions of dollars, that overwhelming support has been eroded by misleading TV ads and even by illegal tactics such as impersonating government agencies in mailings.

Luckily, there’s still time to convince voters that the bill is important, and even if you don’t live in California you can help! Volunteer to phone bank for the issue, calling undecided voters and convincing them to vote yes on Prop 37. Find more information here.

Chelsea Green carries a number of books and DVDs on the trouble with GMOs. Author Jeffrey Smith’s books are still some of the best available, and his filmed talks are informative and inspiring. Take a look at the book Genetic Roulette, the DVD of the same name, and Seeds of Deception.

Coming next spring, Steven Druker’s new book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth will be another great resource for the movement. Currently, the first eight chapters of the book are available as an ebook sample, available for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

POLLS SHOW WIDESPREAD SUPPORT FOR MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION

Marijuana is Safer argues that the public health problems caused by alcohol are far worse than those caused by pot, yet pot users are treated like criminals law enforcement. It doesn’t make sense, and for years campaigns to decriminalize the use of marijuana have been popping up across the nation. This year, according to NORML, polls are showing that many of the initiatives have enough support to pass. Of particular interest in 2012 is Colorado’s Amendment 64. From author Paul Armentano’s organization NORML:

“NORML enthusiastically endorses the Amendment 64. It restores the rights of adults who find marijuana a safer alternative to alcohol and tobacco. It preserves the rights of patients for whom marijuana is a safe and effective alternative to potentially addictive and fatal prescription drugs.”

Is there a measure on the ballot to end the war on pot in your state? Take a look at the various campaigns listed by NORML, here.

BINDERS FULL OF WOMEN?

Women’s rights are, unfortunately, up for grabs this election year as well. Not directly, but if you believe the campaign rhetoric then a vote for Mitt Romney for President is a vote against the historic Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Not to mention conservative lawmakers continued absurd failure to grasp basic biology, or the fact that rape is — quite simply — a terrible crime.

Women’s rights issues are family issues, as President Barack Obama has been repeating for weeks. Madeleine M. Kunin’s book The New Feminist Agenda comes from exactly the same standpoint: in order to ensure women are treated equally, their role as family caretakers must be acknowledged and accommodated. For far too long women have been forced to make the impossible choice between career and motherhood. It’s time to re-imagine what equality looks like, and although we’re not in the business of endorsing candidates around here, we think it’s fairly clear that America isn’t going to solve these problems with nothing but “binders full of women.”

Corporate head offices full of women, Senate seats full of women, heck, even an Oval Office full of women? Now, that might do the trick.

ON POLITICS AND POWER IN GENERAL…

The national elections are filling the airwaves with “stuff”, as Joe Biden so politely put it in the Vice Presidential debate, but the high-rolling, high-tech campaigns are not the only realm of politics — and the power struggle embodied by the Democrats and Republicans is not the most important battle.

Chances are your hometown has some decisions to make too. Our new book Slow Democracy is a breath of fresh air in these times. An excerpt recently posted on CommonDreams explains the concept here.

“We propose Slow Democracy.  We recognize that the term is its own punch line: isn’t government agonizingly slow already?  Joking aside, our democracy has much to learn from the paradigm shift of the various “slow” movements.  Instead of seeing politics as the exclusive province of Washington, we should focus on the democratic possibilities in the neighborhoods and towns right where we live.  Local communities have the ability to address fundamental issues and create real change. Many of them have already done so.”

Read the rest of the excerpt at CommonDreams.org.

Never forget, even when you’re asked to make an absurd choice between an unsatisfying and deceitful incumbent, and a duplicitous, cynical newcomer, real power comes from within.

Bruce E. Levine articulates this in his latest book Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite. His recent article made waves online by asking the question, why are Americans so easy to manipulate?

The answer, according to Levine, traces the dodgy history of behaviorism in psychology, which rose alongside the consumer culture we’re so enmeshed in today.

“The corporatization of society requires a population that accepts control by authorities, and so when psychologists and psychiatrists began providing techniques that could control people, the corporatocracy embraced mental health professionals.”

Read the entire article here.

Levine’s ideas touch on controversial subjects such as the likely uselessness of psychiatric drugs, and the collusion of government with corporate oligarchs, but his message is empowering. If we open our eyes, come together, and stop accepting injustice, we can win, and we can fight for a better world than any political campaign is selling.

Slow Democracy is Here!

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

A Presidential election year always tests the patience of calm, thoughtful Americans who are often looking for serious solutions to the ills that face our communities.

Instead, we’re forced to listen to representatives from the two dominant corporate political parties do rhetorical cartwheels in the attempt to differentiate themselves — when really we know that who ever is elected chief for the next four years will probably act just about the same.

Real issues never come up in national elections. Case in point: Last week President Obama and Governor Romney actually argued about who could make gas prices go down. In an era of peak oil, climate change and increasing demand — really?!

Luckily, there are other ways of getting things done, making progress and taking care of your own neck of the woods — the community you care about most — in ways that are engaging, inclusive and empowering. Toward that noble end, we are proud to introduce our latest book, Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home.

Authors Susan Clark and Woden Teachout offer examples from around the country of how towns and cities have come together to think creatively about how to solve their own problems, avoiding top-down decision making, partisan divisiveness, and finding solutions no expert would have had the understanding to propose.

Clark recently appeared on Vermont Edition. “Voting isn’t enough,” she told the hosts, “Democracy doesn’t happen in 20 minutes every 4 years.” Listen to the entire show here.How did these two women end up writing the book? The Preface introduces each one, and tells a little about where their ideas come from. It’s a great way to get acquainted with the concept of Slow Democracy, and you can read it right here.

Slow Democracy: Preface


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