Sciencewriters Archive


Celebrating 30 Years of Publishing and Planting Trees

Monday, December 1st, 2014

The internationally best-selling book The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, with wood engravings by Michael McCurdy, appeared in Chelsea Green’s first catalog in 1985 and has remained in print ever since. This powerful ecological fable continues to remain relevant, as you can read for yourself below, and best exemplifies our core publishing mission.

The following excerpt of this award-winning book appears in the forthcoming book, The Chelsea Green Reader, which is being published in celebration of our 30th anniversary as a book publisher. Each book excerpt is preceded by a short introduction, which we have included here.

Enjoy!

Jean Giono, one of France’s most celebrated twentieth-century novelists, wrote this ecological fable in the early 1950s. It was far ahead of its time. Chelsea Green persuaded the wood engraver and fine press publisher Michael McCurdy to make twenty engravings that dramatically enhance the book’s simple but powerful narrative. For the first time—almost three decades after its publication in Paris in Vogue magazine—the story appeared in book form in 1985. In time it became an international bestseller, and in 1992 Chelsea Green created an audio edition, with Boston’s WGBH classical music host Robert J. Lurtsema reading and original music by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

1ManWho

There was peace in being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural—or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flock to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water.ic by the Paul Winter Consort. In many ways this book embodies the spirit of our company.

I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his. His pasture was in a valley. He left the dog in charge of the little flock and climbed toward where I stood. I was afraid that he was about to rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all: this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge, about a hundred yards away.

There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care.

After the midday meal he resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted one hundred thousand. Of the hundred thousand, twenty thousand had sprouted. Of the twenty thousand he still expected to lose about half, to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained ten thousand oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.

That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzéard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

The oaks of 1910 were then ten years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understood that men could be as effectual as God in other realms than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before—that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed—and rightly—that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.

Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back toward the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villages I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows, rushes, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some natural caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzéard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposition. He was indetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificent generosity?

To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude: so total that, toward the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

Chelsea Green Publishing Turns 30!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Explore a slideshow of cover images from some of our most iconic books over the past 30 years. Excerpts from these books and close to 100 others are all part of a new Chelsea Green anthology celebrating our 30th anniversary – The Chelsea Green Reader.

This collection offers readers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

Take a walk down memory lane with us and check out this selection of book covers from 1985 to the present.

Indoor Oyster Mushrooms: Big Yield, Small Spaces

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Grow pounds of oyster mushrooms right in your home with fairly little effort and just a small amount of space. All you need is 16 square feet, a few plastic buckets, an organic material to the grow the mushrooms on, like spent coffee grounds, and some spawn. Use recycled or salvaged items and this hobby becomes a low cost investment that produces delicious returns you can eat and share with friends.

In the following excerpt from Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, mycologist and author Tradd Cotter shares his plan for a 4×4 indoor growing system. Also from Cotter’s book, learn how to grow mushrooms on your jeans, seriously!

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Urban Mushroom Cultivation
By Tradd Cotter

No forest? No spare garage? With a little creativity, mushrooms are easier to grow in tight places than you might think. You can grow a substantial amount of mushrooms by incorporating them into community or rooftop gardens, or even by growing them indoors in closets and spare bathrooms. Of course, the amount and type of space you might have can vary considerably. Some people have horizontal space; some have vertical space; some may have both. The key is to evaluate your situation—with a site analysis or, if you are indoors, a walk-through—and choose the methods that will help you maximize yields for your given situation.

Indoor Small-Space Cultivation
The most common and efficient mushrooms for fruiting indoors in small spaces are oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.). You’ll be surprised by how little space they take up. You can pasteurize small batches of growing medium on your stovetop. You do not need a humidified room; an extra bathroom or closet works fine as long as you provide a simple humidity tent over the fruiting cultures, so that the primordia don’t dry out and abort.

You can house as many as thirty 5-pound bags of inoculated fruiting substrate—enough to produce 8 to 10 pounds of oyster mushrooms a week—on a five-tiered rack placed near a window, which typically takes up about 6 square feet of floor space and rises to a height of about 6 feet (which coincidentally is very close to the size of a small closet, if you have an extra one you would like to devote to fruiting). Or you can cultivate them in buckets on spent coffee grounds. Wherever and however you grow in your small space, if you’re indoors be sure to provide ventilation to allow for gas exchange, add a fluorescent light if your setup isn’t near a window, and cover the rack or containers with a humidity tent. (I would line the floor and walls with plastic if you are experiencing excessive moisture buildup. The object is to provide extra humidity to the mushrooms, but you also need to protect your structure from excess water to avoid rot.)

The 4×4 Indoor System
This 4×4 system will require about two hours of work per week to maintain, but the returns are worth the effort. You can locate your containers in a closet, spare bedroom, or bathroom, or even outside during warmer months. The system is scalable depending on the container size. I call for 5-gallon buckets here, but you could also use pails from a local restaurant or stacking plastic bins in the 5- to 13-gallon range. Just pick a size that is appropriate to the space you have available and that you can easily fill with the amount of growing medium you can prepare on your stovetop. Oyster mushrooms fruit about three weeks after spawning and can flush at least three times over the course of thirteen weeks, so to keep your operation going consistently, you’ll use as many as fifteen containers. Drill 1/2-inch holes evenly spaced around the sides, about every 6 to 8 inches. Make sure all the containers have secure lids and can be stacked several units high without any danger of tipping.

To begin, procure your growing medium. This can be spent coffee grounds or any kind of pasteurized agricultural by-products, such as grasses and cereal straws. To pasteurize a substrate, heat a large pot of water, three-quarters full, to a near boil, then add dried plant debris such as shredded garden plants, chopped cereal straw, plant-based kitty litter, or any other organic material that can be used to grow oyster mushrooms. Push the floating medium down to submerge it, heating for one to two hours on low heat with the pot covered. Remove from the heat, drain all the water, and allow the medium to cool completely. You may have to pasteurize two separate batches to have enough substrate to fill the container completely; if you want to make it a onetime cooking event and you don’t mind having a smaller harvest, just use smaller containers, such as 2-gallon buckets. If you are having a hard time finding growing media for oyster mushrooms, try pet or livestock feed stores to see if they have any bulk shredded straw pellets (such as the Streufex type); or you can buy bags of wood pellets (for use in pellet stoves). Both shredded straw and fuel pellets are good for oyster mushroom substrate when you mix them with a little shredded alfalfa (from a pet supply store) as a nitrogen supplement.

Mix the growing medium with your spawn. You can do this right in your growing container, but to make things easier I generally mix the substrate and spawn in a larger tub and then transfer the mixture to the growing container. Fill the container, and then label it with the date, the substrate, and the type of spawn you used. (Keep a log and record what you are doing if you wish to improve your yields.) Snap the lid onto the spawned container, and move it to your growing space. Keep all your newly spawned containers under a loose layer of plastic; this forms both the humidity tent and the fruiting chamber.

Once you have a series of containers under way, you can organize them by the order in which you expect them to fruit. Oyster mushrooms will generally pin (begin forming mushrooms) in three weeks. Keep the pinning buckets in the front and any resting or colonizing buckets in the back. Once the mushrooms flush and you harvest them, you can rearrange the containers to position the buckets that will fruit next in the front. If you want to stagger the harvest, once the mushrooms are producing and harvested, let some of the buckets rest and dry out a little, which means pulling them out of the humidity tent and reducing misting for at least two weeks, then return them to the humidity tent and resume misting and watering.

The second flush will typically produce half the weight of the first, and the third will produce half of the second (5 pounds, 2.5 pounds, and 1.25 pounds, for example), so if you are making a container a week, all of the containers will have overlapping flushes producing different amounts. Weigh and add up the yields of each flush every week to see if you are producing too much or too little for your goals.

For calculating yields, after the first thirteen-week cycle, when your system is up and running and you have mushrooms in all stages of cultivation, I would use a starting estimate of 1.75 pounds of oyster mushrooms for every gallon of substrate you prepare every week. So my 5-gallon-bucket system should average 8.75 pounds a week.

The up-front costs for this system would probably run about $170: $65 for buckets, $10 for a shallow tub in which to mix the growing medium with the spawn, $20 for the growing medium, and $75 for three bags of spawn. Of course, it will be cheaper if you use secondhand or salvaged items. During your first thirteen-week cycle you will basically be paying off the cost of any purchased materials, but the return on your investment will only get better after that. Thereafter, your costs for every thirteen-week cycle will be for the spawn and the growing medium (approximately $95, or $7.31 per week).

Given potential yields of 8.75 pounds per week and a value of $10 per pound, this production system can be a good investment. Aside from preparing the growing medium and filling the weekly container, the only maintenance it needs will be to rotate the containers once a week, to mist frequently, and to harvest the wonderful, protein-rich mushrooms—enough for a family of four to enjoy year-round. What is amazing is that this entire system takes up only about a 4-foot by 4-foot space, or 16 square feet, but it can be scaled to produce as many mushrooms as you, your family, and your neighbors can use. And after the buckets are finished fruiting, you can add composting red wiggler worms to produce soil that can be used to grow greens and other vegetables on sunny balconies and rooftops!

Growing Food in the Face of Global Warming

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

If you want proof of how difficult it is to grow food in the face of global warming, look no further than the food basket of the United States. There, especially in California, soils are crumbling, drying, and the fight over water resources is increasing between farmers, cities, and rural residents. Crop insurance rates are on the rise as are food prices, and there’s no relief in sight.

This climatic uncertainty is forcing farmers, gardeners, and orchardists to desperately seek new ways to adapt how they grow food in the face of climate change. In his most recent Chelsea Green book, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, author and ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan—one of the world’s foremost experts on agricultural traditions in arid lands—offers time-tested strategies to not merely adapt, but thrive, in dry growing conditions.

As Nabhan noted in this New York Times Opinion piece, roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the entire United States comes from 17 Western states, and the ongoing drought threatens our food security:

[C]attle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons, hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits. The current heat wave will undeniably diminish both the quality and quantity of these foods.

The most vulnerable crops are those that were already in flower and fruit when temperatures surged, from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. Idaho farmers have documented how their potato yields have been knocked back because their heat-stressed plants are not developing their normal number of tubers. Across much of the region, temperatures on the surface of food and forage crops hit 105 degrees, at least 10 degrees higher than the threshold for most temperate-zone crops.

What’s more, when food and forage crops, as well as livestock, have had to endure temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the long-term averages, they require far more water than usual. The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and groundwater supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.

From retaining moisture and nutrients in soils to reducing heat stress on crops and livestock, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land offers detailed diagrams, descriptions, and real-life examples of how you can implement these desert-adapted strategies for your backyard, farm, or orchard.

As more of North America is impacted by drought, this book is increasingly a necessity for any farmer or gardener, or even eaters who care about where their food comes from and how it’s grown.

Below is a chapter on how to reduce stress on crops and livestock.

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Chapter 5

In Memoir, Environmental Insider Calls for Radical Change

Monday, October 20th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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A Conversation with Author Gus Speth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

In Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman — a longtime vegetarian — argues that cattle are neither inherently bad for the Earth nor is meat bad for our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe.

Hahn Niman, a former environmental attorney and activist, dispels popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world the author shows how foods from cattle – milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass – are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.

She also criticizes the modern, industrial food system — especially as it pertains to meat production — for being harmful to animals, the environment, and our health. Here’s a short excerpt from the book’s final analysis:

“I will be the first to agree that industrial methods for raising farm animals are indefensible, and I believe all people should join in rejecting them. Having seen it in all its gory details, I have no qualms about calling industrialized animal production a routinized form of animal torture. While Prohibitionists attacking innocent apple trees with axes seem absurd to us today, a lot of discussion over the ethics of meat eating likewise focuses on the wrong villain. Industrial animal production is rightly vilified; animal farming, on the other hand, is not.

What has really fostered my interest in the debate over meat eating is not a desire to encourage meat consumption but a longing for some nuance in the discussion. The issue is far from black-and-white, and polarized camps lobbing accusations at each other only hinder movement toward a better system. Building a food system that is more ecological and more humane is far more important to me than whether or not so-and-so is eating meat.

I believe the real issue is whether we humans are living up to our responsibilities of good stewardship of animals and the earth. Michael Pollan and others have proposed the idea that animals “chose” domestication based on a sort of “bargain” with humanity.  (…) However, it’s reasonable to assume, as well, that animals would never have opted for such an arrangement if torture had been part of the deal. Stated simply: By raising animals in factory farms, humans are violating their age-old contract with domesticated animals.

(…)

Individuals and groups are rightly concerned about adequate food supplies for the future. But they would do well to focus their attention on this imminent crisis, and on the way livestock are managed on the land, rather than on the absolute number of livestock, which has little significance. Properly managed grazing animals are an important part of the solution to feeding the world in the future.”

 For more from Defending Beef, click here to read the Preface and Introduction.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

Grow Mushrooms on Your Jeans. Seriously.

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Thinking about getting rid of that pair of worn out jeans? Think again. You could use them to grow mushrooms. That’s right, mushrooms.

Mycologist Tradd Cotter has been experimenting with mushroom cultivation for more than 20 years. Through his ongoing research he has not only discovered the best ways to successfully grow morels but also how to use fungi to help manage invasive species and reduce our dependence on herbicides. How Cotter figured out that mushrooms could be grown on old clothing perfectly illustrates how he’s constantly finding ways to learn from our fungi friends.

In the excerpt below from his new book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter provides an easy, step-by-step outline of how anyone can grow oyster mushrooms using the most unlikeliest of materials – a pair of jeans.

Don’t have a lot of space? Not a problem. Oyster mushrooms are perfect for fruiting indoors and in small spaces. All you need for this fun(gi) project is some clothing scraps, water, a plastic bag or container, and a little mushroom mycelium.

Happy mushrooming!

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Cultivating Mushrooms on Clothing

By Tradd Cotter

I started growing mushrooms on clothes when I first became interested in mycoremediation of waste dyes and pigments. There was a textile mill near our farm that manufactured denim for the production of jeans and other clothing. My wife Olga and I went to the mill one day and were greeted by a few friendly folks. I told them I was interested in remediating the indigo carmine they were allowed to release into the waterway based on EPA daily allowable standards. They looked at me a bit nervously, as if I were a whistle-blowing undercover environmentalist; picking up on that, I quickly told them about my mycoremediation research and passions. The man I was speaking to happened to be the owner, and he was excited to hear about the prospect of lessening the mill’s environmental impact. The following week I decided to grow mushrooms on old jeans to see if they could decolorize the indigo carmine that makes them blue.

My first experiment was a success, with oyster mushrooms colonizing and fruiting very well on old cotton jeans, but the decolorization of the indigo carmine that I expected was not evident. Turkey tail mushrooms and a few other species are more efficient at the decolorization process, but what I learned is that old cotton clothing can support fruiting oyster mushrooms. (This could be potentially valuable survival information for anyone directly impacted by a natural disaster, where there is a huge amount of debris, but food is scarce.) Old cotton shirts, bits of rugs, hemp and sisal rope—any material composed of natural plant fibers, including cotton, hemp, and bamboo, can be used to cultivate mushrooms. It only needs water and a bit of oyster mushroom mycelium to get started.

Step-By-Step Cultivation on Clothing

Step 1. Soak the clothing in fresh water. The water does not have to be sterile or clean, only free of heavy metals.

Step 2. Flatten the clothing on a surface. Sprinkle the mushroom starter culture over the surface sparingly. Remember, more spawn will speed the process, not necessarily produce more mushrooms.

Step 3. Roll the clothing tightly, or if you have more than one article of clothing, stack it in spawned layers. Place the clothing in a plastic bag or an enclosed container with a few holes.

Step 4. Check the moisture content of the clothing every few days during colonization to make sure the fabric does not dry out; mist or water it as needed. Room temperature or cooler is perfectly fine for colonizing clothing scraps.

Step 5. When the entire mass of clothing seems to have been completely colonized by the mycelium, increase ventilation by adding more holes or cracking the lid of the container, but not enough that the clothing will quickly dry out. Keep the surfaces misted slightly to induce mushroom formation. The colonization process can vary from one to two weeks depending on how much spawn you use. At this point the mushrooms are not interested in fruiting so no light is needed to promote primordia formation.

Step 6. Once mushrooms begin to appear, which can occur a few days to weeks after colonization depending on temperatures and spawn amount used, they will double in size every day. Mist as frequently as needed to keep the mushrooms from drying out at a young state. When the mushrooms stop growing, they are ready to harvest.

 

Carbon Shock-onomics: Climate and the Economy

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Millions of people take to the streets this weekend around the world — with tens of thousands headed to New York City for the People’s Climate March — to show that people want action from global leaders, not more talk when it comes to responding to the growing climate crisis.

Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro, author of Carbon Shock, has pulled together some key facts that all climate marchers should know about the climate and the economy — today, and going forward as climate talks take shape next year in Paris.

carbon-shockTHE COSTS
Climate change is the biggest economic challenge of our times. The world’s two biggest economies—the US and Europe—estimate hundreds of billions of dollars in costs from heat waves, floods, and an accelerating wave of climate refugees fleeing lands on which they can no longer sustain themselves.

WHO PAYS?
The public takes the risk and the fossil fuel intensive industries make the profits. That’s why the true costs of fossil fuels are called ‘externalized’ costs—costs that are often hidden through dishonest, but perfectly legal, accounting. Who pays those costs? Taxpayers. You and me.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Companies
Just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. Three thousand of the world’s biggest companies cause $2.15 trillion in annual environmental costs, most of those relating to climate change, according to a UN report.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Consumers
A quarter of China’s greenhouse gases can be attributed to the production of goods for export to the US and Europe. Who is responsible for those emissions: the producer or the consumer?

THE TRADE WARS
The first climate trade war is being fought by the US, China & Russia against Europe, over the European Union’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases coming from airplanes, which contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than any other form of transportation.

FOOD & WATER
Two of the greatest threats to the US government’s finances are the looming costs of the federally subsidized crop insurance system, due to climate-related drought and intensifying heat, and flood insurance.

AN OIL SPILL A DAY
Whether greenhouse gases are emitted from a car’s gas tank in New York or a gushing oil rig off the Louisiana coast, to the planet it’s the same: We’re letting loose an oil spill a day into the atmosphere. Every conventional U.S car comes with $2,000 in greenhouse gas-related lifetime costs, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WHAT WE MUST DO
Honest accounting: Set a global price for carbon to reflect its damage to the planet. Take the green dividend and invest in a low-carbon, equitable, economy that supports renewable energy, local food, public transportation, and livable communities.

 

Climate March Poster by Shepard Fairey

Take it Slow: 15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Have you ever wanted to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy? Simple. Learn how to ride a unicycle. Or, if that’s not your speed you could follow a few of author Mark Schimmoeller’s thoughtful, guiding principles.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s lessons are relatable and strike a deeply human chord. Take a read through his book, Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America, and you’ll see what we mean.

His memoir is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness.

Peppered throughout the book are what Schimmoeller considers his “guiding principles”—moments of often humorous, pithy advice on how unicycling is inherently connected with the nature of slowness and the art of getting there, no matter where “there” exists. Fifteen of these principles from Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America are listed below.

In Schimmoeller’s characteristically unassuming way, these best practices appear to be for fellow unicyclists, but truthfully he is reminding us that it isn’t the means of transportation that matters.

These ruminations on the importance of mindfulness end up speaking to each of us, if not as literal unicyclists, then as travelers traversing often rocky terrain without stopping to enjoy the view.

Could you benefit from taking a moment to slow down to a unicyclist’s pace? How many of the following guiding principles can you relate to? Share your favorite on Facebook or Twitter today using #slowspoke.

15 Life Lessons from a Unicyclist

(adapted from Slowspoke: A Unicyclists Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller)

  1. Relax the emphasis on arrival.
  2. In squandering time you demonstrate its availability.
  3. Unicyclists must become devotees of anticipation.
  4. If you find yourself looking up at the sky instead of at the terrain in front of your wheel, it’s likely you have fallen.
  5. Don’t go on a straight road unless you can curb your desire to get someplace.
  6. Adventure begins only from a feeling of security.
  7. Motion without consideration of beginnings and endings can shelter a unicyclist from time and speed and progress.
  8. The art of unicycling is knowing, in part, when to give in to desire.
  9. It doesn’t make a difference one way or the other if a unicyclist takes a break.
  10. The act of falling partway plus corrections equals movement.
  11. The simple act of reducing your velocity…could eliminate a significant number of sharp turns in the world.
  12. It’s conceivable that someone could study wobbliness long enough to discover a corollary of strength.
  13. When it comes to attracting the opposite sex, don’t compete with bicyclists.
  14. There are limits, too, to slowness on a unicycle…The pace should inch just ahead of sorrow.
  15. A unicycle is who you are. For whatever reason, you are not any other form of transportation. You are a unicycle. Please love yourself.

Photo: Roger Cornfoot, Wikimedia Commons


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