Sciencewriters Archive


5 Shareable Strategies for Creating Climate Action

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

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

What is the reason for this paradoxical truth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Social: Use the Power of Social Networks

Use social norms to motivate others to:

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

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

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

2. Supportive: Use Positive Framings

When speaking of climate, frame it as:

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

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

Some examples

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

4. Stories: Tell Better Climate Stories

Avoid apocalypse narratives, and instead tell stories about:

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

When telling stories, make them:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find more from Per Espen:

BoingBoing,  “The 5 Psychological Barriers to Climate Action” 

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

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

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

Watch Per Espen Stoknes’ interview with Thom Hartmann:

Illustrations by Iona Fox

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

Monday, April 6th, 2015

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

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

For Further Reading

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

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

 A Conversation with Per Espen Stoknes

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

New Audiobook—Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

If you’ve ever yearned to slow down, let life’s winds wobble you, and devote yourself to the act of anticipation rather than immediacy, then learn to ride a unicycle. Or, you could follow the thoughtful and guiding principles of  author, homesteader, and unicyclist Mark Schimmoeller in his latest book Slowspoke.

Now available as an audiobook, listen along as the author reads from this inspiring, and engrossing, tale that blends cross-country unicyclying, finding one’s true love, and learning how to fight for what is truly important in your life, and that of your family.

Even for those of us who have never experienced the peculiar pleasure of seeing the world from atop a unicycle, Schimmoeller’s book and the life lessons it contains are relatable no matter how many wheels get you from place to place. 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.

See what we mean by listening to the following sample of the audiobook that is now available at Audible. Narrated by Schimmoeller himself, he describes setting off on his journey and what he packed—books, food, and money for along the way. Enjoy the ride, the slow, slow ride.

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.

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.

Book Exposes Scientific Fraud, Collusion on GMOs

Monday, March 9th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the full interview with Dr. Mercola and Druker:

 

The Seed Series: Choosing the Right Seed Crop

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

The vast majority of seed-propagated vegetables most used worldwide fall into nine plant families. Understanding the characteristics of these particular families will give you a better idea of which crops are best suited for your climate.

In the following excerpt from the award-winning book The Organic Seed Grower, author John Navazio provides some key questions you should be asking to determine if a crop will grow where you live.

For more seed-related content, check out all our excerpts from “The Seed Series:”
Seed Saving Basics by Janisse Ray
Become a Plant Breeder by Carol Deppe
Three Steps to Start Your Plants Off Right by Ben Hewitt
A DIY Seed Bank by Carol Deppe

* * * * *

SEED CROP CLIMATES
By John Navazio

While there are several dozen plant families that contain species of crop plants that are commonly used by different agricultural societies around the world, there are only nine families that house the great majority of seed-propagated vegetables that are the most important across most cultures worldwide. Through learning a bit about the characteristics of these nine families of the most cultivated vegetable crops, it is possible to get a better feel for which crops are best suited to a particular climate, especially when growing them as a seed crop.

SEED PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

There are a number of prominent characteristics of cultivated plants that are quite similar within the nine plant families in which most of our vegetable crops are found. One of the first things someone researching our cultivated crop plants finds is that closely related crops within a particular family usually share a number of prominent features. We know that different crops within the same family often share certain phenotypic traits, such as structural or reproductive characteristics.

Flower structure has long been a principal way of categorizing plants into families. The type and structure of the fruit, which is indeed a fertilized ovary of the flower, has also classically been used to assign different plants of the angiosperms (the true flowering plants) to various species and genera. As to structural features, we all know that crop species in the same family usually share a common leaf type, arrangement of their leaves on the main stem, type of stem, and so forth.

Plant structure can also be a reflection of the function of a particular part of the plant. Certainly as you get to know the different crop members of a plant family you may begin to see more of the commonalities among these species. This way of viewing crops can prove quite useful when you consider growing unfamiliar seed crops for the first time and realize that it is possible to culturally handle them in a similar fashion to a seed crop with which you have experience.

Here are a few categories in which crops within a particular family share traits that will help you decide whether the crop is suited to your environment:

1. Evolutionary past

  • Center of origin. Is your climate similar to that of its evolutionary past?
  • Climate. Is your climate similar to the climate where it’s currently grown?
  • Structure and flower parts of the family definitely relate to shared ancestry.

2. Environment. Characterize the climate that the crop thrives in.

  • Cool-season crops need cool weather to mature high-germination seed.
  • Intermediate crops will grow in cool or warm climes and mature seed in warm conditions.
  • Heat lovers need heat to thrive and produce high-germ seed.

3. Life cycle. While some patterns exist across families, there are clearly families that contain annual/biennial/perennial species.

  • Annuals complete their entire life cycle in one season.
  • Winter annuals are planted for fall growth and flowering early in the next growing season.
  • Biennials need most of two seasons to complete their life cycle, with vernalization between the first season of vegetative growth and the second season of reproductive growth.
  • Perennials. This includes very few seed-propagated vegetable crops.

4. Daylength sensitivity. Is the crop sensitive to daylength?

  • Daylength-sensitive crops only flower at certain daylengths.
  • Daylength-neutral crops flower at various daylengths.

5. Reproductive biology. Self-pollinated species versus cross-pollinated species.

  • Cross-pollinated species. Is on-farm isolation possible?
    • Wind-pollinated. Pollen travels far and doesn’t require insects.
    • Insect-pollinated. Are pollinating insects present?
  • Self-pollinated species. How many on-farm isolations are possible?
    • Faithful selfers are highly self-pollinated; several crops are possible.
    • Promiscuous selfers—how many isolations are possible?

6. Presence of disease. Is disease a limiting factor in your environment?

  • Diseases of the vegetative stage—is it a limiting factor?
  • Seedborne diseases—are they endemic and economically limiting?

7. Presence of insect pests. Are insects a limiting factor in your environment?

  • Insects of the vegetative stage—are these a limiting factor?
  • Insects of the seed—are they endemic and economically limiting?

CLIMATIC ZONES

Here is a reference list of the four major climatic types in which vegetable seed crops are grown. The important climatic considerations that determine each zone’s suitability are given, followed by the crops that are most well adapted to that particular zone. Note that some crops are suited to more than one climate and therefore have a wider adaptation to environmental conditions for producing high quality.

Cool-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

All dry-seeded crops are formed in dry pods or in clusters along the stem of the plant and are essentially harvested like grains. They produce the best quality seed when they mature and are harvested in seasonally dry, low-humidity regions; the so-called Mediterranean climate. These cool-season, dry-seeded crops are best grown in the cooler reaches of the Mediterranean climate, where cool, often wet weather predominates during prolonged springs, and summers are mild and dry with little or no rainfall through harvest. Cool-season crops do not handle hot weather, especially through the earliest stages of their reproductive cycle. These crops form the highest quality seed when temperatures are generally somewhere between 60 and 75°F (16 to 24°C) during pollination, fertilization, and the earliest stages of embryo and endosperm development in late spring and early summer. After this initial formation and development of the seed they are able to tolerate average summer daytime high temperatures between 75 and 85°F (24 to 29°C) but thrive in relatively cool summers, especially where daytime high temperatures rarely exceed 80°F (27°C) to produce the highest-quality seed.

Seed crops that excel under these conditions: Spinach, beet, cilantro, Asian greens, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, parsnip, mustards, Swiss chard

Warm-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

This climate is similar to the Cool-Season Dry-Seeded parameters above but with temperatures that are consistently warmer throughout all the months of the growing season. Warmer spring temperatures result in more rapid early growth and development for these crops over the cool-season dry-seeded crops. Daytime high temperatures during flowering and seed setting should generally not exceed 78 to 85°F (26 to 29°C). But after this initial formation and development of the seed these crops are able to routinely tolerate summer daytime average high temperatures between 85 and 92°F (29 to 33°C) when producing high-quality seed.

Seed crops that excel under these conditions: Broccoli, kale, collards, celery, radish, turnip, lettuce, Swiss chard, favas, peas, runner beans, parsley, endive, escarole, and chicories.

 

Hot-Season Dry-Seeded Crops

All dry-seeded crops do best when there is little or no rainfall during seed maturation and harvest. This lessens the incidence of diseases of all kinds, especially seedborne diseases, and it lowers the threat of excessive rainfall shattering the seedheads that form with all dry-seeded crops. While summer highs do regularly exceed 92°F (33°C), a number of these crops must complete their early reproductive stages of pollination and anthesis to mature a high-germinating, high-quality seed crop, while early season daytime temperatures are between 80 and 92°F (27 and 33°C).

Crops that excel under these conditions: Garden beans, lima beans, edamame, carrot, onion, and sweet corn.

Hot-Season Wet-Seeded Crops

The wet-seeded moniker refers both to the fact that most of the fruit of these crops is wet but also to the method used to extract the fruit, which is extracted through a wet fermentation or a series of water rinses (see Seed Harvest for each individual crop). These crops are all heat lovers from the moment they are planted. They depend on warm spring temperatures that average above 65°F (18°C), to establish good early growth and need warm nighttime temperatures to realize a decent yield and mature a high-germinating, high-quality seed crop. Temperatures may routinely exceed 90°F (32°C) during flowering and early fruit and seed set,* and unlike the dry-seeded crops, some humidity is tolerated; in fact, the presence of humidity often is responsible for holding the heat into the evening and nighttime hours.

Crops that excel under these conditions: Cucumbers, melons, watermelons, summer squash, winter squash, bitter melon, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. (*The exception for this group is cucumber, which does prefer slightly cooler temperatures.)

Drill, Plug, Wax, Wait: Four Easy Steps to Growing Mushrooms Outdoors

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Grow your own mushrooms outdoors with this simple four step tutorial from Tradd Cotter, author of the new book Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation. All you need is a log, some mushroom starter, and a couple basic tools and you are on your way to producing gourmet mushrooms for years to come.

To demonstrate how easy it is, in the video below Cotter shows you how to inoculate a log in just 60 seconds.

For more mushroom guidance, check out his entire collection of 90+ videos. You’ll find information on fungi identification, cultivation tips, and even a few unexpected shorts like hunting the elusive snow morel and growing mushrooms on your cat (cat blooper reel embedded below).

Blooper Reel: Even our furry friends love getting in on the mushroom growing action.
Don’t worry, no cats were harmed in the making of this video.

10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do?

We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading list. With topics ranging from sustainable meat production to the secret lives of black bears to life lessons from a contrary farmer, and more, these books are sure to lighten up your days and keep your mind active long after the first signs of spring.

So throw another log on the fire, grab a blanket, and tuck in for the long haul with these new and classic favorites from Chelsea Green.

Winter Reading List

An Unlikely Vineyard by Deirdre Heekin
Ranked one of the best wine books of 2014 by The New York Times, An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment. Accompanied throughout by lush photography, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.
Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller
Slowspoke 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. Schimmoeller intersperses recollections of his journey with vignettes of his present-day, off-the-grid homesteading with his wife in Kentucky and their effort to save an old growth forest. This memoir, deemed “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere” by Publishers Weekly, will help you slow down and appreciate every winter day.
Grass, Soil, Hope by Courtney White
This book tackles an increasingly crucial question: What can we do about the seemingly intractable challenges confronting all of humanity today, including climate change, global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, and economic instability? White believes the answer lies in the soil beneath our feet and our efforts to sequester carbon.
In the Company of Bears by Benjamin Kilham
In this book, Kilham unveils his groundbreaking work observing communication and interactions between wild black bears. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Kilham comes to discover that thinking differently is truly his greatest tool for understanding the natural world. You might not master the art of hibernation this winter, but In the Company of Bears will open your mind to the insights the non-human world can offer. Now available as an audio book!
Angels By the River by Gus Speth
In this compelling memoir, you follow Speth’s unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism. Speth calls for a new environmentalism to confront the complex challenges of today.
Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever by Gene Logsdon
How do farmers relate to life and death? In this collection of essays, Logsdon reflects on the intimate connection farmers have with the food chain through his experiences as a farmer up to his most recent bout with cancer. Kirkus gives this book a starred review and calls it a “perceptive and understatedly well-written meditation.”
Carbon Shock by Mark Schapiro
It may be cold outside, but things are heating up in the atmosphere. Schapiro’s book is an investigative study into the relationship between climate change and the economy. His in-depth analysis into the cost of carbon in our daily lives will inspire you to not only think deeply about the impact of climate change, but also to put on another sweater.
Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman
Niman writes from the unique perspective of an environmental lawyer and vegetarian turned cattle rancher. In her latest book, she explains how, contrary to public opinion, cattle are neither inherently bad for the earth nor for our nutritional health. She convincingly shows how, with proper oversight, cattle can play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems and are an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system. According to the LA Times, Niman’s argument for sustainable meat production “skewers the sacred cows of the anti-meat orthodoxy.”
The Seed Underground by Janisse Ray
In this award-winning book, Ray explores the crucial value of saving seeds in the local food movement and shares stories from numerous seed savers, as well as tips on how to save seeds yourself.
Taste, Memory by David Buchanan
In this book, Buchanan examines the relationship between past and present farming through the value of culturally forgotten foods and new varieties. He draws from his experiences as a grower of various heirloom species to show that thoughtful selection is necessary when matching diverse species with the needs of a particular land and climate.

New Audio Books: Bears and Elephants Oh My!

Friday, December 12th, 2014

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

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

Happy Listening!

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!

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

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

In the Company of Bears

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

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

Chelsea Green Publishing Turns 30!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

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

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

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

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!

*****

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!


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