Simple Living Archive


The Art of Fermentation is Now a New York Times Bestseller!

Friday, July 13th, 2012

All you fermentation fanatics, it’s time to get out your crocks, lift a glass of kombucha and rejoice! Thanks, in part, to you and your devotion to this craft The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz is now a New York Times bestseller! Sandor’s weighty tome of all things fermented landed Friday at number 14 in the “Hardcover Advice and Miscellaneous” category.

Sandor’s bubbling up to the Times list marks only the fourth time in company history that one of Chelsea Green Publishing’s books has made it to the bestseller list. Chelsea Green’s previous books that made the Times‘ bestseller list were: Don’t Think of an Elephant! by George Lakoff (2004); The End of America by Naomi Wolf (2007); and, Obama’s Challenge by Robert Kuttner (2008).

At Number 14 on the list, Sandor’s book was tucked in between Go the Fuck to Sleep (13) and How Will You Measure Your Life? (15) on the Times’ extended list.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Sandor’s book, take a moment to:

In the meantime, we want to extend a big congratulations to Sandor — a well-deserved honor for this self-described fermentation fetishist whose workshops and pure enthusiasm and joy for this age-old, DIY craft have helped to fuel its renaissance. How many of you out  there own his earlier book Wild Fermentation? I thought so.

It’s been a heady couple of weeks here at Chelsea Green: We were named 2011 Independent Publisher of the Year by ForeWord Reviews; we just announced that the company’s ownership has been transferred to its employees; and, now a New York Times bestseller.

What a way to close out the first half of the year, eh? And, we still have another half of a year to go. Whew.

Transition Essentials: No.1 – Food

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, runs an active and informative blog about the movement called TransitionCulture. He’s just started a series exploring various ingredients of successful Transition towns, starting with food.

So here’s something we’ll try, and see if you find it useful.  I was in Clitheroe recently in Lancashire, and chatted with a couple of people involved in Transition Clitheroe.  I asked them what else Transition Network could do to support their work, were there materials we could produce that would help them?  They said that in fact Transition Network put out so much stuff that they struggled to keep up with it, and that perhaps some kind of a digest would be useful.  It reminded me of Lee Brain from Transition Prince Rupert telling me that in their group they have someone whose role is ‘keeping up with Transition’.  So I thought I would try today to do a digest of the key films, articles, projects and links out there, and see what you think of it and what’s missing.  I thought we’d start with food:

Some food background …

In terms of a good grounding in the wider issues around Transition and food, the book we published on the subject, ‘Local Food’ by Tamzin Pinkerton and Rob Hopkins, is now unfortunately out of print, but can be bought as a download and for the Kindle here.  A great overview of the wider arguments in terms of peak oil, localisation and food is the very popular BBC programme called ‘A Farm for the Future’:

Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

And this short film, from Transition Forest Row in Sussex, shows how one Transition initiative is rethinking food supply:

Transition ingredients about food

‘The Transition Companion’ included a number of ingredients that distilled out the learnings so far about food and Transition.  There’s Local food initiatives, which gives a sense of the breadth of projects that  Transition groups can get involved in.  Ensuring land access explores the diversity of ways in which Transition groups can find places to grow things.  Meaningful Maps explores how maps can be useful for local food initiatives.  Social enterprise and entrepreneurship suggests that we need to increasingly be thinking about how to turn food projects into livelihoods and Strategic thinking suggests we need to see food initiatives in a wider context of the intentional localisation of the place we live.  Community supported farms, bakeries and breweries is pretty self-explanatory really.  Then here is some of the nitty-gritty of what Transition groups get up to in practice:

Growing food in public spaces…

This is one of the places many Transition groups get started.  Here are some good examples:

In Bath, Transition Bath took over a part of a local public park, Hedgemead Park, and as this video so beautifully shows, turned it into ‘Vegmead Park’ instead:

…and in London, Transition Kensal to Kilburn are growing food on their local underground station:

The sky is the limit in terms of how and where your Transition initiative might think about growing food.  Some take inspiration from the Incredible Edible model that started in Todmorden, for example Saltash in Transition.  Others set up new community gardens, such as Transition Hythe‘sHere is a useful resource from Graham Burnett of Southend in Transition, a guide created with the NHS for novice gardeners.

Keep reading…

Rob Hopkins at TEDx Exeter

Friday, May 18th, 2012

The problems of peak oil and climate change are complex, global, and impossibly daunting. It’s easy to take a long, hard look at them and quickly throw your hands up in despair over ever finding a solution that will help our species avoid the disruption of our post-industrial way of life, and some sort of catastrophic decline at the point resources become critically scarce.

Back in 2008, Rob Hopkins wrote a little book about one way to do it — to look at the problem dead on and find a way around it. The Transition Handbook introduced the idea of intentional community effort toward increasing resilience, or the ability of the community to bounce back if something bad happens. Since then, the Transition Towns movement has spread around the world, from the British town of Totnes where it began, to Brazil, and the United States — all over.

Where does the movement stand today? What sorts of things have communities tackled on their quest to relocalize their resource footprint? What do the successes look like, what about the communities who didn’t succeed?

In The Transition Companion, a new book by Hopkins, we get to take a tour through the world of Transition Towns and find out. The book is arranged almost like a cookbook, albeit one with a single giant recipe. The elements that have worked for various communities are outlined as “ingredients,” with pictures, examples, and input from the people who have put them to work.

Just last week we got to see a TEDx talk with Rob Hopkins, in which he tells the story of Transition Town Totnes himself. It’s an inspiring tale indeed.

In case you’d rather read than watch, here’s a transcript of the talk.

Truthout recently published an interview with Hopkins and Editor Brianne Goodspeed:

Brianne Goodspeed: The Transition movement began in Totnes, England, and has, in four short years, spread to thirty-four countries and nearly one hundred cities and towns across the US. But it hasn’t hit the mainstream yet. For those who haven’t heard of Transition – in a nutshell, what is it?

Rob Hopkins: It is about what you and I – and whomever we can also get involved – can do to make the place we live more resilient, more robust and imaginative, in increasingly uncertain times. As our economies continue to slide, as cheap energy becomes a thing of the past and as the need to actually do something meaningful about climate change grows in urgency, Transition suggests that a large part of the solution needs to come from the community level. It is about creating new food systems, energy systems, new financial models and institutions, in short, it’s about seeing the inevitable shift to living with less energy and less “stuff” as the opportunity for huge creativity, innovation and enterprise.

As Hopkins says in the interview, “we don’t need to ask permission,” to do this work of transforming our cities and towns toward a more resilient and hopeful future. We just need courage, hard work, and most of all we need each other.

“In Transition 2.0″ Review — People of the Butterfly

Monday, May 7th, 2012

STIR is a new online magazine that publishes articles on “radical gardening, community-supported agriculture, climate activism, democratic education, permaculture, the occupy movement, the commons, grassroots sports, food justice, cooperatives, practical philosophy and more.”

STIR recently reviewed the new film on the Transition Towns movement, “In Transition 2.0.”

Interested in the film itself? STIR is giving away a copy, and has info on how to plan your own screening of the film:

 To Celebrate the release of the new In Transition 2.0 film, Stir Magazine is giving away a copy  to one lucky reader.  To be in for a chance to win, answer this simple question: In which town did the Transition Network begin?

Send your answers to [email protected] with ‘Transition’ in the title by 10th May 2012.  The Winner will be contacted shortly after the competition ends.

 

 

Find out about Transition groups in your area and join the movement by entering your postcode here.

Want to host a screening at your university, Transition initiative, social centre or somewhere we haven’t thought of? Organise a screening of In Transition 2.0.

And find out where you can see the film here.

Below is the review.

In an abandoned lot in Pittsburgh a boy is selling lettuce. Down Tooting High Street a carnival is in full swing. In a village in Portugal two men are walking in a field beside horses. In a fire station in Moss Side a film preview is taking place: “There was silence. You could have heard a pin drop.  And then a sound, kind of like a pin dropping. There it is again. And again, many times in rapid succession. Then silence. Nothing.”  This is Joel Prittie, writing about his experiences previewing  the film, In Transition 2.0, simultaneously with eleven other initiatives worldwide in February. He’s telling us how the machine jammed, how he resolved the dilemma, and how everyone cheered at the end.

It’s a small story. These are all small stories. You might not know they are happening or take much notice of them. But if you were curious, you would discover how that lettuce came to be growing in such an unlikely neighbourhood; why everyone in the carnival was wearing clothes made of rubbish; why the elders of the village were teaching the young people to plough; why Joel Prittie, ex double-glazing salesman, knocked on 1100 doors in the rain in Manchester. If  you pulled these stories together, you would notice they all had a common thread. That’s the moment  you realise it’s a big story. The story in fact. The story of how people are coming together in the face of difficulties and making another kind of future.

That’s the story of Transition 2.0.

Background

The Transition movement began in 2005 in the market town of Totnes in Devon and since then has sparked off 900 initiatives worldwide. There are initiatives in cities and rural villages, towns and bioregions. Originally billed as a “community-led response to climate change and peak oil”, Transition provides a structure for communities to engage in order to become resilient in the face of these challenges.  The term, borrowed from ecology, means the ability for systems to adapt and survive great shocks.

Living within a dominant corporate monoculture where communities are often fragmented and there is little mainstream media attention on these global realities, this is a big ask for most modern people. Every aspect of our industrialised lives has been made possible by cheap fossil fuels, from the clothes we wear to the food we eat. We live, however, mostly in the dark about these facts, or the effects of our daily actions on the environment. Or if we do know them, we see them as information and do not take action.

In Transition 2.0  focuses on the moves groups of people are making to look at the future squarely, to make connections with one another and to find ways to thrive in challenging times. In 2012, resilience also means the capacity to deal with Transition’s third driver, the economic crisis. The shock of the shock doctrine — the crushing blow of austerity, as people everywhere feel the consequences of our growth-at-all-costs culture and the increasing consolidation of wealth for the few.

In its typical pragmatic, positive way In Transition 2.0 doesn’t analyse this situation within a political frame. It acknowledges the big picture, and then gets down to work relocalising the neighbourhood. The film lays out the three drivers briefly at the start, then follows the track of the second book, The Transition Companion, dividing its attention on the different stages Transition initiatives go through, from the start up phase — forming a group and raising awareness — to building up local social enterprises. Rob Hopkins, the co-founder of the Transition Network, explains these stages, and the film looks at the projects that best illustrate the way Transition works.

In many ways the documentary is a tool, a showcase for people who may know nothing about Transition’s aims and structures. It is a mild watching experience, with interviews and information, and you might wonder why someone who has been involved in two initiatives and immersed in Transition communications for almost four years would have anything to find in it. What more did I need to know?

But the fact is: this is a big story. Resilient systems enforce their connections by constant feedback. You are consciously connecting with others through a vast communications network, that works like the mycorrhizal fungi in soil. I might know what is going on in the neighbourhood, but I don’t know what is going on in Portugal or Maryland. You don’t know for example that the first Transition initiative in India has created 400 vegetable gardens in Tamil Nadu. You don’t know how the co-operative Handmade Bakery in Yorkshire set up business, how the Brixton Pound (Britain’s first e-currency) works in the market, or that the mayor of  Monteveglio in Italy has adopted an energy descent plan for the whole region. Most of all you realise that the crisis which up to this point has seemed academic is now very real in many places.

Unlike the first film which focused on the start up exhilarating phase of Transition, this had a darker, deeper tone. Here are initiatives who are undergoing the shocks of climate change and the collapse of top-down infrastructure. Here is Japan after the nuclear disaster, New Zealand after two earthquakes. Transition groups that had already been working together were able to respond collectively to the crisis. Thanks to the connections already made though the Lyttelton time-bank, the initiative was able to pull in help to deliver water and food all over the devastated town.

“We are setting up structures, pioneering them and putting them in place for the future,” explained Dirk Campbell of Ovesco in Lewes, Britain’s first community owned solar power station (see right). “It’s difficult and takes enormous amounts of effort, commitment and time.”

Facing the crisis

There are many criticisms of Transition. It is not political, realistic, activist enough; it is white and middle class; it lacks structure; it’s too structured, too fluffy and feel-good. It doesn’t fulfill everything. It’s true, it doesn’t fulfill everything. But you would be hard pushed to find another method that can bring diverse people together within a frame of change. There are plenty of adversarial organisations that address climate change (Climate Rush, Greenpeace) and the financial system (UK Uncut, Occupy); there are plenty of low-carbon incentives (10:10, 350.org) and urban growing projects (Growing Communities in Hackney, Abundance and city farms in Sheffield). But what Transition does is address all these aspects simultaneously. It allows for many kinds of people to sit in a room together and work out ways to proceed. What is the most important ingredient or tool in the book (87 in all)? I asked Rob Hopkins at the Twitter launch of the Transition companion. The first one, Working in Groups, was his reply.

Our number one challenge is working in groups when we have been raised in an individualist hierarchical culture, taught to be hostile to the max. The film doesn’t show the struggle that most groups go though in dealing with this, though it does talk about conflict (including the testimony of Chris Hart from Transition Lancaster that collapsed and then reformed itself successfully a year later). Nor does it show the massive fall outs that happen when an old way of doing things (my will against yours) clashes with a new (our way together). How these old structures cling on. How the new ones demand massive inner shifts, but that if you manage to hold together extraordinary things start to happen.

What it does show is how Transition as a method, culture and network brings people together to work out solutions in places suffering from massive downturn. In the Portuguese village of Amoreiras the initiative held a meeting and asked everyone to dream. The village had suffered the fate of many rural places where most of the population had left for work in the cities. The group listened to everyone’s desires and then put their collective vision into motion. They painted the whole village, set up a local market, organised a working party to bring about better healthcare.

Here is Fred Brown in Pittsburgh, a city that in the 1970s and ’80s, lost 100,000 jobs when steel mills transferred their manufacturing to countries around the world. It’s a city where marginalised low-income neighbourhoods are threatened by incoming gentrification and big businesses. In his community of Larimer, Google have recently built a new facility, benefiting from millions of urban redevelopment funds that were intended to help the residents:

“The community doesn’t need or want more experts telling them what to do. We want partners and we want help to develop and implement our dream. Transition is helping us come together, deepen the vision, create working groups, get practical work done, and understand community-wide needs. It is also giving us language and a process for negotiating with those who seek to take, or to give on their own terms — empowering us to be proactive and co-creators.”

This is the hardest task. We are taught to listen to experts and to obey rules. Transition puts the decisions back into our hands and asks everyone to take the lead, become knowledgeable about how towns and councils work, talk with other local groups, find out about waste, alternative energy, sustainable food systems, how to write a press release, give a talk, keep bees, grow a lettuce. We are discouraged in our every attempt by the status quo. Keep shopping, keep distracted, keep listening to the old story! But there is new narrative out there, what Paul Hawken calls the greatest untold story of our time. Some of this is embodied in Transition. It’s hard work and rarely paid, but it brings rewards you don’t see on the surface, that are difficult to show on a film. These are the invisible connections between people, feelings of belonging, of meaning, of self-worth, boldness and possibility, the simple joy of sharing things, tools, knowledge, apples from your tree.

“I feel proud of where I live at and it’s changed me.”

Most of all it gives you an opportunity you never knew existed. Here’s next week’s schedule with my home initiatives of Sustainable Bungay and Transition Norwich: showing a documentary with Waveney Greenpeace in a local barn (Crisis of Civilisation), working in our monthly community kitchen (for a sit-down supper for 50), helping out at our Give and Take Day (free exchange of stuff), introducing people to medicine plants in an event called Walking with Weeds,  writing on two community blogs (one local, one national), setting up a newspaper (Transition Free Press).

None of these activities would happen without this small band of people I have been working with for the last four years. We would never have met. History and consumerism and the class system would have kept us separated from one another. Our library community garden would be bare brick. The bee-friendly wildflower meadow would be unsown. Norwich would not have an urban farm. I would never have met any of my fellow transitioners I am in daily contact with, or the many affiliated groups that write in our blogs from Occupy Norwich to BiofuelWatch to the new bicycle workshop off Magdalen Street.  I would not be writing this piece. You would not be reading it. The film and everything that happens in its 66 minutes would not be happening.

Except that it is happening: and it’s worth seeing if only to know that these seeds are being sown in a time when everything seems set against us and all life on earth.

There is a story that underpins what we do and sometimes we tell it to each other in the hard times. The caterpillar keeps munching his way voraciously across the green planet. One day he buries himself in a cocoon, and unknowingly begins the process of transformation. His body starts to dissolve and as it does imaginal buds start to appear from nowhere. At first the caterpillar’s immune system attacks and defeats this new form. Then the buds rise up again. This time they link up and the defence system can not destroy them. They hold fast. The old structure dissolves. The butterfly begins to emerge.

It’s a form you would never have imagined, something beautiful emerging in world that appears only to profit the greedy and antagonistic. But sometimes in our struggle we catch a glimpse of the butterfly wing. In the flash of carnival costume, in the mists over a Japanese mountain, in the sound of each others’ voices, in the smile of a boy holding a lettuce grown against all odds.

_____

Charlotte Du Cann is a writer and community activist, working with the Transition Network and the Dark Mountain Project. An ex-journalist, she now edits several community blogs, This Low Carbon LifeThe Social Reporters Project and the OneWorldColumn. Her book 52 Flowers That Shook My World – A Radical Return to Earth i(Two Ravens Press) will be published on August 1. You can find a selection of recent writings on http://charlotteducann.blogspot.com.  This review was originally published at STIR, an excellent online magazine.

Tools For Living — Colleges Are Putting Students to Work

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Scott Carlson wrote the following article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, looking at how colleges are putting students to work — literally. There’s a growing trend of institutions using student labor and integrating it into curriculum, helping students gain skills while helping the schools deal with costs.

Amongst Carlson’s examples, he cites Philip Ackerman-Leist’s work with students at Green Mountain College, where they work a small organic farm. 

A friend of mine who works at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, in Minnesota, recently told me a story: Her book group read Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet, one of many recent books to focus on the vulnerabilities of the industrial food system and the threats posed by climate change. The book’s treatment of the topic held few surprises, and the solutions offered were equally well-worn and deceptively simple: Buy fruits, vegetables, and meats locally, and cook them at home.

My friend’s big surprise came when the students in the group started talking about the solutions—and found themselves stuck: “Almost all the students said they didn’t know how to cook,” she told me, “and even the young, single adult employees in the group admitted they lacked both the know-how and motivation.”

What makes this story even more poignant is its setting: at sibling colleges founded by monasteries, where self-sufficiency and sustainability were once a central ethic, as outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benedictine women and men here, along with many of the older alumni, can still remember when they milked cows, plucked chickens, and picked potatoes grown on the monasteries’ surrounding land. Bread, furniture, preserved food, ceramics, and other daily necessities were produced by monks, sisters, and students on the campuses. While some remnants of that life still exist, much of it is gone.

I can’t help being reminded of that story when in my daily work as a Chronicle writer I hear the chorus of complaints about the state of higher education. You’ve heard them, too: Higher education is broken; it needs reinvigoration and reinvention to get students out the door and on their own as soon as possible. Lawmakers say colleges need to make students employable and to create jobs. Some critics say colleges should use technology to scale up; others go so far as to bemoan the physical campus as an unnecessary, expensive burden in an online world. In that cultural and economic climate, liberal-arts colleges have been at pains to articulate their usefulness. They have emphasized that they teach students how to think, how to be engaged, world citizens—not merely how to do a job.
I agree that a liberal-arts education provides those intangibles. But maybe it’s time that instruction—at least at some colleges—included more hands-on, traditional skills. Both the professional sphere and civic life are going to need people who have a sophisticated understanding of the world and its challenges, but also the practical, even old-fashioned know-how to come up with sustainable solutions.

The problems that today’s college-going generation will face in the future are enormous—and the stagnant economy is just the beginning. Climate change, fossil-fuel constraints, rotting infrastructure, collapsing ecosystems, and resource scarcities all loom large. Meeting those challenges will require both abstract and practical knowledge. For example, some scientists have fretted over the world’s limited supplies of rock phosphate, which is used in agriculture. Because we live in a country that has more people in prison than in farming, most people could not tell you that phosphorus is one of the three vital nutrients needed to grow food crops, nor could they name the other two, potassium and nitrogen (the latter of which is produced mostly by burning finite fossil fuels). Even if students never work in agriculture, such knowledge could help them as aspiring businessmen, future policy makers, or mere citizens.

Certain colleges, specifically “work colleges” like Warren Wilson College, Deep Springs College, and the College of the Ozarks, have long-established curricula that blend manual skills with a liberal-arts education. But there may be room for more—especially at a time when some people question the practical value of a college degree. These days a number of colleges, particularly those in rural settings, are financially troubled and need new, marketable niches that separate them from the pack. Instead of viewing the physical campus as a burden, why not see it as an asset, even beyond the aesthetic attractions of the quad? With some imagination, couldn’t these colleges use their campuses and rural settings to train students in valuable hands-on skills?

It’s already happening at some institutions, particularly those oriented toward sustainability. In the green dorm at the University of Vermont, students can teach other students in “guilds” devoted to sewing, canning, composting, beekeeping, and other skills. L. Pearson King, a junior environmental-studies major, taught his peers how to carve spoons in a woodworking guild last year. “It’s kind of trivial, but it’s also cathartic and kind of fun,” he says of the project, and the students in his group were immensely proud of their work. “To be active in the creation of an item forms a completely different relationship with that item.”

At Dickinson College, students like Claire Fox, who just graduated with a double major in international studies and environmental studies, can get a practical education on the college’s 180-acre working farm. “It truly enhanced my education,” says Fox, who had never had contact with agriculture before leaving suburban New Jersey to go to Dickinson. “I walk away from college as a different person compared with some of my peers who didn’t have that experience.” And she walks away employed: She landed an internship in sustainable-development work in Costa Rica with the School for Field Studies. SFS told her that her work on the farm was the critical component of her application.

At Unity College, in Maine, students have had a hand in constructing some of the college’s buildings, tending its garden, and working on renewable-energy projects out in the field with Michael “Mick” Womersley, an associate professor of human ecology. A former maintenance engineer in the British Royal Air Force, Womersley tells his students that a lot of relatively simple projects, like installing a $42 programmable thermostat in a home, can make a big difference in energy use, yet few people bother. Why?

“A lot of us are bred out of actually doing things,” he said when I met him at a Maine sheep farm, where he was setting up wind-measurement equipment with the help of two students. “I find that is a big failing of the sustainability movement—we are so busy talking about things, but there is a ton of stuff to do.”

Or consider Green Mountain College, a once-troubled institution in rural Vermont. Green Mountain, which now lands at the top of national rankings of sustainable colleges, has torn up a portion of its athletics fields to start a small farm that trains students in both cutting-edge and old-fashioned techniques in growing food without the help of petroleum. That means using and maintaining human- and animal-powered machines, using solar energy in innovative ways, learning the importance of crop rotations and animal manures, and, of course, getting the basics of growing carrots and tomatoes.

The professors there routinely tie the skills taught on the farm to the sustainability lessons in the classroom. “Many educational institutions pride themselves on preparing students to lead a life of inquiry,” writes Philip Ackerman-Leist, an associate professor of environmental studies who founded the college farm, in Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader, a book about building his home and farm in Vermont. But “few actually challenge and support students to embrace the ecological questions and immediately begin living the possible solutions—not later but in the midst of the educational experience itself.”

The article continues over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, where you can read the rest and comment.

Presenting the Community Resilience Guides, a Partnership with the Post Carbon Institute

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Reposted from Post Carbon Institute.

We’re excited to announce the publication of our first Community Resilience Guide: Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity by PCI Fellow Michael Shuman. This book series will be part of a larger new effort we have launched—the Community Resilience Initiative. Use discount code LOCAL to pick up your copy directly from the publisher.

As you know all too well (and if you don’t, the Post Carbon Reader will bring you up to speed), we face a set of interconnected economic, energy, and environmental crises that require all the courage, creativity, and cooperation we can muster. These crises are forcing us to fundamentally rethink some of our most basic assumptions, like where our food and energy come from, and where we invest our savings.

While national and international leadership are key to navigating the bumpy road ahead, that leadership thus far is sadly wanting. And, in any case, many of the best responses to these challenges are inherently local.

Thankfully, a small but growing movement of engaged citizens, community groups, businesses, and local elected officials are leading the way. These early actors have worked to reduce consumption, produce local food and energy, invest in local economies, and preserve local ecosystems. While diverse, the essence of these efforts is the same: a recognition that the world is changing and the old way of doing things no longer works.

Post Carbon Institute is producing this series of Community Resilience Guides to detail some of the most inspiring and replicable of these efforts.

Why community resilience?

Community because we believe that the most effective ways to work for the future we want are grounded in local relationships—with our families and neighbors, with the ecological resources that sustain us, and with the public institutions through which we govern ourselves.

Resilience, because the complex economic, energy, and environmental challenges we face require not solutions that make problems go away but responses that recognize our vulnerabilities, build our capacities, and adapt to unpredictable changes.

The Community Resilience Guides will cover these four elements, so critical in creating thriving, resilient communities:

  • Investing in the local economy.
  • Growing local food security.
  • Producing local, renewable energy.
  • Planning locally for an uncertain future.

Local Dollars, Local Sense is the first in this series, and the series is just one element of a bigger effort: the Community Resilience Initiative. Stay tuned for more announcements, and ways you can participate.

These are challenging times. But they are also full of opportunity. We hope Local Dollars, Local Sense and the slew of other resources we’ll provide through the Community Resilience Initiative will inspire you, and help you build resilience in your community.

In solidarity,

Asher

Chelsea Green Authors Named Finalists for Three National Awards

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Chelsea Green is proud to announce that two of its authors have been named finalists for major book awards, while a third is a finalist for a readers’ choice award.

The news of these three authors comes on the heels of essayist Edward Hoagland being named the 2012 winner of the John Burroughs Medal, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards for environmental essay writing, for his book Sex and the River Styx. He will be awarded the medal at a ceremony in April.

This trio of authors addresses everything from the impact of the decades-old wars fought in Afghanistan, cooking seasonally for both flavor and health from homegrown and wild herbs and edibles, and gardening for resiliency and community.

The authors are:

Ed Girardet is one of five finalists to receive the 2012 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism for his memoir, Killing the Cranes. Girardet’s memoir reflects on his more than three decades of experience covering war-torn Afghanistan, and the impact this has had on Afghani people. Established in 1987, the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism is given annually to a journalist whose work has brought public attention to important issues and includes a $15,000 cash prize. The winner will be announced on June 5.

Didi Emmons is a finalist for this year’s International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook awards for her book Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking from Eva’s Farm, which offers wide-ranging recipes that reflect the shifting seasonal harvest but also show us how wild edibles and cultivated herbs add flavor to our food and improve our health. IACP is considered the gold standard among cookbook awards, and has been presenting its awards for more than 25 years. Winners will be announced on April 2.

Carol Deppe has been selected as a finalist in the 2012 About.com Readers’ Choice Awards for “Best New Gardening Book Since 2010” for her book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times. Deppe’s book demonstrates how resilient gardeners and their gardens can flourish even in challenging times and help their communities to survive and thrive through everything that comes their way — from tomorrow through the next thousand years About.com — which is owned by the New York Times Company — is a consumer-focused website that offers expert advice and reviews on a wide variety of topics. Winners will be announced March 30 (voting runs from Feb. 22 to March 21).

Carol has also launched a new seed catalog, which editor Ben Watson wrote about here.

Now Available: The Transition Companion!

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

In 2008, the best-selling Transition Handbook suggested a model for a community-led response to peak oil and climate change. Since then, the Transition idea has gone viral across the globe, from Italian villages and Brazilian favelas to universities and London neighborhoods. In contrast to the ever-worsening stream of information about climate change, the economy, and resource depletion, Transition focuses on solutions, on community-scale responses, on meeting new people, and on having fun.

The Transition Companion picks up the story today, drawing on the experience of one of the most fascinating experiments under way in the world. It tells inspiring tales of communities working for a future where local economies are valued and nurtured; where lower energy use is seen as a benefit; and where enterprise, creativity, and the building of resilience have become cornerstones of a new economy.

The book is now available here in the United States from our bookstore, and we’d like to share the foreword, written by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, to whet your appetite!

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“Observing the growth of the Transition movement over the past five years has been inspiring in so many ways. While governments and big business struggle (to put it politely) to tackle the enormous environmental issues that face us, this movement has forged ahead with its collective bid to find a creative, passionate response to the question ‘where do we go from here?’

Spreading outwards from its inception in the towns of Kinsale and Totnes, Transition has become a remarkable network with global reach. There are now practical projects under way on the ground all over the UK, and beyond. They demonstrate beyond doubt that the strengthening and diversification of local economies, underpinned by a commitment not to squander the Earth’s finite resources, is a highly effective strategy for the uncertain times we live in. They help take the fear out of the future, while offering people a renewed sense of belonging; of shared experience and goals; of a life that makes sense again.

Four years after the publication of The Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins has now completed this second volume. The former explored the theory of Transition, and asked what an international movement based on it might look like. This new book draws on five years of practical experience that go a long way towards answering that question. Here, Rob sets out an exciting, much-expanded idea of what Transition is and could become; one that is rich with hard-won insights and practical advice. It’s a work full of bold answers, inspirational ideas and daring solutions. Although profoundly serious at heart, it’s never sombre. In fact, it’s a great deal of fun, frequently demonstrating how Transition is a highly creative, stimulating and even playful process.

I am struck by the way Rob describes each Transition undertaking as unique – like the community in which it thrives. While always rooted in a set of crucial principles, every example will reflect the specific needs and qualities of an individual place. It’s rather like giving a great cake recipe to a dozen different cooks and watching how their particular ingredients, techniques and creative ideas produce subtly different results. Rob argues that a Transition community never will, or should, look quite the same twice – and in that flexibility lies the strength of this movement. He makes the wholly convincing point that community strategies to tackle peak oil, climate change and all the other pressing environmental issues that face us should emerge organically from the community itself, rather than being imposed from the top down. It’s a vital insight of the movement that this kind of bottom-up process is far more likely to result in real change that is rooted in local knowledge, creativity and passion. It’s what gives Transition its enduring resonance and relevance.

My first experience of Transition came in 2008, when I travelled to Totnes to film a sequence about Garden Share, a project that matched people who wanted to grow food but had nowhere to do it with people who had unused or under-used gardens around the town. It was a brilliantly simple initiative, and above all a practical one that was getting a great response. It inspired me, and colleagues from the production company, to set up our online Landshare scheme, which aims to match would-be growers with land and garden ‘donors’ all over the country. There’s no question that we owe the success of Landshare to that inspiring day I spent in Totnes, among Transition pioneers.

Pretty much everything I do, as a writer and broadcaster, is predicated on the idea that families and communities can gain huge pleasure and satisfaction from taking more responsibility for the food they eat, and sourcing it closer to home. Rob holds to the same faith, expanding this nourishing self- and community-reliance to all aspects of our lives. His view is that an extraordinary and historic shift in how this country feeds, powers and houses itself is on the horizon, and we can all play a part in it. It will be a shift, or transition, that future generations will remember and celebrate.

The practical aspects of this – the solar panels, the vegetable beds, the low-carbon buildings – are the easy bit. As Rob says, “If we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little; but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.”  It is the working together, rediscovering how to build community and to support each other, that is the harder thing to get right. That is where The Transition Companion comes in. It offers an extraordinarily rich yet highly accessible model for drawing together the people around you, and describes the tools needed to start an economic and social renaissance in the place you live. It’s a book that is unashamedly ambitious and far-reaching in its scope and vision. But, if we are to successfully navigate what’s coming towards us, and hold on to our identity, our community and our shared optimism for the future, that is exactly what we need.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, River Cottage, May 2011
To find out more about Hugh’s latest project, energyshare, click here.

Join The Transition Companion Twitter Launch!

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Are you inspired by the Transition movement? Do you have a burning question for its founder, Rob Hopkins? Or do you simply want to find out more?

Join us for a Twitter launch with Rob Hopkins on Thursday, October 13, 2011. Rob will be available to answer questions about himself and the Transition movement between 9am and 12pm EST (that’s 2pm – 5pm local time for Rob in the UK). All you have to do to take part is follow the hashtag #TTComp on Twitter, and include it in your own tweets to post a comment or question.

Rob’s new book, The Transition Companion, will be available exclusively through www.transitionculture.org from this date until the official publication date of 27 October. You can even order your pre-publication copy and then pop over to Twitter to ask Rob to sign it for you!

Can’t make it? Don’t worry! You can still use the hash tag #TTComp to post your questions any time. Rob will be answering the questions during the session, and then we will share a transcript of the entire thing, to make sure that nobody misses out.

Date(s):  Thursday 13th October 2011
Time: 9am to Noon EST (2pm to 5pm Totnes Time)
Contributor:  Rob Hopkins
Location:  Twitter @robintransition , #TTComp

Exploring The Ingredients For Transition with Rob Hopkins

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Are you inspired by the Transition movement? Do you have a burning  question for the Transition movement founder, Rob Hopkins? Or do you simply want to find out more? Join the folks at Transition US for a talk with Rob Hopkins, author of The Transition Handbook and the upcoming Transition Companion! You can tune in online Monday morning.

Register here.

Date:

Monday, September 12, 2011 – 8:00am – 9:00am PT (11:00am ET)

Descripton:Join us for an insightful conversation with Rob Hopkins, author, Permaculturist and founder of the Transition Towns Movement.

In this conversation we will be asking Rob to go more deeply into the “ingredients of Transition” as well as answering questions supplied by participants. Transition US board member, author and visionary Vicki Robin will be the host for this call.

In July our call with Rob, hosted by Richard Heinberg has been listened to by well over 1,000 people in just a few short weeks. If you have not heard that yet – listen to a recording of our last call with Rob here >>

In case you can’t make this talk, mark your calendar for the next exciting event in the Transition universe, a book launch!

Join Green Books, UK and Chelsea Green for a Twitter launch with Rob Hopkins on Thursday 13 October 2011. Rob will be available to answer questions about himself, his new book The Transition Companion and the Transition movement between 2pm and 5pm. All you have to do to take part is use the  hash tag #TTComp on Twitter to post your comment or question.

Rob will be answering the questions during the session and then we will post a transcript of the entire session, to  make sure that no-one misses out.

Date:  Thursday 13th October 2011
Time: 2pm – 5pm (UK GMT)
Contributor:  Rob Hopkins
Location:  Twitter @robintransition, #TTComp


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