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Chelsea Green - Page 3 of 416 - The Politics and Practice of Sustainable Living. : Chelsea Green

How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

November 3rd, 2014 by admin

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

*****

Edible Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is exceptionally nutritious. Our bodies can produce fourteen of the essential amino acids, but eight of them need to be found in external sources. Lambsquarter is one of those valuable sources.

The whitish dust present on each leaf is made up of mineral salts from the soil and is an indication of its mineral-rich value. Often the lambsquarter leaves will taste salty and therefore make quite a nutritious salt replacement or addition to dishes! Lambsquarter seasoning is made easily by drying the leaves and mixing them with other spices.

Lambsquarter is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, 3.5 ounces of raw lambsquarter, which is about 1 cup of greens, contains 73 percent vitamin A and 96 percent vitamin C of your recommended daily allowances suggested by the USDA. It is also a fantastic source of the B vitamins complex including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

Use Like Spinach

Wild lambsquarter vary in their tastes. The flavor is related not only to different species, but also to the stages of growth and to the soil conditions. In general, however, all lambsquarter leaves are edible. The wild greens can be used just like spinach. They can be eaten fresh in salads, juiced, and added to any recipes that call for greens. They are best eaten when younger, however; when the leaves mature with age, the flavor can change due to a greater potency of oxalic acids. I find that when lambsquarter has built up too many oxalic acids, I experience a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat. This is why I recommend tasting the leaves by themselves before harvesting any quantity of them. This is especially important when making green juices or smoothies. When downing a liquid in several gulps, your body does not have the time to tell you to stop.

Harvest Seeds in the Fall

The seeds make a highly nutritious food staple for multiple uses in recipes. They can be harvested in the fall and ground into cereal or used as flour for bread. Similar to quinoa, lambsquarter seeds can be easily sprouted in one to two days. Add the sprouts to any meal to benefit from the rich nutrients.  Lambsquarter seeds also make great microgreens. They start out small and frail looking but given time grow into healthy plants with delicious flavor.

All lambsquarter seeds are edible; however, some are easier to use for a food staple than others. The wild versions have varying natures of seed production. Some varieties are easy to harvest and separate the chaff, while others are quite difficult. When possible, separate the seed from the outer layer and always taste the wild grains alone before adding any seasoning or salt, to get the true taste of the food. This practice will protect you from overeating something that your body would normally tell you to stop eating.

Wild grains are more potent than domesticated grains and a small amount is often enough to sustain your energy. Another way to increase the seeds’ resources is not to cook them, but instead to sprout them. Sprouting the seeds is a natural way to let the outer layer fall off on its own. Using lambsquarter sprouts is a way to increase seed benefits and sustain your winter storage to last even longer! If wild plants are potent already and go a long way, sprouted wild grains are even more concentrated in nutritional value and truly go the extra mile for supporting your optimal health.

Medicinal Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is an important source of food that can be considered a key staple, while at the same time it is also an extremely valuable medicine. When the leaves are chewed into a green paste and applied to the body, it makes a great poultice for insect bites, minor scrapes, injuries, inflammation, and sunburn. The greens are beneficial for soothing arthritic joint pain when chewed into a mash and placed directly on the sensitive areas.

The leaves support the decrease of pain by reducing inflammation and bringing about an increase of circulation.

A tea of the leaves is beneficial for diarrhea, internal inflammation, stomach aches, and loss of appetite. The tea can also be used as a wash to heal skin irritations and other external complaints. Soaking the body in bathwater with lambsquarter tea added will support skin health by toning and tightening the tissues.

The green leaves when eaten in their fresh raw state are particularly beneficial for supporting the healing of anemic blood conditions. The leaves are exceptionally rich in iron and help to increase blood cell count and overall vitality of the circulatory system. The greens and seeds are very high in protein and phenolic content, and also have significant antioxidant capacity for eliminating unwanted free radicals in the body.

The roots contain a significant amount of saponin, which creates a natural soapy quality when mashed or beaten. In addition to the roots being extremely useful in making a cleansing soap, the composition of saponin also creates a cleansing and laxative effect in the body when drunk as a tea. Lambsquarter root tea is helpful for removing excesses from the body by the way of assisting elimination.

The young greens, especially when tender in the spring, can be juiced for their calcium and vitamins A, C, and B complex in addition to vital enzymes, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. The juice has a gentle detoxifying nature. Lambsquarter is an important green in this day and age of accumulated pollution. The greens are valuable for purifying the body of unwanted toxins due to their exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll binds with or chelates toxins that may be stored in fat cells and removes them in the urine. Our body is wise and tends to isolate toxins away from our vital organs by storing them in fat cells. When the toxins are released into the bloodstream it is key to have a source of chlorophyll to bind up the toxins until they are discharged from the body. We want to assure that they are not redeposited in the body while in the bloodstream. Fasting is a beneficial way to detoxify the body; however, because of the concentrations of petrochemicals found in our daily environment, it is wise to avoid fasting on water alone. It is best to have the support of wild greens in the form of dilute juices to protect our cleansing bodies from the potential side effects of environmental toxins causing harm on their way out.

The young lambsquarter green juice is delicious, but when the leaves get older, make sure to taste them first to know if the flavor is agreeable to you. The gentle astringent properties of lambsquarter make it healthy for tightening internal organs as well as externally for skin. The juice makes a beautifying and cleansing body wash. It is also a useful mouthwash for tightening the gums and eliminating bad breath.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: Lambsquarter Recipes

Exclusive Holiday Sale Sneak Peek

November 3rd, 2014 by admin

Chelsea Green is the perfect place to stock up on inspiring and educational gifts for everyone on your list (and don’t forget about yourself).

You’ll find the right gift for anyone, from gardeners and political activists to entrepreneurs, builders, foodies and cooks. Whomever you have on your list, we’ve got the book for you!

Use the discount code CGS14 at checkout to save 35% off your entire order from now until the end of the year. Take a look at some of our new and popular titles below to get started, or browse our full on-line bookstore.

Happy Holiday’s from the folks at Chelsea Green

P.S. Don’t forget there is free shipping on orders over $100*


Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


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Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.

We’re Hiring! Join the Team as our Editorial Intern

November 1st, 2014 by admin

For 30 years, Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for people seeking foundational books on the politics and practice of sustainable living, including organic gardening and agriculture, renewable energy, green building, eco-cuisine, and ethical business. In 2012, we decided to practice what we publish and became employee-owned. We are a founding member of the Green Press Initiative and have been printing books on recycled paper since 1985, when our first list of books went on sale. We print our books on paper that consists of a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste and aim for 100 percent whenever possible. We also don’t print our books overseas, but rather use domestic printers to keep our shipping costs (and impact on the environment) at a minimum.

We are currently hiring for the position of Editorial Intern to be based in our White River Junction office. This is a three-month internship with the potential to turn into a full-time, Editorial Assistant position. Please send resumé and cover letter to Michael Metivier, Assistant Editor: [email protected]. No phone calls, please.

General Description
The Editorial Intern is responsible for assisting the editors in handling administrative, database, and clerical responsibilities for the Chelsea Green editorial department as needed and assisting the Subrights Manager in handling the administrative, database, clerical, and other responsibilities for the Chelsea Green Subrights Department as needed.

Responsibilities

  • Support editors with tasks including, but not limited to those listed below. Position will have opportunity to improve and expand skills/knowledge in day-to-day operations of an editorial department, and its function within a small independent publishing company.
  • Determine, under the guidance of the Assistant Editor or other editors within the department, the appropriate response to unsolicited submissions (slush), i.e. passing them on for further review or preparing a letter of rejection.
  • Assist editors with maintaining and updating book specs, blurber copy requests and other mailings, and other information on Quickbase.
  • Handle permissions inquiries and requests in a timely, organized manner under the supervision of the Assistant Editor.
  • Maintain Awards database in Quickbase and review it regularly, deleting awards that no longer exist or are inappropriate for our titles. Make award submission recommendations to the editors and handle all aspects of submissions and awards won.
  • Handle timely mailing of all complimentary copies on receipt of bound books.
  • General administrative tasks, including: conducting mailings (either from here or in concert with Sales Assistant and the warehouse), various editorial projects (manuscript organization, fact checking, research as requested); taking notes at editorial meetings and then distributing them to participants for review.
  • Assist subrights manager with administrative tasks related to: mailings; sending out and tracking review copy requests; pitching titles; tracking payments; maintaining Quickbase systems and other duties related to Subrights, as requested.
  • Provide general clerical support as requested.

Position Details: Full-time for 3 months, paid $10/hour, based in White River Junction, Vermont, with potential to turn into full-time, Editorial Assistant position at the end of internship.

Reports to: Assistant Editor and Subrights Manager

Qualifications: This is an entry-level position for a motivated self-starter with a demonstrated interest in sustainability issues and publishing. Duties combine administrative and editorial functions and require the ability to work within a team environment as well as work independently. Must have: strong communication, writing, and interpersonal skills; ability to work in fast-paced, deadline-driven environment; strong computer skills and proficiency in Word and Excel; comfort with administrative tasks.

Growing Food in the Face of Global Warming

October 30th, 2014 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Chapter 5

Move Over Squirrels, It’s Acorn Harvesting Time

October 29th, 2014 by admin

One thing you can count on this time of year is an abundance of acorns underfoot. Why should the squirrels have all these nutrient rich nuts to themselves?

Acorns are completely edible, according to fermentation expert Sandor Katz, and they have historically been a critical source of nutrition for many native peoples in North America and elsewhere.  In the following excerpt from his book, The Art of Fermentation, Katz encourages readers to tap into this abundant food resource and start experimenting with acorns.

Sorry squirrels.

*****

Acorns, the nuts of oak trees, are edible and in fact have been a critical source of nutrients for many native peoples in North America and elsewhere. In mainstream culture, however, acorns are largely ignored as a food for human consumption. Meanwhile, ironically, the imminent threat of global food shortages is continually being used to justify deforestation and intensifying biotechnology. I’m not saying anyone should subsist on acorns alone, but let’s tap into the abundant food resources we already have rather than acting based upon the myth of overall scarcity.

Acorn Harvesting Tips

Gather acorns in the fall. Reject any with visible worm holes. Air-dry acorns before storing. It is not a problem if acorns have already begun to sprout. California acorn enthusiast Suellen Ocean writes:

I like to gather sprouted acorns because the sprouting increases the acorn’s nutritional value. It is no longer in a “starch” stage, but has changed to a “sugar” stage. The sprouting also helps split them from the shell. It is beneficial because if it has sprouted, it’s a good acorn, and I haven’t wasted time gathering wormy ones. I’ve found that an acorn with a two-inch-long sprout is fine, as long as the acorn nut meat hasn’t turned green. I break off the sprout and continue.

Shell, Grind, and Soak

It is important to note that the acorns of many oak trees contain high levels of tannins and require leaching prior to consumption. To do this, remove acorns from their shells, grind, and soak in water. You can grind acorns dry using a mortar and pestle or mill, or mix acorns with water and grind in a blender or food processor. Acorns should be finely ground to expose lots of surface area, enabling the tannins to leach out.

Acorns can be leached in a fine mesh bag in a running stream (this is the fastest method), or in a series of soaks that can last for a few days. As acorn meal soaks, the meal will settle at the bottom of the vessel and the water will darken. Gently pour off the dark water at least daily and discard. Water will darken less with each soak, as tannin levels decrease. Keep rinsing with fresh water until it no longer darkens. If you wish to ferment acorn meal, leave it to soak a few more days in just a small amount of water after the tannins have been leached.

Acorns can be used to fortify and flavor many different foods. Once I made acorn gnocchi, which were excellent. Julia F. Parker, of the Miwok/Paiute people in California’s Yosemite Valley, wrote a beautiful book about acorn preparation called It Will Live Forever, in which she describes traditional techniques for making a simple porridge (nuppa) using only leached acorn meal and water, which is delicious! And on a website devoted to the language of another California tribe, the Cahto, I came across reference to “fermented acorn/acorn cheese” (ch’int’aan-noo’ool’). I have not found further information on fermented acorn cheese, nor have I experimented, but I include this tidbit in the hope that other acorn-loving fermenters will experiment in this vein.

Capturing Landscape in a Wine: The Unlikely Vineyard

October 27th, 2014 by admin

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Deirdre Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

Our farming came from wanting to grow particular vegetables for our restaurant kitchen. Once we started going with the restaurant garden and farm, I also became interested in the process of making wine. I was doing a lot of work representing organic and biodynamic wine growers on our wine list. Intellectually, I knew the whole process of making wine, but I had never done it on my own. I wanted to do that, just for my own edification,” Heekin told Modern Farmer in a recent interview. “In the second year we went to go visit another Vermont vineyard that was making some really lovely wine and it dawned on us. We have a fantastic south facing slope that would be perfect for a vineyard, there are some great people doing it in Vermont — let’s just do it. We left that particular winery with 180 plants that day. We planted that summer. It has been full tilt growing as we go along. We are now in our fifth vintage.”

AnUnlikelyVineyardChallenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Heekin and her husband set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant—Osteria Pane e Salute, a restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos (Heekin is also an avid Instragrammer), this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir by Deirdre Heekin is now available.

Eliot Coleman’s Guide to Creating a Root Cellar

October 23rd, 2014 by admin

As temperatures start to drop, make sure you are ready to preserve your root vegetable harvest in a soundly constructed, home storage system. In the following excerpt (adapted for the web) from Four-Season Harvest, Eliot Coleman shares his expertise on building a successful root cellar.

For more step-by-step projects to jumpstart your season extension plans and prepare your spring plantings, check out these links:
The Endless Arugula Bed
The Ultimate, Bombproof Sheet Mulch
Grow Mushrooms on Your Jeans
And more…

*****

How to Build a Root Cellar

No one wants second best. A slimy cabbage from a dingy corner of the basement will never compete with the crisp specimens on the vegetable shelf of the supermarket. Wilted, dried-out carrots look unappealing next to the crunchy, plastic-wrapped beauties in the refrigerator. When home storage is unsuccessful, a case can be made for artificial refrigeration. But the cabbage need not be slimy nor the carrots wilted. A properly constructed root cellar does not take a backseat to any other method of food storage. It is no great feat to manage a simple underground root cellar so that the produce will be equal or superior in quality to anything stored in an artificially refrigerated unit, even after long periods of storage.

A successful root cellar should be properly located, structurally sound, weather tight, convenient to fill and empty, easy to check on and clean, and secure against rodents. Proper location means underground at a sufficient depth so frost won’t penetrate. The cellar should be structurally sound so it won’t collapse on you. It needs to be weather tight so cold winds can’t blow in and freeze the produce. You need to have easy access to fill it, to use the produce, and to clean it at the end of the winter. And it should be rodent-proof so all the food you have stored away won’t be nibbled by rats and mice.

Provision must be made for drainage as with any other cellar, and the cellar should be insulated so that it can maintain a low temperature for as long as possible and provide properly humid storage conditions. Finally, microclimates within the cellar (colder near the floor, warmer near the ceiling) should allow you to meet different temperature and moisture requirements for different crops. The cellar will be most successful if it incorporates your underground food storage needs into one efficient, compact unit. It’s surprising how easily a hole in the ground meets all those conditions.

Perfect Spot for a Root Cellar – Your Basement

Any house with a basement already has a potential root cellar. You just need to open a vent so cold air can flow in on fall nights, and sprinkle water on the floor for moisture. The temperature control in the root cellar is almost automatic because cold air, which is heavier than warm air, will flow down, displacing the warmer air, which rises and exits. This lowers the temperature in the cellar incrementally as fall progresses and the nights get cooler. By the time outdoor conditions are cold enough to require moving root crops to the cellar (around October 21 to November 7 here in Maine), conditions in the underground garden are just right-cool and moist. With minimal attention, they will stay that way until late the next spring.

No wood or other material that might suffer from being wet should be used in root cellar construction. The ideal root cellar is made of concrete or stone with rigid insulation around the outside. Any permanent wood in a root cellar soon becomes damp and moldy. Wood will not only rot but also will serve as a home for bacteria and spoilage organisms and is subject to the gnawing entry of rodents. The stone or concrete cellar is impregnable. It won’t rot or decompose, and the thick walls hold the cool of the earth.

Build a Wall or Dig a Pit

The easiest way to make a root cellar is to wall off one corner of the basement as a separate room. The best material is concrete block. There is no problem even if the rest of the basement is heated. You simply need to insulate one temperature zone from the other. Leave enough space between the top of the walls and the joists of the floor above so you can install a cement-board ceiling with rigid insulation above it. Also attach rigid insulation to the heated side of the cellar walls you build. The insulation can be protected with a concrete-like covering such as Block Bond. Install an insulated metal door for access, and the structure is complete.

There are several simpler options, especially for storing small quantities of vegetables. If your house has an old-fashioned cellar with a dirt floor and there is enough drainage below floor level, you can dig a pit in the floor 18 to 24 inches deep, line it with concrete blocks, and add an insulated cover. You will want to open the cover every few days to encourage air exchange in the pit. The pit won’t be as easy to use as a room you can walk into, but like any hole in the ground, it should keep root crops cool and moist. In warmer climates, you can use similar pits or buried barrels for storage either outdoors or in an unheated shed.

One of the simplest techniques we ever used, before we had a root cellar, was to dig pits in one section of the winter greenhouse. In that case we used metal garbage cans and buried them to their edge in the soil under the inner layer. To make sure they stayed cool we insulated their lids. We filled those cans with all the traditional root crops after their late fall harvest. Our whole winter food supply that year was in one central spot and when we went out to harvest fresh spinach and scallions for dinner we would bring back stored potatoes and cabbage at the same time.

Hot off the Press: New Fall Books!

October 21st, 2014 by admin

What better way to ease the transition from summer fun to the fall months than exploring all our exciting new books.

Whether you are looking for the ultimate mushroom guide; take the next leap in permaculture; get everything out of those weeds in your backyard; improve your digestive health or  just curl up with a  memoir — you’ll find that and much more!

For thirty years, Chelsea Green has published books that you will turn to again and again. We don’t cater to fads or trends, but focus on being a resource for a timeless and holistic approach.

Let our new fall releases inspire you with ideas and practical skills!

Happy reading from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

 

Farming the Woods The Heal Your Gut Cookbook Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation
The Wild Wisdom of Weeds Defending Beef Integrated Forest Gardening

Save 35% on our New Crop of Fall Books

An Unlikely Vineyard Angels by the River Slowspoke The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant
Carbon Shock In the Company of Bears Around the World in 80 Plants The Vegan Book of Permaculture

Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example. Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). International orders can be placed by phone (802-295-6300) or email.


In Memoir, Environmental Insider Calls for Radical Change

October 20th, 2014 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

****

A Conversation with Author Gus Speth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat

October 16th, 2014 by admin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(…)

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

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

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