Chelsea Green Publishing

Slow Democracy

Pages:280 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603584135
Pub. Date October 10, 2012
eBook: 9781603584142
Pub. Date October 10, 2012

Slow Democracy

Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
October 10, 2012

$19.95 $12.97

Availability: In Stock

eBook

Available Date:
October 10, 2012

$19.95 $12.97

Reconnecting with the sources of decisions that affect us, and with the processes of democracy itself, is at the heart of 21st-century sustainable communities.

Slow Democracy chronicles the ways in which ordinary people have mobilized to find local solutions to local problems. It invites us to bring the advantages of "slow" to our community decision making. Just as slow food encourages chefs and eaters to become more intimately involved with the production of local food, slow democracy encourages us to govern ourselves locally with processes that are inclusive, deliberative, and citizen powered.

Susan Clark and Woden Teachout outline the qualities of real, local decision making and show us the range of ways that communities are breathing new life into participatory democracy around the country. We meet residents who seize back control of their municipal water systems from global corporations, parents who find unique solutions to seemingly divisive school-redistricting issues, and a host of other citizens across the nation who have designed local decision-making systems to solve the problems unique to their area in ways that work best for their communities.

Though rooted in the direct participation that defined our nation's early days, slow democracy is not a romantic vision for reigniting the ways of old. Rather, the strategies outlined here are uniquely suited to 21st-century technologies and culture.If our future holds an increased focus on local food, local energy, and local economy, then surely we will need to improve our skills at local governance as well.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"The "slow" in Slow Democracy doesn't mean decision-making needs to take longer. It's an acknowledgement that investing in inclusive, deliberative, and empowered local decision-making is worth the time. Here are community stories that will fill you with hope for American politics."--Sandy Heierbacher, director, National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation

"Great stories about democracy-showing us that democracy is not what we have but what we do. So if you've been 'looking for hope in all the wrong places,' now you've found one that's right! Enjoy."--Frances Moore Lappé, author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think to Create the World We Want

"This is a truly important book: it explains, with copious example and lots of common sense, why democracy works better close to home. If you've begun to think the carrot from the farmer's market tastes better, this volume will lead you (liberal or conservative) down the logical path towards a working society."--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

"It is all too easy to be cynical about the contemporary democratic process. Clark and Teachout provide a roadmap for turning that cynicism into the sort of regionalized action that can improve lives and transform communities. Don't give up on democracy: Read this book and get to work!"--Ben Hewitt, author of The Town that Food Saved and Making Supper Safe

 

"Slow Democracy just may be the best thing happening in America today. Connecting in a meaningful way with our community and reclaiming our power as citizens is both powerful and possible. Read this book and consider how this movement can revitalize the communities you care about!"--Joan Blades, cofounder, MoveOn.org

"Slow democracy is the only kind that can take root, because it answers our deepest longings for connection, community, and voice. Clark and Teachout provide compelling examples and guiding principles for nurturing inclusive, participatory communities that work for everyone. Read this book, and then put it into action!"--Martha McCoy, executive director, Everyday Democracy   

"The time is exactly right for a book that takes democracy seriously, and knows where to look for it.  Clark and Teachout recognize that representative democracy must be rooted in the fertile soil of face-to-face, local, problem-solving democracy.  With engaging storytelling skills, they remind us of how vibrant these civic roots still are, and they encourage us to give this democratic garden even greater care and attention, and to enjoy its fruits while we’re at it."--Daniel Kemmis, former mayor of Missoula, Montana; author of Community and the Politics of Place

"Slow Democracy is a lively and significant book. Clark and Teachout use a broad array of stories to illustrate how our democracy is changing, and how we can capitalize on the pressures and opportunities we face in our communities. They describe how carefully structured public engagement can lead, ironically, to faster, better solutions to public problems. Finally, they show how improving local democracy, one place at a time, can add up quickly to much larger national and global impacts."--Matt Leighninger, executive director, Deliberative Democracy Consortium

ForeWord Reviews-
In the nineteenth century, robust public participation and civic action was part of the American character. By contrast, we currently comprise a “discouraged, democratically anemic citizenry,” feeling disempowered and voiceless when it comes to influencing the outcome of public policy issues that affect us, our cities, towns, and neighborhoods.
  Nevertheless, there is a way out of this morass—it’s called ‘slow democracy.’ Taking its cue from the slow food movement (a global, grassroots effort that links a way of living and a way of eating with a commitment to community and sustainability), slow democracy encourages democratic decision-making at the local level by members of the community. It forgoes the ideological divisions of left vs. right and promotes self-governance through processes that are inclusive, deliberative, and citizen-powered.
  While the notion of wresting power and decision making from the federal level and returning it to citizens and local governments may seem like pie-in-the-sky optimism, activist [Susan] Clark and historian [Woden] Teachout cite numerous places where slow democracy is producing results. In New York City; Chicago; Gloucester, Massachusetts; New Orleans; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Hacker Valley, West Virginia “painful issues” like racism and crime and ‘too-hot-to-handle concerns’ like budget cuts, school redistricting, environmental protection, and housing are being addressed by ordinary people committed to citizen engagement and collaborative problem-solving.  Slow Democracy is a user-friendly ‘blueprint for American redemption.’ It inspires the belief that our dwindling democracy can be invigorated. City councilors, town managers, community organizers, politicians, and average Americans will find wisdom in Slow Democracy and will learn strategies to bolster public participation and thus transform our political landscape.

Library Journal-
Clark (All Those in Favor) and Teachout (Union Inst. & Univ.; Capture the Flag) make a strong case for ‘slow democracy’—the inclusive, deliberative, locally based way to reinvigorate American politics. Based on the slow food movement’s principles of localism, community involvement, and sustainability, slow democracy taps the energy, concerns, and common sense of local citizens to improve local decisions. Clark and Teachout explain slow democracy in action, discuss reframing debates to avoid the polarization that passes for politics in the United States, and suggest ways for people to adapt the principles of slow democracy for use in their own political lives. The authors admit that slow democracy takes time—time to gather community members, time for all to tell their stories, and time for citizen groups to find practical and affordable solutions to local problems. VERDICT: This is a convincing argument that time invested in this way benefits everyone in the community and reconnects citizens with their governments and each other. Recommended for anyone interested in being more politically engaged.

Publisher's Weekly-
Making the case for local control and community action while offering plenty of worthwhile advice, community leader Clark and democracy scholar Teachout tell how to get things done in the public sphere. The authors are open about their leftist leanings but make it clear that "slow democracy" is not about partisanship or political labels. On issues including community control of water systems and school re-districting, the authors paint an upbeat picture of participatory democracy. They devote much of the book to success stories, mainly from small cities like Portsmouth, N.H. Intending to be inspirational, sometimes lyrical and crunchy-granola in spirit, Clark and Teachout can resort to the obvious or mundane: "[s]low democracy is about inviting neighbors into community conversations about issues that matter." But readers who instinctively resist suffocating regulations and Big Brother authorities will welcome the book's insights. Clark and Teachout favor a New England-style town-hall political culture that wouldn't last five minutes in Chicago or Los Angeles, yet anyone who wants to reinvigorate grass-roots involvement and moderate top-down rule can benefit from this earnest volume. Activists and organizers will appreciate the useful tips, and Clark and Teachout's community strategies will resonate with both conservatives and progressives.

Kirkus Reviews-
How community deliberative processes can provide an alternative to divisive party politics and technocratic expertise. Community organizer Clark (co-author: All Those in Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community, 2005) and historian Teachout (Graduate Studies/Union Institute and Univ.; Capture the Flag: A Political History of American Patriotism, 2009, etc.) believe that genuine deliberations by citizens have too often been replaced by top-down political decision-making, in much the same way fast food has been substituted for the genuine article. The authors present case studies in which citizens have come together to solve problems faced by their communities. They cite the city of Portsmouth, N.H., which has won international awards for the way citizens acted together to solve problems confronting their school system when the experts failed. They chronicle citizen transformation of social services, such as Chicago's Police Department, and citizen interventions to take control of municipal or county water supplies. The authors highlight the way Pennsylvanians have organized against fracking through town and county institutions. Each of these cases, they note, was precipitated by a particular set of circumstances that needed to be addressed in a timely way. Clark and Teachout complement their case studies with discussions of useful methodologies to bring people together for common purposes and with a brief history of the New England town meeting format. The major problem local communities face, they write, is outside “efficiency experts” armed with charts and graphs and prepackaged solutions. The authors offer the history of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia, as a dramatic example of how “slow politics” works over an extended period of time to build something of lasting value. A valuable tool for improving the way government operates at the local level.

AWARDS

  • Winner - Atlas Awards, 2012 Accomplishments

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Clark

Susan Clark is a writer and facilitator focusing on community sustainability and citizen participation. She is an award-winning radio commentator and former talk show co-host. Her democratic activism has earned her broad recognition, including the 2010 Vermont Secretary of State's Enduring Democracy Award.  Clark is the coauthor of Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home (Chelsea Green, 2012), and All Those In Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community (RavenMark, 2005). Her work strengthening communities has included directing a community activists' network and facilitating town visioning forums. She served as communication and education director of the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Coordinator of the University of Vermont's Environmental Programs In Communities (EPIC) project.  Clark lives in Middlesex, Vermont, where she chairs a committee that encourages citizen involvement, and serves as town-meeting moderator.


Woden Teachout

Woden Teachout is an historian and cultural critic interested in the development of American patriotic culture.  She is currently professor of graduate studies at Union Institute and University and has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Middlebury College, and Goddard College. She is the co-author, with Susan Clark, of Slow Democracy: Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home (Chelsea Green).

AUTHOR VIDEOS

Susan Clark interview

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

By Peter Burke

The Low-Tech, No-Grow-Lights Approach to Abundant Harvest

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers good news: with nothing more than a cupboard and a windowsill, you can grow all the fresh salad greens you need for the winter months (or throughout the entire year) with no lights, no pumps, and no greenhouse.

Longtime gardener Peter Burke was tired of the growing season ending with the first frost, but due to his busy work schedule and family life, didn’t have the time or interest in high-input grow lights or greenhouses. Most techniques for growing what are commonly referred to as “microgreens” left him feeling overwhelmed and uninterested. There had to be a simpler way to grow greens for his family indoors. After some research and diligent experimenting, Burke discovered he was right—there was a way! And it was even easier than he ever could have hoped, and the greens more nutrient packed. He didn’t even need a south-facing window, and he already had most of the needed supplies just sitting in his pantry. The result: healthy, homegrown salad greens at a fraction of the cost of buying them at the market. The secret: start them in the dark.

Growing “Soil Sprouts”—Burke’s own descriptive term for sprouted seeds grown in soil as opposed to in jars—employs a method that encourages a long stem without expansive roots, and provides delicious salad greens in just seven to ten days, way earlier than any other method, with much less work. Indeed, of all the ways to grow immature greens, this is the easiest and most productive technique. Forget about grow lights and heat lamps!  This book is a revolutionary and inviting guide for both first-time and experienced gardeners in rural or urban environments. All you need is a windowsill or two. In fact, Burke has grown up to six pounds of greens per day using just the windowsills in his kitchen! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers detailed step-by-step instructions to mastering this method (hint: it’s impossible not to succeed, it’s so easy!), tools and accessories to have on hand, seeds and greens varieties, soil and compost, trays and planters, shelving, harvest and storage, recipes, scaling up to serve local markets, and much more.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Peter Burke

Paperback $29.95

The Zero Waste Solution

The Zero Waste Solution

By Paul Connett

Waste is something we all make every day but often pay little attention to.  That's changing, and model programs around the globe show the many different ways a community can strive for, and achieve, zero-waste status.

Scientist-turned-activist Paul Connett, a leading international figure in decades-long battles to fight pollution, has championed efforts to curtail overconsumption and keep industrial toxins out of our air and drinking water and bodies. But he’s best known around the world for leading efforts to help communities deal with their waste in sustainable ways—in other words, to eliminate and reuse waste rather than burn it or stow it away in landfills.

In The Zero Waste Solution, Connett profiles the most successful zero-waste initiatives around the world, showing activists, planners, and entrepreneurs how to re-envision their community’s waste-handling process—by consuming less, turning organic waste into compost, recycling, reusing other waste,  demanding nonwasteful product design, and creating jobs and bringing community members together in the process. The book also exposes the greenwashing behind renewed efforts to promote waste incinerators as safe, nontoxic energy suppliers, and gives detailed information on how communities can battle incineration projects that, even at their best, emit dangerous particles into the atmosphere, many of which remain unregulated or poorly regulated.

An important toolkit for anyone interested in creating sustainable communities, generating secure local jobs, and keeping toxic alternatives at bay.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

Read More

The Zero Waste Solution

Paul Connett, Jeremy Irons

Paperback $24.95

The Moneyless Manifesto

The Moneyless Manifesto

By Mark Boyle

That we need money to live, like it or not, is a self-evident truism. Right? Not anymore. Drawing on almost three years of experience as The Moneyless Man, exbusinessman Mark Boyle not only demystifies money and the system that binds us to it, he also explains how liberating, easy, and enjoyable it is to live with less of it.

In The Moneyless Manifesto, Mark takes us on an exploration that goes deeper into the thinking that pushed him to make the decision to go moneyless, and the philosophy he developed along the way.

Bursting with radical new perspectives on some of the vital, yet often unquestioned, pillars of economic theory and what it really means to be “sustainable,” as well as creative and practical solutions for how we can live more with less, Mark offers us one of the world’s most thought-provoking voices on economic and ecological ideas.

Mark’s original, witty style will help simplify and diversify your personal economy, freeing you from the invisible ties that limit you, and making you more resilient to financial shocks. The Moneyless Manifesto will enable you to start your journey into a new world.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The Moneyless Manifesto

Mark Boyle, Charles Eisenstein

Paperback $24.95

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

By Carol Deppe

All gardeners and farmers should be plant breeders, says author Carol Deppe. Developing new vegetable varieties doesn't require a specialized education, a lot of land, or even a lot of time. It can be done on any scale. It's enjoyable. It's deeply rewarding. You can get useful new varieties much faster than you might suppose. And you can eat your mistakes.

Authoritative and easy-to-understand, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's and Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving is the only guide to plant breeding and seed saving for the serious home gardener and the small-scale farmer or commercial grower. Discover:

  • how to breed for a wide range of different traits (flavor, size, shape, or color; cold or heat tolerance; pest and disease resistance; and regional adaptation)
  • how to save seed and maintain varieties
  • how to conduct your own variety trials and other farm- or garden-based research
  • how to breed for performance under organic or sustainable growing methods

In this one-size-fits-all world of multinational seed companies, plant patents, and biotech monopolies, more and more gardeners and farmers are recognizing that they need to "take back their seeds." They need to save more of their own seed, grow and maintain the best traditional and regional varieties, and develop more of their own unique new varieties. Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's and Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving shows the way, and offers an exciting introduction to a whole new gardening adventure.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties

Carol Deppe

Paperback $29.95