Chelsea Green Publishing

Slow Democracy

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

Slow Democracy

Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 10, 2012


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.


"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

"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


"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

"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,

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.


  • Winner - Atlas Awards, 2012 Accomplishments


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).


Susan Clark interview


Adobe Homes for All Climates

Adobe Homes for All Climates

By Lisa Schroder and Vince Ogletree

The lay-up of adobe bricks is an easy, forgiving way to achieve a solid masonry-wall system. Contrary to stereotypes, adobe is perfectly adaptable for use in cold, wet climates as well as hot and dry ones, and for areas prone to earthquakes. With its efficient use of energy, natural resources for construction, and minimal effort for long-term maintenance, it’s clear that the humble adobe brick is an ideal option for constructing eco-friendly structures throughout the world.

The book is ideal both for first-time do-it-yourselfers and for experienced adobe builders seeking to improve their craft. Drawing on the experience of more than fifty major adobe projects since 1993, Adobe Homes for All Climates describes Adobe Building Systems’ patented reinforcement and scaffolding systems, showing readers how to construct adobe homes more easily and safely, and with superior strength, durability, structural integrity, and aesthetic appeal, as compared to earthen homes of the past.

All aspects of adobe construction are covered, including making and laying adobe bricks, installing lintels and arches, conduits and pipes, doors and windows, top plates and bondbeams, ideal wall dimensions, adobe finishes, and other adobe construction components, such as the inexpensive use of scaffolding. These methods will produce a premium product that will meet and often exceed inspection standards.

Equipped with this manual, you will be able to obtain a building permit, make adobe bricks swiftly, and confidently lay them up. You will be able to beautifully finish your adobe walls with earth plasters creating stunning colors and outstanding light effects and create a beautiful, energy-efficient home that will last for generations to come.

Available in: Paperback

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The Winter Harvest Handbook

The Winter Harvest Handbook

By Eliot Coleman

Choosing locally grown organic food is a sustainable living trend that’s taken hold throughout North America. Celebrated farming expert Eliot Coleman helped start this movement with The New Organic Grower published 20 years ago. He continues to lead the way, pushing the limits of the harvest season while working his world-renowned organic farm in Harborside, Maine.

Now, with his long-awaited new book, The Winter Harvest Handbook, anyone can have access to his hard-won experience. Gardeners and farmers can use the innovative, highly successful methods Coleman describes in this comprehensive handbook to raise crops throughout the coldest of winters.

Building on the techniques that hundreds of thousands of farmers and gardeners adopted from The New Organic Grower and Four-Season Harvest, this new book focuses on growing produce of unparalleled freshness and quality in customized unheated or, in some cases, minimally heated, movable plastic greenhouses.

Coleman offers clear, concise details on greenhouse construction and maintenance, planting schedules, crop management, harvesting practices, and even marketing methods in this complete, meticulous, and illustrated guide. Readers have access to all the techniques that have proven to produce higher-quality crops on Coleman’s own farm.

His painstaking research and experimentation with more than 30 different crops will be valuable to small farmers, homesteaders, and experienced home gardeners who seek to expand their production seasons.

A passionate advocate for the revival of small-scale sustainable farming, Coleman provides a practical model for supplying fresh, locally grown produce during the winter season, even in climates where conventional wisdom says it “just can’t be done.”

Available in: Paperback

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By David Holmgren

David Holmgren brings into sharper focus the powerful and still evolving Permaculture concept he pioneered with Bill Mollison in the 1970s. It draws together and integrates 25 years of thinking and teaching to reveal a whole new way of understanding and action behind a simple set of design principles. The 12 design principles are each represented by a positive action statement, an icon and a traditional proverb or two that captures the essence of each principle.

Holmgren draws a correlation between every aspect of how we organize our lives, communities and landscapes and our ability to creatively adapt to the ecological realities that shape human destiny. For students and teachers of Permaculture this book provides something more fundamental and distilled than Mollison's encyclopedic Designers Manual. For the general reader it provides refreshing perspectives on a range of environmental issues and shows how permaculture is much more than just a system of gardening. For anyone seriously interested in understanding the foundations of sustainable design and culture, this book is essential reading. Although a book of ideas, the big picture is repeatedly grounded by reference to Holmgren's own place, Melliodora, and other practical examples.

Available in: Paperback

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The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat

By Cole Ward and Karen Coshof

Vermont-based master butcher Cole Ward delivers a comprehensive guide to whole-animal butchery that goes beyond conventional “do-it-yourself” books and takes readers inside the world of truly sustainable meat production. The Gourmet Butcher's Guide to Meat demystifies the process of getting meat to the table, and its wide scope will be welcome to those who not only wish to learn the rudiments of butchery, but also want to understand how meat animals are raised, slaughtered, and marketed in a holistic system that honors both animals and consumers.

Written in Cole’s unique voice of humor and simplicity, the book celebrates the traditional art of culinary butchery, introducing readers to stand-out butchers in America and Europe as well as a diverse group of farmers committed to raising the very best animals with respect.

The many methods of raising and finishing meat animals are clearly and thoroughly explained and compared, and sensitive issues like hormone and antibiotic use in meat production are assessed. Readers will learn all the terminology associated with meat and butchery, as well as the complexities of meat grading, carcass yield, marbling scores, and issues with inspection.

Also included are recipes, a detailed glossary, and more information on:

•    The real definition, work, and role of a culinary butcher;
•    The history and tradition of butchery;
•    Meat: selecting your breed, grading and aging, tenderness, storing; and reheating;
•    How meat gets to the table: farmers, slaughtering methods, stress, and animal welfare, the role of meat inspectors, cut sheets, what’s legally allowed/not allowed when purchasing meat for further processing, keeping integrity in the local meat movement;
•    Understanding the commercial meat food chain and recognizing deceptive practices;
•    Processing your own meat: what you’ll need, tools, safety, prep;
•    Beef: domestication, terminology, how cows work, raising methods (grass, grain, etc.), meat-safety issues, hormone growth implants, antibiotics and feed additives, carcass yield and marbling scores, and a partial list of beef breeds;
•    Cutting up a beef forequarter and hindquarter;
•    Pork: domestication, terminology, raising methods, grading and inspection, and a partial list of pork breeds;
•    Cutting up a side of pork;
•    Sheep: domestication, terminology, raising methods, and a partial list of meat breeds;
•    Cutting up a whole lamb;
•    Chicken: domestication, terminology, how to cut up a whole chicken;
•    How to make sausages;
•    Value-added products: what they are and how they can help increase your bottom line;
•    Your own butcher shop: size, equipment, display, marketing;
•    A better way of thinking about meat: a holistic overview and some conclusions.

History buffs will delight in the chapter that traces the roots of butchery from pre-history to modern times, and meat shoppers will welcome Cole’s description of what goes on behind the scenes at meat markets large and small. And, of course, new or aspiring butchers will find a well-illustrated slideshow on CD (included in the back of the book) with over 800 images on cutting up a side of beef, a side of pork, and whole lamb and chicken in more detail than is offered in any other book on the subject. Sure to be the ultimate resource on the subject of gourmet butchery, this book will change the conversation and help bring back a traditional art that is in jeopardy, but increasingly important in the local-food and ecological-agriculture movement.

Available in: Hardcover

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