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


Available Date:
October 10, 2012


Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
October 10, 2012

$19.95 $15.96

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


The Organic Grain Grower

The Organic Grain Grower

By Jack Lazor

The ultimate guide to growing organic grains on a small and ecological scale, The Organic Grain Grower is invaluable for both home-scale and commercial producers interested in expanding their resiliency and crop diversity through growing their own grains. Longtime farmer and organic pioneer Jack Lazor covers how to grow and store wheat, barley, oats, corn, dry beans, soybeans, pulse crops, oilseeds, grasses, nutrient-dense forages, and lesser-known cereals. In addition to detailed cultivation and processing information, Lazor argues the importance of integrating grains on the organic farm (not to mention for the local-food system) for reasons of biodiversity and whole farm management. Including extensive information on:

  • The history of grain growing and consumption in North America
  • The twenty-first century and the birth of the local-food movement
  • Considering your farm's scale and climate
  • Understanding soil fertility and structure
  • Planting your crop (including spring vs. fall cereals and preparing your soil)
  • The growing and ripening process (reproductive, milk, hard-and-soft dough stages)
  • The grain harvest
  • Preparing grain for sale, storage, or end use (drying, cleaning seed, grain handling)
  • Seed breeding and saving
  • Machinery, infrastructure, and processing (both home-scale tools and larger farm equipment)
  • Grinding grains for livestock rations (including how to put together a ration based on protein content) and sample rations for dairy cows, pigs, and chickens
  • Processing grains for human consumption
  • Additional resources and information for new grain farmers, and more...

Beginners will learn how to grow enough wheat for a year's supply of bread flour for their homestead, and farmers will learn how to become part of a grain co-op, working alongside artisan bakers and mills. Never before has there been a guide to growing organic grains applicable both for the home-scale and professional farming scale. This will be a classic for decades to come and a crucial addition to any farmer's, homesteader's, gardener's, agronomist's, or seed-saver's library.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

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The Organic Grain Grower

Jack Lazor

Hardcover $45.00

Farms with a Future

Farms with a Future

By Rebecca Thistlethwaite

What makes a farm sustainable and successful? And what special qualities and skills are needed for someone to become a successful farmer?

Rebecca Thistlethwaite addresses these and other crucial questions in this uniquely important book, which is a must-read for anyone who aspires to get into farming, or who wants to make their farm business more dynamic, profitable, and, above all, sustainable. Over an entire year, the author and her husband-experienced farmers themselves-took a sabbatical and traveled the length and breadth of the United States to live and work alongside some of the nation's most innovative farmers. Along the way they learned about best practices, and a whole lot about what doesn't work.

Farms with a Future shares this collective wisdom in an inspirational yet practical manner; it will help beginners avoid many of the common mistakes that first-time farmers make. Just as importantly, it discusses positive ideas that can help make any farm enterprise vibrant and financially profitable. Profiles of more than a dozen representative farms help round out the invaluable information and encourage farmers to embrace their inner entrepreneur. Younger growers, in particular, will benefit by learning about "the right stuff" from both their peers and longtime experts.This book provides a useful reference for beginning and experienced farmers alike. While many other books address agricultural production, there are very few that talk about business management for long-term sustainability. Farms with a Future offers an approachable, colorful take on building a triple-bottom-line farming business.

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Farms with a Future

Richard Wiswall, Rebecca Thistlethwaite

Paperback $29.95

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

The New Cider Maker's Handbook

By Claude Jolicoeur

All around the world, the public’s taste for fermented cider has been growing more rapidly than at any time in the past 150 years. And with the growing interest in locally grown and artisanal foods, many new cideries are springing up all over North America, often started up by passionate amateurs who want to take their cider to the next level as small-scale craft producers.

To make the very best cider—whether for yourself, your family, and friends or for market—you first need a deep understanding of the processes involved, and the art and science behind them. Fortunately, The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is here to help. Author Claude Jolicoeur is an internationally known, award-winning cider maker with an inquiring, scientific mind. His book combines the best of traditional knowledge and techniques with up-to-date, scientifically based practices to provide today’s cider makers with all the tools they need to produce high-quality ciders.

The New Cider Maker’s Handbook is divided into five parts containing:

  • An accessible overview of the cider making process for beginners;
  • Recommendations for selecting and growing cider-appropriate apples;
  • Information on juice-extraction equipment and directions on how to build your own grater mill and cider press;
  • A discussion of the most important components of apple juice and how these may influence the quality of the cider;
  • An examination of the fermentation process and a description of methods used to produce either dry or naturally sweet cider, still or sparkling cider, and even ice cider.

This book will appeal to both serious amateurs and professional cider makers who want to increase their knowledge, as well as to orchardists who want to grow cider apples for local or regional producers. Novices will appreciate the overview of the cider-making process, and, as they develop skills and confidence, the more in-depth technical information will serve as an invaluable reference that will be consulted again and again. This book is sure to become the definitive modern work on cider making.

A mechanical engineer by profession, Claude Jolicoeur first developed his passion for apples and cider after acquiring a piece of land on which there were four rows of old abandoned apple trees. He started making cider in 1988 using a “no-compromise” approach, stubbornly searching for the highest possible quality. Since then, his ciders have earned many awards and medals at competitions, including a Best of Show at the prestigious Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition (GLINTCAP).

Claude actively participates in discussions on forums like the Cider Digest, and is regularly invited as a guest speaker to events such as the annual Cider Days festival in western Massachusetts. He lives in Quebec City.

Available in: Hardcover, eBook

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The New Cider Maker's Handbook

Claude Jolicoeur

Hardcover $44.95

Beyond the War on Invasive Species

Beyond the War on Invasive Species

By Tao Orion

Invasive species are everywhere, from forests and prairies to mountaintops and river mouths. Their rampant nature and sheer numbers appear to overtake fragile native species and forever change the ecosystems that they depend on. Concerns that invasive species represent significant threats to global biodiversity and ecological integrity permeate conversations from schoolrooms to board rooms, and concerned citizens grapple with how to rapidly and efficiently manage their populations. These worries have culminated in an ongoing “war on invasive species,” where the arsenal is stocked with bulldozers, chainsaws, and herbicides put to the task of their immediate eradication. In Hawaii, mangrove trees (Avicennia spp.) are sprayed with glyphosate and left to decompose on the sandy shorelines where they grow, and in Washington, helicopters apply the herbicide Imazapyr to smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) growing in estuaries. The “war on invasive species” is in full swing, but given the scope of such potentially dangerous and ecologically degrading eradication practices, it is necessary to question the very nature of the battle.

Beyond the War on Invasive Species offers a much-needed alternative perspective on invasive species and the best practices for their management based on a holistic, permaculture-inspired framework. Utilizing the latest research and thinking on the changing nature of ecological systems, Beyond the War on Invasive Species closely examines the factors that are largely missing from the common conceptions of invasive species, including how the colliding effects of climate change, habitat destruction, and changes in land use and management contribute to their proliferation. Beyond the War on Invasive Species demonstrates that there is more to the story of invasive species than is commonly conceived, and offers ways of understanding their presence and ecosystem effects in order to make more ecologically responsible choices in land restoration and biodiversity conservation that address the root of the invasion phenomenon. The choices we make on a daily basis—the ways we procure food, shelter, water, medicine, and transportation—are the major drivers of contemporary changes in ecosystem structure and function; therefore, deep and long-lasting ecological restoration outcomes will come not just from eliminating invasive species, but through conscientious redesign of these production systems. 

Available in: Paperback, eBook

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Beyond the War on Invasive Species

David Holmgren, Tao Orion

Paperback $22.95