Chelsea Green Publishing

A Precautionary Tale

Pages:240 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603587051
Pub. Date November 09, 2017

A Precautionary Tale

How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved Its Food Heritage, and Inspired a Movement

By Philip Ackerman-Leist
Foreword by Vandana Shiva

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
November 09, 2017

$19.95 $14.96

Mals, Italy, has long been known as the breadbasket of the Tyrol. But recently the tiny town became known for something else entirely. A Precautionary Tale tells us why, introducing readers to an unlikely group of activists and a forward-thinking mayor who came together to ban pesticides in Mals by a referendum vote—making it the first place on Earth to accomplish such a feat, and a model for other towns and regions to follow.

For hundreds of years, the people of Mals had cherished their traditional foodways and kept their local agriculture organic. Their town had become a mecca for tourists drawn by the alpine landscape, the rural and historic character of the villages, and the fine breads, wines, cheeses, herbs, vegetables, and the other traditional foods they produced. Yet Mals is located high up in the eastern Alps, and the valley below was being steadily overtaken by big apple producers, heavily dependent on pesticides. As Big Apple crept further and further up the region’s mountainsides, their toxic spray drifted with the valley’s ever-present winds and began to fall on the farms and fields of Mals—threatening their organic certifications, as well as their health and that of their livestock. 

The advancing threats gradually motivated a diverse cast of characters to take action—each in their own unique way, and then in concert in an iconic display of direct democracy in action. As Ackerman-Leist recounts their uprising, we meet an organic dairy farmer who decides to speak up when his hay is poisoned by drift; a pediatrician who engaged other medical professionals to protect the soil, water, and air that the health of her patients depends upon; a hairdresser whose salon conversations mobilized the town’s women in an extraordinarily conceived campaign; and others who together orchestrated one of the rare revolutionary successes of our time and inspired a movement now snaking its way through Europe and the United States.

A foreword by Vandana Shiva calls upon others to follow in Mals’s footsteps.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

Booklist

"Northern Italy’s South Tyrol province is at a cultural crossroads where the Swiss, Austrians, and Italians have all claimed the region’s fertile slopes. The latest struggle for the area is agricultural, pitting organic farmers against Big Apple, the opposition’s nickname for a cooperative of fruit growers who spray pesticides on their high-tech orchards up to 20 times per year. Due to frequent winds, Big Apple’s pesticides drift into the adjacent organic fields, harming the income and reputation of farmers who pledged to be chemical-free. Thanks to its remoteness, Mals, a municipality in South Tyrol, has been out of Big Apple’s reach, but the construction of industrial orchards is approaching. This is the story of Mals and its successful, preemptive campaign to ban pesticides within the township borders. With profiles of organic farmers, descriptions of traditional foods, and accounts of creative local politics, the book will appeal to readers who enjoy reading encouraging stories of grassroots environmental action. A short 'activist’s primer' is included." 

Publishers Weekly—

"In this down-to-earth volume on the effects of pesticides, Ackerman-Leist (Rebuilding the Foodshed), a farmer and professor at Green Mountain College, chronicles the agricultural battles waged in Mals, a town in the Italian Alps filling fast with apple orchards. Residents had grown accustomed to the 'gradual march of the orchards up the slopes' but were dismayed by the 'enveloping mists blasted from the spray machines mounted on the back of the advancing tractors.' Ackerman-Leist profiles some of the crucial actors in Mals’s fight against 'Big Apple,' during which the residents of Mals passed a referendum vote to ban pesticides. He introduces Günther Wallnöfer, an organic dairy farmer whose family business sat adjacent to a new orchard; residue from the orchard’s chemical sprays had found its way to Wallnöfer’s livestock. Ackerman-Leist also talks with Peter Gasser, a veterinarian who interacted daily with farmers and livestock. As a result of this work Gasser had a thorough knowledge of the community’s issues, which he would later use to help lead the fight against pesticides in the town. Ackerman-Leist argues that Mals’s story has particular relevance for American farmers who face similar circumstances, and he concludes his discussion with useful suggestions for farming communities on topics such as information gathering and political engagement.”

Foreword Reviews-

"Focusing on a region of the Alps where farming has been a mainstay for millennia, this book examines a successful grassroots movement to ban pesticides…. A Precautionary Tale is an optimistic read with an enthusiastic and celebratory tone. Activists will find it inspiring, and community leaders in a position to take the example of Mals may see in it a blueprint for peaceful, calm, and productive civil discussion around the environment."

“An inspiring tale of citizen science and community action.”—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System

“Ackerman-Leist tells the story of how a small town took on the powerful forces of chemical agriculture and not only won, but created a template that anyone seeking a poison-free environment anywhere in the world can follow.”—Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and Pig Tales

“Climate change, xenophobia, war, hunger, madmen and autocrats running the world. It’s easy to feel paralyzed when faced with the enormity of our modern dilemma. Philip Ackerman-Leist’s A Precautionary Tale gives us hope, and provides us with a real-life tale of regular folk who stood up to the Goliath that was about to swallow their community, and succeeded. This book is living proof that even against overwhelming odds we have enormous power in and around the places where we live.”—Michael Ableman, farmer and; author of Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier

A Precautionary Tale is the hopeful message we all need! Philip Ackerman-Leist shows us that we still have the power, as citizens, to gather and change the reality of our daily lives. The people from Mals could be you and me. They have proven that working for empowerment is not in vain. Indeed, they have managed to defeat giant corporations. And they remind us that we can’t let despair or sadness paralyze us, that we can trust the strength of community, and that we must do our part and act.”—Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer, authors of Miraculous Abundance

“Many, many thanks to Philip Ackerman-Leist for telling us the wonderful story of Mals, the town in Italy that decided to ban the use of pesticides! This story is extremely inspiring for us all. It shows that there is a way out of the actual dependency of our agriculture on pesticides, and that a group of informed and active citizens, together with brave local politicians, can change the world for the better. May this excellent book inspire communities all around the world—and our politicians, too!”—François Veillerette, chair, Pesticide Action Network Europe

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Ackerman-Leist

Philip Ackerman-Leist, author of Rebuilding the Foodshed and Up Tunket Road, is a professor at Green Mountain College, where he established the college’s farm and sustainable agriculture curriculum, directs its Farm & Food Project, and founded its Master of Science in Sustainable Food Systems, the nation’s first online graduate program in food systems, featuring applied comparative research of students’ home bioregions. He and his wife, Erin, farmed in the South Tyrol region of the Alps and North Carolina before beginning their nineteen-year homesteading and farming venture in Pawlet, Vermont. With more than two decades of field experience working on farms, in the classroom, and with regional food systems collaborators, Philip’s work is focused on examining and reshaping local and regional food systems from the ground up.

AUTHOR EVENTS

March 09, 2018

Philip Ackerman-Leist at Organic Growers School

Organic Growers School, Asheville, NC | Philip Ackerman-Leist

See all Events by this Author

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Up Tunket Road

Up Tunket Road

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

Ever since Thoreau's Walden, the image of the American homesteader has been of someone getting away from civilization, of forging an independent life in the country. Yet if this were ever true, what is the nature and reality of homesteading in the media-saturated, hyper-connected 21st century?

For seven years Philip Ackerman-Leist and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in the beautiful but remote hills of western New England. Slowly forging their own farm and homestead, they took inspiration from their experiences among the mountain farmers of the Tirolean Alps and were guided by their Vermont neighbors, who taught them about what it truly means to live sustainably in the postmodern homestead--not only to survive, but to thrive in a fragmented landscape and a fractured economy.

Up Tunket Road is the inspiring true story of a young couple who embraced the joys of simple living while also acknowledging its frustrations and complexities. Ackerman-Leist writes with humor about the inevitable foibles of setting up life off the grid--from hauling frozen laundry uphill to getting locked in the henhouse by their ox. But he also weaves an instructive narrative that contemplates the future of simple living. His is not a how-to guide, but something much richer and more important--a tale of discovery that will resonate with readers who yearn for a better, more meaningful life, whether they live in the city, country, or somewhere in between.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Up Tunket Road

Philip Ackerman-Leist, Erin Ackerman-Leist

Paperback $17.95

Rebuilding the Foodshed

Rebuilding the Foodshed

By Philip Ackerman-Leist

Droves of people have turned to local food as a way to retreat from our broken industrial food system. From rural outposts to city streets, they are sowing, growing, selling, and eating food produced close to home—and they are crying out for agricultural reform. All this has made "local food" into everything from a movement buzzword to the newest darling of food trendsters.

But now it's time to take the conversation to the next level. That's exactly what Philip Ackerman-Leist does in Rebuilding the Foodshed, in which he refocuses the local-food lens on the broad issue of rebuilding regional food systems that can replace the destructive aspects of industrial agriculture, meet food demands affordably and sustainably, and be resilient enough to endure potentially rough times ahead.

Changing our foodscapes raises a host of questions. How far away is local? How do you decide the size and geography of a regional foodshed? How do you tackle tough issues that plague food systems large and small—issues like inefficient transportation, high energy demands, and rampant food waste? How do you grow what you need with minimum environmental impact? And how do you create a foodshed that's resilient enough if fuel grows scarce, weather gets more severe, and traditional supply chains are hampered?

Showcasing some of the most promising, replicable models for growing, processing, and distributing sustainably grown food, this book points the reader toward the next stages of the food revolution. It also covers the full landscape of the burgeoning local-food movement, from rural to suburban to urban, and from backyard gardens to large-scale food enterprises.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Rebuilding the Foodshed

Philip Ackerman-Leist, Deborah Madison

Paperback $24.95

The War on Bugs

The War on Bugs

By Will Allen

In the early nineteenth century as the American population grew rapidly, demands on crop output increased. Seeing an opportunity to play upon fears from market demand, chemical companies declared war on the vile, profit-sucking, output-wreaking, arch-nemesis of the average American farmer: bugs. With precision, pesticide manufacturers delivered a "shock and awe" media campaign that can only be paralleled to the current blitzkrieg from today's pharmaceutical companies. Bugs were the threat to the American dream—and there was a cure available to every farmer available in spray, granule, dust, or systemic form that could be applied to any crop.

Will Allen's The War on Bugs reveals how advertisers, editors, scientists, large-scale farmers, government agencies—and even Dr. Seuss—colluded to convince farmers to use deadly chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to pad their wallets and control the American farm enterprise.

When it first appeared in 2008, this groundbreaking “people’s history of agricultural chemicals” was far ahead of its time, and this newly revised and updated edition brings readers up to date on issues, detailing how organic and populist farmers, consumers, and activists have struggled against toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply.

Echoing the warnings of seminal works on the topic like The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, 100,000 Guinea Pigs by Arthur Kallet and F.J. Schlink, and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, The War on Bugs shouts that the time to stop poisoning our food, water, air, and ourselves is now!

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The War on Bugs

Will Allen, Vandana Shiva

Paperback $19.95

AUTHOR VIDEOS

Rebuilding the Foodshed - Green Mountain college TV

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

Chelsea Green Book Talks: Philip Ackerman-Leist on Rebuilding the Foodshed

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist

An Interview with Philip Ackerman-Leist (Extended)

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

Public Lecture at Shelburne Farms

Phillip Ackerman-Leist at Green Mountain College

Professor of Sustainable Food Systems; Director, Farm and Food Project at Green Mountain College introduces himself

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva

By Lionel Astruc

An icon worldwide for the ecological revolution and a leader of the alter-globalization movement, Vandana Shiva has made teaching by example the basis of her work. Walking the back roads of India alone in the late 1980s in search of traditional seeds threatened by industrial agriculture, she returned leading a procession of 500,000 demonstrators – farmers and activists – and with a network of 120 seed banks in place. Her initiatives have borne fruit on five continents and her legal proceedings against multinational corporations have earned her numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award – known as the “alternative Nobel prize”. Wrapped in her timeless sari of artisanal cotton, she calls upon each of us to become that “little nobody” who can reverse current trends.

A doctor of quantum physics and philosophy, she lives up to her name: the god Shiva is also known for his fierce character and as a protector of life. Her history is marked by commitment, body and soul, to a country currently torn by an intense war for raw materials.

Why is a major paradigm shift likely in the coming years? What role should we play? How does abundance for some and scarcity for others result in the loss of food sovereignty for everyone? What is ecofeminism and how does it represent a major opportunity, for men as well as women, and for the planet?

This series of interviews alternately addresses both the major challenges of today and the epic journey of this successor to Gandhi.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Vandana Shiva

Lionel Astruc, Olivier De Schutter

Paperback $22.00

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

Read More

The Zero Waste Solution

Paul Connett, Jeremy Irons

Paperback $24.95

Occupy World Street

Occupy World Street

By Ross Jackson

Ordinary citizens the world over have long paid the price for the swashbuckling behavior of the corporate and political elite. We've seen the reigning establishment widen the gap between rich and poor, champion endless growth on a finite planet, wreak havoc on developing nations, and ravage ecosystems in a mad race for natural resources.

Now, as demonstrators worldwide demand change, Occupy World Street offers a sweeping vision of how to reform our global economic and political structures, break away from empire, and build a world of self-determining sovereign states that respect the need for ecological sustainability and uphold human rights.

In this refreshingly detailed plan, Ross Jackson shows how a handful of small nations could take on a leadership role; create new alliances, new governance, and new global institutions; and, in cooperation with grassroots activists, pave the way for other nations to follow suit.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Occupy World Street

Ross Jackson, Hazel Henderson

Paperback $19.95

The End of America

The End of America

By Naomi Wolf

In a stunning indictment of the Bush administration and Congress, best-selling author Naomi Wolf lays out her case for saving American democracy. In authoritative research and documentation Wolf explains how events of the last six years parallel steps taken in the early years of the 20th century’s worst dictatorships such as Germany, Russia, China, and Chile.

The book cuts across political parties and ideologies and speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose being placed around our liberties.

In this timely call to arms, Naomi Wolf compels us to face the way our free America is under assault. She warns us–with the straight-to-fellow-citizens urgency of one of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlets–that we have little time to lose if our children are to live in real freedom.

“Recent history has profound lessons for us in the U.S. today about how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, especially in what were once democracies. The secret is that these leaders all tend to take very similar, parallel steps. The Founders of this nation were so deeply familiar with tyranny and the habits and practices of tyrants that they set up our checks and balances precisely out of fear of what is unfolding today. We are seeing these same kinds of tactics now closing down freedoms in America, turning our nation into something that in the near future could be quite other than the open society in which we grew up and learned to love liberty,” states Wolf.

Wolf is taking her message directly to the American people in the most accessible form and as part of a large national campaign to reach out to ordinary Americans about the dangers we face today. This includes a lecture and speaking tour, and being part of the nascent American Freedom Campaign, a grassroots effort to ensure that presidential candidates pledge to uphold the constitution and protect our liberties from further erosion.

The End of America will shock, enrage, and motivate–spurring us to act, as the Founders would have counted on us to do in a time such as this, as rebels and patriots–to save our liberty and defend our nation.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The End of America

Naomi Wolf

Paperback $13.95