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It’s more than an oxymoron. Massive Small is a framework for urban development that can make cities more sustainable and resilient. But how does it work and does it make sense for the future? The following excerpt is from Making Massive Small Change by Kelvin Campbell. It has been adapted for the web. The Massive Small…Read More
For centuries, humans have had a very strong interest in oil and it’s only getting more intense. Our dependency is reaching a concerning level which Matthieu Auzanneau speaks to in his book Oil, Power, and War. The following article was written by Frank Kaminski and was published on Resilience.org. In Oil, Power, and War, French…Read More
For generations, we’ve worked collectively as a society to build our cities into vibrant communities where we can progress and flourish together. Over the years, however, we’ve lost the art of collective and community evolution as our governments step in with their big ideas for urban growth – many of which come at a steep…Read More
Politics & Public Policy
Rebuilding the Foodshed
How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems
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.
The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth
Nuclear power is not clean, cheap, or safe. With Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the nuclear industry’s record of catastrophic failures now averages one major disaster every decade. After three US-designed plants exploded in Japan, many countries moved to abandon reactors for renewables. In the United States, however, powerful corporations and a compliant government still defend nuclear power-while promising billion-dollar bailouts to operators.
Each new disaster demonstrates that the nuclear industry and governments lie to “avoid panic,” to preserve the myth of “safe, clean” nuclear power, and to sustain government subsidies. Tokyo and Washington both covered up Fukushima’s radiation risks and-when confronted with damning evidence-simply raised the levels of “acceptable” risk to match the greater levels of exposure.
Nuclear Roulette dismantles the core arguments behind the nuclear-industrial complex’s “Nuclear Renaissance.” While some critiques are familiar-nuclear power is too costly, too dangerous, and too unstable-others are surprising: Nuclear Roulette exposes historic links to nuclear weapons, impacts on Indigenous lands and lives, and the ways in which the Nuclear Regulatory Commission too often takes its lead from industry, rewriting rules to keep failing plants in compliance. Nuclear Roulette cites NRC records showing how corporations routinely defer maintenance and lists resulting “near-misses” in the US, which average more than one per month.
Nuclear Roulette chronicles the problems of aging reactors, uncovers the costly challenge of decommissioning, explores the industry’s greatest seismic risks-not on California’s quake-prone coast but in the Midwest and Southeast-and explains how solar flares could black out power grids, causing the world’s 400-plus reactors to self-destruct. This powerful exposé concludes with a roundup of proven and potential energy solutions that can replace nuclear technology with a “Renewable Renaissance,” combined with conservation programs that can cleanse the air, and cool the planet.
The Gamble of Our Lives (DVD)
Never-before-seen evidence points to genetically engineered foods as a major contributor to rising disease rates in the U.S. population, especially among children. Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, inflammatory diseases, and infertility are just some of the problems identified in humans, pets. livestock, and lab animals that eat genetically modified soybeans and corn.
Monsanto’s strong-arm tactics, the FDA’s fraudulent policies, and how the USDA ignores a growing health emergency are also laid bare. This sometimes shocking film may change your diet, help you protect your family, and accelerate the consumer tipping point against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A film not to be missed.
Also includes the bonus DVD Seeds of Freedom (28 min.) narrated by Jeremy Irons, and produced by the Gaia Foundation and African Biodiversity Network. This landmark film shows how the story of seed at the hands of multinationals has become one of loss, control, dependence, and debt. Also: two talks by Jeffrey M. Smith and twelve public-service announcements.
Rediscovering Community, Bringing Decision Making Back Home
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.
Power from the People
How to Organize, Finance, and Launch Local Energy Projects
Over 90 percent of US power generation comes from large, centralized, highly polluting, nonrenewable sources of energy. It is delivered through long, brittle transmission lines, and then is squandered through inefficiency and waste. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Communities can indeed produce their own local, renewable energy.
Power from the People explores how homeowners, co-ops, nonprofit institutions, governments, and businesses are putting power in the hands of local communities through distributed energy programs and energy-efficiency measures.
Using examples from around the nation – and occasionally from around the world – Greg Pahl explains how to plan, organize, finance, and launch community-scale energy projects that harvest energy from sun, wind, water, and earth. He also explains why community power is a necessary step on the path to energy security and community resilience – particularly as we face peak oil, cope with climate change, and address the need to transition to a more sustainable future.
This book – the second in the Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Post Carbon Institute’s Community Resilience Series – also profiles numerous communitywide initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere.
Killing the Cranes
A Reporter’s Journey through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan
Few reporters have covered Afghanistan as intrepidly and humanely as Edward Girardet. Now, in a gripping, personal account, Girardet delivers a story of that nation’s resistance fighters, foreign invaders, mercenaries, spies, aid workers, Islamic extremists, and others who have defined Afghanistan’s last thirty years of war, chaos, and strife.
As a young foreign correspondent, Girardet arrived in Afghanistan just three months prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979. Over the next decades, he trekked hundreds of miles across rugged mountains and deserts on clandestine journeys following Afghan guerrillas in battle as they smuggled French doctors into the country, and as they combated each other as well as invaders. He witnessed the world’s greatest refugee exodus, the bitter Battle for Kabul in the early 1990s, the rise of the Taliban, and, finally, the US-led Western military and recovery effort that began in 2001.
Girardet’s encounters with key figures-including Ahmed Shah Massoud, the famed “Lion of Panjshir” assassinated by al Qaeda two days before 9/11, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Islamic extremist massively supported by the Americans during the 1980s only to become one of today’s most ruthless anti-Western insurgents, and Osama bin Laden-shed extraordinary light on the personalities who have shaped the nation, and its current challenges, from corruption and narcotics trafficking to selfish regional interests.
Killing the Cranes provides crucial insights into why the West’s current involvement has turned into such a disaster, not only rekindling a new insurgency, but squandering billions of dollars on a recovery process that has shown scant success.
A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years
Forty years ago, The Limits to Growth study addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth. It predicted that during the first half of the 21st century the ongoing growth in the human ecological footprint would stop-either through catastrophic “overshoot and collapse”-or through well-managed “peak and decline.”
So, where are we now? And what does our future look like? In the book 2052, Jorgen Randers, one of the coauthors of Limits to Growth, issues a progress report and makes a forecast for the next forty years. To do this, he asked dozens of experts to weigh in with their best predictions on how our economies, energy supplies, natural resources, climate, food, fisheries, militaries, political divisions, cities, psyches, and more will take shape in the coming decades. He then synthesized those scenarios into a global forecast of life as we will most likely know it in the years ahead.
The good news: we will see impressive advances in resource efficiency, and an increasing focus on human well-being rather than on per capita income growth. But this change might not come as we expect. Future growth in population and GDP, for instance, will be constrained in surprising ways-by rapid fertility decline as result of increased urbanization, productivity decline as a result of social unrest, and continuing poverty among the poorest 2 billion world citizens. Runaway global warming, too, is likely.
So, how do we prepare for the years ahead? With heart, fact, and wisdom, Randers guides us along a realistic path into the future and discusses what readers can do to ensure a better life for themselves and their children during the increasing turmoil of the next forty years.
Occupy World Street
A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform
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.
Alone and Invisible No More
How Grassroots Community Action and 21st Century Technologies Can Empower Elders to Stay in Their Homes and Lead Healthier, Happier Lives
In Alone and Invisible No More, physician Allan S. Teel, MD, describes how to overhaul our eldercare system. Based on his own efforts to create humane, affordable alternatives in Maine, Teel’s program harnesses both staff and volunteers to help people remain in their homes and communities. It offers assistance with everyday challenges, uses technology to keep older people connected to each other and their families, and stay safe. This approach works.
Get Up, Stand Up
Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite
Polls show that the majority of Americans oppose recent US wars and Wall Street bailouts, yet most remain passive and appear resigned to powerlessness. In Get Up, Stand Up, Bruce Levine offers an original and convincing explanation for this passivity. Many Americans are deeply demoralized by decades of oppressive elitism, and they have lost confidence that genuine democracy is possible. Drawing on phenomena such as learned helplessness, the abuse syndrome, and other psychological principles and techniques for pacifying a population, Levine explains how major US institutions have created fatalism. When such fatalism and defeatism set in, truths about social and economic injustices are not enough to set people free.
However, the situation is not truly hopeless. History tells us that for democratic movements to get off the ground, individuals must recover self-respect, and a people must regain collective confidence that they can succeed at eliminating top-down controls. Get Up, Stand Up describes how we can recover dignity, confidence, and the energy to do battle. That achievement fills in the missing piece that, until now, has undermined so many efforts to energize genuine democracy.
Get Up, Stand Up details those strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have successfully employed to gain power. We the People can unite, gain strength, wisely do battle, and wrest power away from the ruling corporate-government partnership (the “corporatocracy”). Get Up, Stand Up explains how.
The Systems Thinking Playbook
Exercises to Stretch and Build Learning and Systems Thinking Capabilities
This book has become a favorite of K–12 teachers, university faculty, and corporate consultants. It provides short gaming exercises that illustrate the subtleties of systems thinking. The companion DVD shows the authors introducing and running each of the thirty games.
The thirty games are classified by these areas of learning: Systems Thinking, Mental Models, Team Learning, Shared Vision, and Personal Mastery. Each description clearly explains when, how, and why the game is useful. There are explicit instructions for debriefing each exercise as well as a list of all required materials. A summary matrix has been added for a quick glance at all thirty games. When you are in a hurry to find just the right initiative for some part of your course, the matrix will help you find it.
Linda Booth Sweeney and Dennis Meadows both have many years of experience in teaching complex concepts. This book reflects their insights. Every game works well and provokes a deep variety of new insights about paradigms, system boundaries, causal-loop diagrams, reference modes, and leverage points. Each of the thirty exercises here was tested and refined many times until it became a reliable source of learning. Some of the games are adapted from classics of the outdoor education field. Others are completely new. But all of them complement readings and lectures to help participants understand intuitively the principles of systems thinking.
Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education
The price of college tuition has increased more than any other major good or service for the last twenty years. Nine out of ten American high school seniors aspire to go to college, yet the United States has fallen from world leader to only the tenth most educated nation. Almost half of college students don’t graduate; those who do have unprecedented levels of federal and private student loan debt, which constitutes a credit bubble similar to the mortgage crisis.
The system particularly fails the first-generation, the low-income, and students of color who predominate in coming generations. What we need to know is changing more quickly than ever, and a rising tide of information threatens to swamp knowledge and wisdom. America cannot regain its economic and cultural leadership with an increasingly ignorant population. Our choice is clear: Radically change the way higher education is delivered, or resign ourselves to never having enough of it.
The roots of the words “university” and “college” both mean community. In the age of constant connectedness and social media, it’s time for the monolithic, millennium-old, ivy-covered walls to undergo a phase change into something much lighter, more permeable, and fluid.
The future lies in personal learning networks and paths, learning that blends experiential and digital approaches, and free and open-source educational models. Increasingly, you will decide what, when, where, and with whom you want to learn, and you will learn by doing. The university is the cathedral of modernity and rationality, and with our whole civilization in crisis, we are poised on the brink of Reformation.
The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World
The book that inspired the movie Collapse.
The world is running short of energy-especially cheap, easy-to-find oil. Shortages, along with resulting price increases, threaten industrialized civilization, the global economy, and our entire way of life.
In Confronting Collapse, author Michael C. Ruppert, a former LAPD narcotics officer turned investigative journalist, details the intricate connections between money and energy, including the ways in which oil shortages and price spikes triggered the economic crash that began in September 2008. Given the 96 percent correlation between economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions and the unlikelihood of economic growth without a spike in energy use, Ruppert argues that we are not, in fact, on the verge of economic recovery, but on the verge of complete collapse.
Ruppert’s truth is not merely inconvenient. It is utterly devastating.
But there is still hope. Ruppert outlines a 25-point plan of action, including the creation of a second strategic petroleum reserve for the use of state and local governments, the immediate implementation of a national Feed-in Tariff mandating that electric utilities pay 3 percent above market rates for all surplus electricity generated from renewable sources, a thorough assessment of soil conditions nationwide, and an emergency action plan for soil restoration and sustainable agriculture.
Waiting on a Train
The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service
During the tumultuous year of 2008–when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California–journalist James McCommons spent a year on America’s trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.
Readers meet the historians, railroad executives, transportation officials, politicians, government regulators, railroad lobbyists, and passenger-rail advocates who are rallying around a simple question: Why has the greatest railroad nation in the world turned its back on the very form of transportation that made modern life and mobility possible?
Distrust of railroads in the nineteenth century, overregulation in the twentieth, and heavy government subsidies for airports and roads have left the country with a skeletal intercity passenger-rail system. Amtrak has endured for decades, and yet failed to prosper owing to a lack of political and financial support and an uneasy relationship with the big, remaining railroads.
While riding the rails, McCommons explores how the country may move passenger rail forward in America–and what role government should play in creating and funding mass-transportation systems. Against the backdrop of the nation’s stimulus program, he explores what it will take to build high-speed trains and transportation networks, and when the promise of rail will be realized in America.
The World According to Monsanto (DVD)
Monsanto’s controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world’s food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this widely praised film exposes why Monsanto has become the world’s poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology.
Also on the DVD:
Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, A film by Jeffrey M. Smith
Dairy products from cows treated with Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) may sharply increase cancer risk and other diseases, especially in children. Already banned in most industrialized nations, it was approved in the U.S. on the backs of fired whistleblowers, manipulated research, and a corporate takeover at the FDA. This must-see film includes footage prepared for a Fox TV station—canceled after a letter from Monsanto’s attorney threatened “dire consequences.”
“Don’t Put That in Your Mouth,” a speech by Jeffrey M. Smith
You’ll want to stop eating genetically modified foods after you learn how they’re linked to toxic and allergic reactions; sick, sterile, and dead livestock; and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.
The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor
The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi
A CIA-connected labor union, an assassination attempt, a mysterious car crash, listening devices, and stolen documents–everything you’d expect from the latest thriller. Yet, this was the reality of Tony Mazzocchi, the Rachel Carson of the U.S. workplace; a dynamic labor leader whose legacy lives on in today’s workplaces and ongoing alliances between labor activists and environmentalists, and those who believe in the promise of America.
In The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi, author and labor expert Les Leopold recounts the life of the late Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union leader. Mazzocchi’s struggle to address the unconscionable toxic exposure of tens of thousands of workers led to the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and included work alongside nuclear whistleblower Karen Silkwood. His noble, high-profile efforts forever changed working conditions in American industry–and made him enemy number one to a powerful few.
As early as the 1950s, when the term “environment” was nowhere on the political radar, Mazzocchi learned about nuclear fallout and began integrating environmental concerns into his critique of capitalism and his union work. An early believer in global warming, he believed that the struggle of capital against nature was the irreconcilable contradiction that would force systemic change.
Mazzocchi’s story of non-stop activism parallels the rise and fall of industrial unionism. From his roots in a pro-FDR, immigrant family in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, through McCarthyism, the Sixties, and the surge of the environmental movement, Mazzocchi took on Corporate America, the labor establishment and a complacent Democratic Party.
This profound biography should be required reading for those who believe in taking risks and making the world a better place. While Mazzocchi’s story is so full of peril and deception that it seems almost a work of fiction, Leopold proves that the most provocative and lasting stories in life are those of real people.