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 $12.97

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

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!

By George Lakoff

The essential progressive guide for the issues that define our future: climate, inequality, immigration, health care, and more

Ten years after writing the definitive, international bestselling book on political debate and messaging, George Lakoff returns with new strategies about how to frame today’s essential issues.

Called the “father of framing” by The New York Times, Lakoff explains how framing is about ideas—ideas that come before policy, ideas that make sense of facts, ideas that are proactive not reactive, positive not negative, ideas that need to be communicated out loud every day in public.

The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! picks up where the original book left off—delving deeper into how framing works, how framing has evolved in the past decade, how to speak to people who harbor elements of both progressive and conservative worldviews, how to counter propaganda and slogans, and more.

In this updated and expanded edition, Lakoff, urges progressives to go beyond the typical laundry list of facts, policies, and programs and present a clear moral vision to the country—one that is traditionally American and can become a guidepost for developing compassionate, effective policy that upholds citizens’ well-being and freedom.

The ALL NEW Dont Think of an Elephant is also available as an audio book! Browse and download the book here >>

Available in: Paperback

Read More

The ALL NEW Don't Think of an Elephant!

George Lakoff

Paperback $15.00

Nuclear Roulette

Nuclear Roulette

By Gar Smith

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.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

Read More

Nuclear Roulette

Gar Smith, Ernest Callenbach, Jerry Mander

Paperback $19.95

Seeds of Deception

Seeds of Deception

By Jeffrey M. Smith

Without knowing it, Americans eat genetically modified (GM) food everyday. While the food and chemical industries claim that GMO food is safe, a considerable amount of evidence shows otherwise. In Seeds of Deception, Jeffrey Smith, a former executive with the leading independent laboratory testing for GM presence in foods, documents these serious health dangers and explains how corporate influence and government collusion have been used to cover them up.

The stories Smith presents read like a mystery novel. Scientists are offered bribes or threatened; evidence is stolen; data withheld or distorted. Government scientists who complain are stripped of responsibilities or fired. The FDA even withheld information from congress after a GM food supplement killed nearly a hundred people and permanently disabled thousands. While Smith was employed by the laboratory he was not allowed to speak on the health dangers or the cover-up. No longer bound by this agreement, Smith now reveals what he knows in this groundbreaking exposé.

Today, food companies sell GM foods that have not undergone safety studies. FDA scientists opposed this, but White House and industry pressure prevailed and the agency's final policy--co-authored by a former Monsanto attorney--denied the risks. The scientists' concerns were made public only after a lawsuit forced the agency to turn over internal documents.

Dan Glickman, former Secretary of Agriculture, describes the government's pro-biotech mindset: "You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view. . . . So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric. . . . It was written into my speeches."

In Seeds of Deception Smith offers easy-to-understand descriptions of genetic engineering and explains why it can result in serious health problems. This well-documented, pivotal work will show you how to protect yourself and your family.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Seeds of Deception

Jeffrey M. Smith, Frances Moore Lappé

Paperback $17.95

Carbon Shock

Carbon Shock

By Mark Schapiro

In Carbon Shock, veteran journalist Mark Schapiro takes readers on a journey into a world where the same chaotic forces reshaping our natural world are also transforming the economy, playing havoc with corporate calculations, shifting economic and political power, and upending our understanding of the real risks, costs, and possibilities of what lies ahead.

In this ever-changing world, carbon—the stand-in for all greenhouse gases—rules, and disrupts, and calls upon us to seek new ways to reduce it while factoring it into nearly every long-term financial plan we have. But how?

From the jungles of the Amazon to the farms in California’s Central Valley, from ‘greening’ cities like Pittsburgh to rising powerhouses like China, from the oil-splattered beaches of Spain to carbon-trading desks in London, Schapiro deftly explores the key axis points of change.

For almost two decades, global climate talks have focused on how to make polluters pay for the carbon they emit. It remains an unfolding financial mystery: What are the costs? Who will pay for them? Who do you pay? How do you pay? And what are the potential impacts? The answers to these questions, and more, are crucial to understanding, if not shaping, the coming decade.

Carbon Shock evokes a world in which the parameters of our understanding are shifting—on a scale even more monumental than how the digital revolution transformed financial decision-making—toward a slow but steady acknowledgement of the costs and consequences of climate change. It also offers a critical new perspective as global leaders gear up for the next round of climate talks in 2015.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

Carbon Shock

Mark Schapiro

Hardcover $26.00