Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City
When Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates moved into a duplex in a run-down part of Holyoke, Massachusetts, the tenth-of-an-acre lot was barren ground and bad soil, peppered with broken pieces of concrete, asphalt, and brick. The two friends got to work designing what would become not just another urban farm, but a “permaculture paradise” replete with perennial broccoli, paw paws, bananas, and moringa—all told, more than two hundred low-maintenance edible plants in an innovative food forest on a small city lot. The garden—intended to function like a natural ecosystem with the plants themselves providing most of the garden’s needs for fertility, pest control, and weed suppression—also features an edible water garden, a year-round unheated greenhouse, tropical crops, urban poultry, and even silkworms.
In telling the story of Paradise Lot, Toensmeier explains the principles and practices of permaculture, the choice of exotic and unusual food plants, the techniques of design and cultivation, and, of course, the adventures, mistakes, and do-overs in the process. Packed full of detailed, useful information about designing a highly productive permaculture garden, Paradise Lot is also a funny and charming story of two single guys, both plant nerds, with a wild plan: to realize the garden of their dreams and meet women to share it with. Amazingly, on both counts, they succeed.
Using Fire to Cool the Earth
How We Can Harness Carbon to Help Solve the Climate Crisis
In order to rescue ourselves from climate catastrophe, we need to radically alter how humans live on Earth. We have to go from spending carbon to banking it. We have to put back the trees, wetlands, and corals. We have to regrow the soil and turn back the desert. We have to save whales, wombats, and wolves. We have to reverse the flow of greenhouse gases and send them in exactly the opposite direction: down, not up. We have to flip the carbon cycle and run it backwards. For such a revolutionary transformation we’ll need civilization 2.0.
A secret unlocked by the ancients of the Amazon for its ability to transform impoverished tropical soils into terra preta—fertile black earths—points the way. The indigenous custom of converting organic materials into long lasting carbon has enjoyed a reawakening in recent decades as the quest for more sustainable farming methods has grown. Yet the benefits of this carbonized material, now called biochar, extend far beyond the soil. Pyrolyzing carbon has the power to restore a natural balance by unmining the coal and undrilling the oil and gas. Employed to its full potential, it can run the carbon cycle in reverse and remake Earth as a garden planet.
Burn looks beyond renewable biomass or carbon capture energy systems to offer a bigger and bolder vision for the next phase of human progress, moving carbon from wasted sources:
- into soils and agricultural systems to rebalance the carbon, nitrogen, and related cycles; enhance nutrient density in food; rebuild topsoil; and condition urban and agricultural lands to withstand flooding and drought
- to cleanse water by carbon filtration and trophic cascades within the world’s rivers, oceans, and wetlands
- to shift urban infrastructures such as buildings, roads, bridges, and ports, incorporating drawdown materials and components, replacing steel, concrete, polymers, and composites with biological carbon
- to drive economic reorganization by incentivizing carbon drawdown
Fully developed, this approach costs nothing—to the contrary, it can save companies money or provide new revenue streams. It contains the seeds of a new, circular economy in which energy, natural resources, and human ingenuity enter a virtuous cycle of improvement. Burn offers bold new solutions to climate change that can begin right now.
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.
Community-Scale Composting Systems
A Comprehensive Practical Guide for Closing the Food System Loop and Solving Our Waste Crisis
Composting at scales large enough to capture and recycle the organic wastes of a given community, whether a school, neighborhood, or even a small city, is coming of age, propelled by a growing awareness not only of our food waste crisis, but also the need to restore natural fertility in our soils. In-depth yet accessible, Community-Scale Composting Systems is a technical resource for farmers, designers, service providers, organics recycling entrepreneurs, and advocates of all types, with a focus on developing the next generation of organics recycling infrastructure that can enable communities to close the food-soil loop in their local food systems.
The main scope of the book is dedicated to compost system options and design, from basic sizing and layout to advanced techniques such as aerated static pile composting. Management techniques and operational considerations are also covered, including testing, feedstock characteristics, compost recipe development, and system-specific best management practices.
Though focused on recycling systems that include food scraps—the fastest growing sector of community-scale composting—the book is informed by and relevant to other composting sectors and will be a vital resource for anyone invested in diverting organic materials away from landfilling and incineration. Topics covered include:
- Community-scale models
- Estimating organics from individual generators and whole communities
- Food scrap collection
- Compost system sizing
- Aerated static pile (ASP) systems design
- In-vessel systems selection
- Integrating animals with composting
- Compatibility with compost heat recovery, vermicomposting, and other specialized methodologies
- Composting best management practices
- Nuisance management
- Mitigating persistent herbicides
- End uses, marketing, and sales
Whether you’re an engineer, community organizer, permaculturalist, public sector waste manager, farmer, or just a dirt lover, Community-Scale Composting Systems is the definitive manual on composting, written at a crucial time when communities are just starting to see what the composting movement will ultimately offer our food systems, local and regional economies, and planet.
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.
Farming for the Long Haul
Resilience and the Lost Art of Agricultural Inventiveness
It’s all but certain that the next fifty years will bring enormous, not to say cataclysmic, disruptions to our present way of life. World oil reserves will be exhausted within that time frame, as will the lithium that powers today’s most sophisticated batteries, suggesting that transportation is equally imperiled. And there’s another, even more dire limitation that is looming: at current rates of erosion, the world’s topsoil will be gone in sixty years. Fresh water sources are in jeopardy, too. In short, the large-scale agricultural and food delivery system as we know it has at most a few decades before it exhausts itself and the planet with it.
Farming for the Long Haul is about building a viable small farm economy that can withstand the economic, political, and climatic shock waves that the twenty-first century portends. It draws on the innovative work of contemporary farmers, but more than that, it shares the experiences of farming societies around the world that have maintained resilient agricultural systems over centuries of often-turbulent change. Indigenous agriculturalists, peasants, and traditional farmers have all created broad strategies for survival through good times and bad, and many of them prospered. They also developed particular techniques for managing soil, water, and other resources sustainably. Some of these techniques have been taken up by organic agriculture and permaculture, but many more of them are virtually unknown, even among alternative farmers. This book lays out some of these strategies and presents techniques and tools that might prove most useful to farmers today and in the uncertain future.
Sharing the Harvest
A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, 2nd Edition
To an increasing number of American families the CSA (community supported agriculture) is the answer to the globalization of our food supply. The premise is simple: create a partnership between local farmers and nearby consumers, who become members or subscribers in support of the farm. In exchange for paying in advance–at the beginning of the growing season, when the farm needs financing–CSA members receive the freshest, healthiest produce throughout the season and keep money, jobs, and farms in their own community.
In this thoroughly revised and expanded edition of a Chelsea Green classic, authors Henderson and Van En provide new insight into making CSA not only a viable economic model, but the right choice for food lovers and farmers alike. Thinking and buying local is quickly moving from a novel idea to a mainstream activity. The groundbreaking first edition helped spark a movement and, with this revised edition, Sharing the Harvest is poised to lead the way toward a revitalized agriculture.
When Technology Fails
A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, 2nd Edition
There’s never been a better time to “be prepared.” Matthew Stein’s comprehensive primer on sustainable living skills—from food and water to shelter and energy to first-aid and crisis-management skills—prepares you to embark on the path toward sustainability. But unlike any other book, Stein not only shows you how to live “green” in seemingly stable times, but to live in the face of potential disasters, lasting days or years, coming in the form of social upheaval, economic meltdown, or environmental catastrophe.
When Technology Fails covers the gamut. You’ll learn how to start a fire and keep warm if you’ve been left temporarily homeless, as well as the basics of installing a renewable energy system for your home or business. You’ll learn how to find and sterilize water in the face of utility failure, as well as practical information for dealing with water-quality issues even when the public tap water is still flowing. You’ll learn alternative techniques for healing equally suited to an era of profit-driven malpractice as to situations of social calamity. Each chapter (a survey of the risks to the status quo; supplies and preparation for short- and long-term emergencies; emergency measures for survival; water; food; shelter; clothing; first aid, low-tech medicine, and healing; energy, heat, and power; metalworking; utensils and storage; low-tech chemistry; and engineering, machines, and materials) offers the same approach, describing skills for self-reliance in good times and bad.
Fully revised and expanded—the first edition was written pre-9/11 and pre-Katrina, when few Americans took the risk of social disruption seriously—When Technology Fails ends on a positive, proactive note with a new chapter on “Making the Shift to Sustainability,” which offers practical suggestions for changing our world on personal, community and global levels.
When Disaster Strikes
A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Prepping and Crisis Survival
Disasters often strike without warning and leave a trail of destruction in their wake. Yet armed with the right tools and information, survivors can fend for themselves and get through even the toughest circumstances. Matthew Stein’s When Disaster Strikes provides a thorough, practical guide for how to prepare for and react in many of life’s most unpredictable scenarios.
In this disaster-preparedness manual, he outlines the materials you’ll need-from food and water, to shelter and energy, to first-aid and survival skills-to help you safely live through the worst. When Disaster Strikes covers how to find and store food, water, and clothing, as well as the basics of installing back-up power and lights. You’ll learn how to gather and sterilize water, build a fire, treat injuries in an emergency, and use alternative medical sources when conventional ones are unavailable.
Stein instructs you on the smartest responses to natural disasters-such as fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and floods-how to keep warm during winter storms, even how to protect yourself from attack or other dangerous situations. With this comprehensive guide in hand, you can be sure to respond quickly, correctly, and confidently when a crisis threatens.
Dreaming the Future
Reimagining Civilization in the Age of Nature
Few would deny that we are entering a period of great change. Our environment is collapsing. Social disruption abounds. All around, it seems, we are experiencing breakdown. But out of this chaos comes the opportunity for breakthrough-the opportunity to reimagine our future.
In Dreaming the Future, Kenny Ausubel leads us into that possible new world and introduces us to the thinkers and doers who are-sometimes quietly, sometimes not-leading what he calls “a revolution from the heart of nature and the human heart.”
In a collection of short, witty, poignant, even humorous essays, Ausubel tracks the big ideas, emerging trends, and game-changing developments of our time. He guides us through our watershed moment, showing how it’s possible to emerge from a world where corporations are citizens, the gap between rich and poor is cavernous, and biodiversity and the climate are under assault and create a world where we take our cues from nature and focus on justice, equity, diversity, democracy, and peace.
Even those steeped in the realities of a world gone wrong and efforts to right it will find refreshing, even surprising, perspectives in Dreaming the Future. It will come as no surprise to readers that Ausubel is cofounder of Bioneers-which foreword author David W. Orr describes as “one part global salon…one part catalytic organization.”
A Village to Reinvent the World, 2nd Edition
Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.
In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.
Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”
Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.
Local Dollars, Local Sense
How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity
Local Dollars, Local Sense is a guide to creating Community Resilience.
Americans’ long-term savings in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and life insurance funds total about $30 trillion. But not even 1 percent of these savings touch local small business-even though roughly half the jobs and the output in the private economy come from them. So, how can people increasingly concerned with the poor returns from Wall Street and the devastating impact of global companies on their communities invest in Main Street?
In Local Dollars, Local Sense, local economy pioneer Michael Shuman shows investors, including the nearly 99% who are unaccredited, how to put their money into building local businesses and resilient regional economies-and profit in the process. A revolutionary toolbox for social change, written with compelling personal stories, the book delivers the most thorough overview available of local investment options, explains the obstacles, and profiles investors who have paved the way. Shuman demystifies the growing realm of local investment choices-from institutional lending to investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and more. He also guides readers through the lucrative opportunities to invest locally in their homes, energy efficiency, and themselves.
A rich resource for both investors and the entrepreneurs they want to support, Local Dollars, Local Sense eloquently shows how to truly protect your financial future–and your community’s.
The Permaculture City
Regenerative Design for Urban, Suburban, and Town Resilience
Permaculture is more than just the latest buzzword; it offers positive solutions for many of the environmental and social challenges confronting us. And nowhere are those remedies more needed and desired than in our cities. The Permaculture City provides a new way of thinking about urban living, with practical examples for creating abundant food, energy security, close-knit communities, local and meaningful livelihoods, and sustainable policies in our cities and towns. The same nature-based approach that works so beautifully for growing food—connecting the pieces of the landscape together in harmonious ways—applies perfectly to many of our other needs. Toby Hemenway, one of the leading practitioners and teachers of permaculture design, illuminates a new way forward through examples of edge-pushing innovations, along with a deeply holistic conceptual framework for our cities, towns, and suburbs.
The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Hemenway lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs for food, water, shelter, energy, community, and livelihood in sustainable, resilient ways. Readers will find new information on designing the urban home garden and strategies for gardening in community, rethinking our water and energy systems, learning the difference between a “job” and a “livelihood,” and the importance of placemaking and an empowered community.
This important book documents the rise of a new sophistication, depth, and diversity in the approaches and thinking of permaculture designers and practitioners. Understanding nature can do more than improve how we grow, make, or consume things; it can also teach us how to cooperate, make decisions, and arrive at good solutions.
The Local Economy Solution
How Innovative, Self-Financing "Pollinator" Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity
Reinventing economic development as if small business mattered
In cities and towns across the nation, economic development is at a crossroads. A growing body of evidence has proven that its current cornerstone—incentives to attract and retain large, globally mobile businesses—is a dead end. Even those programs that focus on local business, through buy-local initiatives, for example, depend on ongoing support from government or philanthropy. The entire practice of economic development has become ineffective and unaffordable and is in need of a makeover.
The Local Economy Solution suggests an alternative approach in which states and cities nurture a new generation of special kinds of businesses that help local businesses grow. These cutting-edge companies, which Shuman calls “pollinator businesses,” are creating jobs and the conditions for future economic growth, and doing so in self-financing ways.
Pollinator businesses are especially important to communities that are struggling to lift themselves up in a period of economic austerity, when municipal budgets are being slashed. They also promote locally owned businesses that increase local self-reliance and evince high labor and environmental standards.
The book includes nearly two dozen case studies of successful pollinator businesses that are creatively facilitating business and neighborhood improvements, entrepreneurship, local purchasing, local investing, and profitable business partnerships. Examples include Main Street Genome (which provides invaluable data to improve local business performance), Supportland (which is developing a powerful loyalty card for local businesses), and Fledge (a business accelerator that finances itself through royalty payments). It also shows how the right kinds of public policy can encourage the spread of pollinator businesses at virtually no cost.
Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier
Street Farm is the inspirational account of residents in the notorious Low Track in Vancouver, British Columbia—one of the worst urban slums in North America—who joined together to create an urban farm as a means of addressing the chronic problems in their neighborhood. It is a story of recovery, of land and food, of people, and of the power of farming and nourishing others as a way to heal our world and ourselves.
During the past seven years, Sole Food Street Farms—now North America’s largest urban farm project—has transformed acres of vacant and contaminated urban land into street farms that grow artisan-quality fruits and vegetables. By providing jobs, agricultural training, and inclusion in a community of farmers and food lovers, the Sole Food project has empowered dozens of individuals with limited resources who are managing addiction and chronic mental health problems.
Sole Food’s mission is to encourage small farms in every urban neighborhood so that good food can be accessible to all, and to do so in a manner that allows everyone to participate in the process. In Street Farm, author-photographer-farmer Michael Ableman chronicles the challenges, growth, and success of this groundbreaking project and presents compelling portraits of the neighborhood residents-turned-farmers whose lives have been touched by it. Throughout, he also weaves his philosophy and insights about food and farming, as well as the fundamentals that are the underpinnings of success for both rural farms and urban farms. Street Farm will inspire individuals and communities everywhere by providing a clear vision for combining innovative farming methods with concrete social goals, all of which aim to create healthier and more resilient communities.
The Community Food Forest Handbook
How to Plan, Organize, and Nurture Edible Gathering Places
Collaboration and leadership strategies for long-term success
Fueled by the popularity of permaculture and agroecology, community food forests are capturing the imaginations of people in neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the United States. Along with community gardens and farmers markets, community food forests are an avenue toward creating access to nutritious food and promoting environmental sustainability where we live. Interest in installing them in public spaces is on the rise. People are the most vital component of community food forests, but while we know more than ever about how to design food forests, the ways in which to best organize and lead groups of people involved with these projects has received relatively little attention.
In The Community Food Forest Handbook, Catherine Bukowski and John Munsell dive into the civic aspects of community food forests, drawing on observations, group meetings, and interviews at over 20 projects across the country and their own experience creating and managing a food forest. They combine the stories and strategies gathered during their research with concepts of community development and project management to outline steps for creating lasting public food forests that positively impact communities.
Rather than rehash food forest design, which classic books such as Forest Gardening and Edible Forest Gardens address in great detail, The Community Food Forest Handbook uses systems thinking and draws on social change theory to focus on how to work with diverse groups of people when conceiving of, designing, and implementing a community food forest. To find practical ground, the authors use management phases to highlight the ebb and flow of community capitals from a project’s inception to its completion. They also explore examples of positive feedbacks that are often unexpected but offer avenues for enhancing the success of a community food forest.
The Community Food Forest Handbook provides readers with helpful ideas for building and sustaining momentum, working with diverse public and private stakeholders, integrating assorted civic interests and visions within one project, creating safe and attractive sites, navigating community policies, positively affecting public perception, and managing site evolution and adaptation. Its concepts and examples showcase the complexities of community food forests, highlighting the human resilience of those who learn and experience what is possible when they collaborate on a shared vision for their community.