Social Ecology Blog

“The Fallen,” by Chaia Heller

Tonight we were eating turkey burgers on our deck. The pooling heat of the day had drained, leaving behind an unexpected cool stillness that lured us gingerly back outside. I set the table for dinner, putting life into place, when all of the sudden: a thump. A soft landing of new life, warbling around in a black silveryness on the deck. A baby sparrow had fallen from its nest, lobbed itself to the deck’s edge, falling onto the grass below. It had spilled from an ill-constructed nest built by well-meaning sparrow parents under the balcony outside our bedroom, the […]

On OWS’ 2-year anniversary, 3 new Occupy books

September 17th is the 2-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, and all the kindred movements that spun off from that incredible day in lower Manhattan.  Al Jazeera America offers reviews of 3 new Occupy books that have just been released:
Nathan Schneider ‘s “Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From The Occupy Apocalypse” (University of California Press)
Mark Bray’s “Translating Anarchy, The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street” (Zero Books)
David Graeber’s “The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement” (Spiegel and Grau)
You can read the review at Some excerpts are also available to read at the usual online book outlets.


VT History panels on communes & cooperatives

ISE faculty and board members Dan Chodorkoff and Grace Gershuny are presenting on 2 panels for the Vermont History Association’s annual meeting, Sat. Sept. 21st at the Pavilion auditorium next to the VT State House in Montpelier.
Dan will be on the “Colleges and Communes” panel at 1:15 and Grace is on a Cooperatives panel at 2:30.  Dona Brown of the University of Vermont is offering a keynote address on cooperatives and communes in Vermont at 11 am.  The invitation to this event acknowledges the central role of the Institute in the development of “communes, co-ops, farmers markets and the […]

Vermont Yankee is closing!

Let’s celebrate, unify allied struggles, and focus on fights to come

By Ben Grosscup

The announcement this week that Vermont Yankee – the 41 year old nuclear power plant in southern Vermont that has been an object of derision for decades for anti-nuclear social movement activists – will be closed is an opportunity for climate justice and anti-nuclear movements to clarify that our fight is not only against this particular form of extreme energy. Rather we need to focus on the social arrangements that produce the need for these destructive technologies – a set of arrangements that both further and depend […]

What would real democracy look like?

Norwegian social ecologist Camilla Hansen, a member of the New Compass publishing collective, has posted an exceptionally comprehensive overview of current models of direct democracy that are in use today around the world.  Camilla offers a clear analysis of the potentialities of each model, the obstacles to their fullest realization, and the need for a more systemic approach.

The full paper appears at, and was re-posted by ZNet and ROAR Magazine. Here’s a brief excerpt that helps convey its overall outlook:
A real democracy, [in contrast to elite-dominated representative systems], is a direct and participatory democracy, in which all citizens have the […]

A French fiction on municipal direct democracy

Vincent Gerber in Geneva writes:

Hadrien Delahousse, whom some of you met in Vermont last year [and at the TRISE meeting in Greece –ed.], has lent me an interesting book (in French) : “La commune libre de Saint-Martin” by Jean-François Aupetitgendre (pseudonym), edited by Les éditions libertaires in 2012.

It could be called a political fiction. The author tells the story of a commune (of 5,000 people) that starts to develop parallel power and to function as a direct democracy. He presents the different problems that come out and how the people organize themselves to overcome them. It is really close […]

Book Review: Gunnar Rundgren’s “Garden Earth”

Garden Earth: From Hunter and Gatherer
to Global Capitalism and Thereafter
by Gunnar Rundgren

Reviewed by Grace Gershuny

Gunnar Rundgren is well known in the international organic community as an articulate leader, consultant, theorist, and practitioner of organic agriculture world wide.  A founder of the influential Swedish organic certification program KRAV, he later became President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), helping transform it from a highly Euro-centric organization to one with strong representation from every continent.  His consulting organization, Grolink, helps train organic farmers in Africa and has advised several UN agricultural programs.  Grolink also publishes an electronic newsletter […]

Social Ecology at the annual Left Forum (NYC, June 7-9th)

For the first time in many years, the ISE is presenting a panel at the annual Left Forum, at Pace University, next to City Hall Park in New York City.  Please join us!

The revolutionary project of social ecology
Sunday, June 9th, 12 noon, Room E307

With Brian Tokar, Dan Chodorkoff, Chaia Heller, and Eleanor Finley

Since the 1960s, social ecologists have advanced a revolutionary outlook that examines the problematic relationships between society, capitalism, social hierarchy and the natural world. Three generations of social ecologists will discuss social ecology in historical, philosophical, and political terms, focusing significantly on social ecology’s political strategy, which […]

Mike Small: Scotland’s Local Food Revolution

ISE alum Mike Small has been working in the Fife district of Scotland to develop new models of organizing around local food. That work has now culminated in a book titled Scotland’s Local Food Revolution.

Mike writes:
It seems fitting  in the same week that climate warming greenhouse gas reached 400 parts per million for the first time in human history … to launch a book on efforts to radically change the food system.
The book is not about the Fife Diet, it’s about the wider movement and the response to the collapsing dysfunctional industry that thrives on maintaining  a market for […]

Janet Biehl on the “Pioneers of Ecological Humanism”

From The New Compass, a review by Janet Biehl of Pioneers of Ecological Humanism, by University of London anthropologist Brian Morris. The book offers a comparative review of three pioneers of current ecological thought, Lewis Mumford, René Dubos, and Murray Bookchin.

Janet writes:
… the expanding capitalist order has proved itself to be unsustainable – it is the very path leading to the ecological crisis. But the alternative, the fetishization of wilderness, is untenable as well, since pursuing it would require a massive reduction in human population (neo-Malthusianism), the subordination of human aims to perceived natural ones, and a regression to […]