Action Research Books

Social Justice, Environment and Livability books from MIT Press

Corporate Power in Global Agrifood Governance

Posted by UEPI on November 5, 2008

Corporate Power in Global Agrifood Governance
Edited by Jennifer Clapp and Doris Fuchs

In today’s globally integrated food system, events in one part of the world can have multiple and wide-ranging effects, as has been shown by the recent and rapid global rise in food prices. Transnational corporations (TNCs) have been central to the development of this global food system, dominating production, international trade, processing, distribution, and retail sectors. Moreover, these global corporations play a key role in the establishment of rules and regulations by which they themselves are governed. This book examines how TNCs exercise power over global food and agriculture governance and what the consequences are for the sustainability of the global food system.

The book defines three aspects of this corporate power: instrumental power, or direct influence; structural power, or the broader influence corporations have over setting agendas and rules; and discursive, or communicative and persuasive, power. The book begins by examining the nature of corporate power in cases ranging from “green” food certification in Southeast Asia and corporate influence on U.S. food aid policy to governance in the seed industry and international food safety standards. Chapters examine such issues as promotion of corporate-defined “environmental sustainability” and “food security,” biotechnology firms and intellectual property rights, and consumer resistance to GMOs and other cases of contestation in agrobiology. In a final chapter, the editors raise the crucial question of how to achieve participation, transparency, and accountability in food governance.
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More agroecology!

Posted by brbuzz on August 27, 2008

You can find more of my work on participatory learning, sustainable winegrape production, and efforts to scale up agricultural partnerships at http://itrs.scu.edu/kwarner/agecobc.htm#agroecology
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What I hope Agroecology in Action does: public mobilization

Posted by brbuzz on August 27, 2008

Do you ever wonder why it’s easier to propose theories about how agriculture should be sustainable, but hard to actually implement them? As started my dissertation research, I observed that many theories have evolved about sustainable agriculture, but few studies explain how people (farmers, farm advisors, scientists) had actually put these ideas into action. More than 80 definitions of sustainable agriculture could be found in scientific publications, but I found myself more interested in understanding how people translated the ideas into action.

My study, Agroecology in Action, shows that many people are assembling different configurations of social networks, based on their understanding of sustainable agriculture, and that these are having a profound effect on American farming. I wrote this book to help theoreticians and practitioners better understand that alternative agriculture requires an alternative extension process: social learning.

I love California’s environment and I love California agriculture. As I rambled around our state’s rural landscape, I discovered that many people working in agriculture do, too, while at the same time, most urban Californians are removed from farming. This prompted me to show how farming is evolving to become more environmentally conscious. I discovered that thousands of people were working to make incremental, affordable improvements in stewardship, but these were largely invisible to the public. The environmental problems of modern agriculture get newspaper headlines. I wanted my study to take on the “big picture” question of the evolution of these “thought and practice” issues, something that is not generally reported in popular media or scientific journal articles.

My first idea for a dissertation centered on agricultural policy questions, but I soon discovered that extension strategies in sustainable agriculture were more critical, and begged for social science analysis. How do growers or consultants learn what they need to know? Why have some UC Cooperative Extension advisors and commodity groups worked intensively with grower networks to foster sustainable agriculture innovation? What extension strategies have they developed? When I about the agricultural partnership model, I realized that there were many initiatives taking place in the agricultural community with many crops that represented a “quiet revolution.” I set out to document them and to look for emergent patterns that could inform further efforts.

My initial work suggested that the “partnership model” depended on grower participation and cooperative learning in networks, and these features distinguish it from “technology transfer.” The UC Biologically Integrated Farming Systems (BIFS) Workgroup was generous in funding a portion of my study specifically investigating the role of grower participation. I used a network analysis methodology because it allowed me to look at how clusters of people were coordinating their participatory learning efforts. Over a three-year period, I conducted over 150 interviews and 13 focus groups with 84 participants. I attended more than 34 field days and agricultural partnership meetings, and reviewed over 200 reports and articles.

Each chapter opens with a narrative of how farmers, consultants, extension agents, scientists, growers groups and environmental agency officials collaboratively learned about how to make ecological principles practical in farming—in other words, useful for pollution prevention and sustaining rural livelihoods. I show the critical importance of “social learning” to foster innovation. Many great ideas for preventing pollution in agriculture exist on paper. My book explains how these networks realized their potential. The balance of each chapter provides social science analysis of how these networks negotiate the challenges of putting these ideas into action.

I wrote the book so that it would appeal to multiple audiences. General readers can engage the big issues by reading the opening narratives. Anyone interested in assembling a network for environmental resource protection will benefit from a close reading of the more formal social science analysis, which constitutes the balance of each chapter. My study suggests that pollution prevention has taken place in general proportion to the resources and effort invested in the development of integrated farming systems. This begs the question: What would happen if the same research, innovation and collaborative Extension efforts were expended on all crops?

The book concludes with a call to public mobilization. The public wants more sustainable agriculture. Many producers and scientists do as well. Agricultural policymakers and research directors are the critical missing links. This book shows how agriculture could be an even better steward of the environment, with more investment in these new forms of research and innovation. I would like to thank the hundreds of people who helped me with this study, but especially the past and present staff of SAREP and the UC BIFS Workgroup. These are the people making the difference; all I did was tell their story.

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Sustainable Metropolitan Communities

Posted by UEPI on July 10, 2008

Sustainable Metropolitan Communities and Regional Equity

Edited by Paloma Pavel
Introduction by Carl Anthony

Forthcoming, MIT Press

Sustainable Metropolitan Communities and Regional Equity brings together the leading organizers, researchers and policy analysts, who tell the stories and provide the analysis about the growing movement for regional equity and sustainability.
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Environmental Justice In Latin America

Posted by UEPI on June 27, 2008

Environmental Justice in Latin America ImageEnvironmental Justice in Latin America:
Problems, Promise, and Practice

David V. Carruthers

March 2008, MIT Press

Environmental justice concerns form an important part of popular environmental movements in many countries. Activists, scholars, and policymakers in the developing world, for example, increasingly use the tools of environmental justice to link concerns over social justice and environmental well-being. Environmental Justice in Latin America investigates the emergence of a distinctively Latin American environmental justice movement, offering analyses and case studies that examine both the promise and the limits of environmental justice in Latin America and the Caribbean–both as a rallying point for popular mobilization and as a set of principles for analysis and policymaking. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Book Synopses, Urban and Industrial Environments Books | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Nutritional Analysis for Pre-Schoolers

Posted by Bob Gottlieb on June 26, 2008

Question from a Nursing Graduate Student

Q. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations of nutritional analysis programs that parents have used (and have liked using)? If not, can you suggest an analysis program that has been used extensively in research of pre-schoolers?

A. There is a Nutrition Data System for Research, based on parental recall of preschoolers’ intake, but we don’t know of any programs parents are able to use. The citation for the study is:

Fitzgibbon ML, Stolley MR, Schiffer L, Van Horn L, KauferChristoffel K, Dyer A. Two-year follow-up results fro HIP-HOP to Heath JR.: A randomized controlled trial for overweight prevention in preschool minority children. Journal of Pediatrics 2005;146:618-625.
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Commentary on Agroecology in Action

Posted by UEPI on June 26, 2008

“As I started my dissertation research, I observed that many theories have evolved about sustainable agriculture, but few studies explain how people (farmers, farm advisers, scientists) had actually put these ideas into action.”

From the publication Sustainable Action. Click here for the full commentary
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Thinking Big

Posted by UEPI on June 23, 2008

Thinking Big: The Story of the Los Angeles Times, Its Publishers, and Their Influence on Southern California

Robert Gottlieb and Irene Wolt

1977, Island Press

Power – how it is created, how it has been and how it is being used – is at the heart of Thinking Big, the first book to tell the story of the Los Angeles Times and its critical role in the explosion of a small cattle town into the nation’s second-largest metropolis. Irene Wolt and Robert Gottlieb recount this absorbing saga of how the Chandler family built one of the largest publishing empires on earth from the beginning of the Los Angeles Times in 1881 to its present gigantic conglomerate, the Times Mirror Company. Read the rest of this entry »

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America’s Saints

Posted by UEPI on June 23, 2008

America’s Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power

Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley

1984, Island Press

America’s Saints is the untold story of the rapid rise to national prominence of the Mormon Church since World War II. Investigative journalists Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley take a behind-the-scenes look at the Mormons – their enormous spiritual appeal, the mechanisms of their spreading bureaucracy, the little-known men at the top who control a vast economic empire, exercise tremendous political influence, and function as virtual patriarchs and authority figures for more than 5 1/4 million members, whose primary dictum is “Believe and Obey.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Thirst for Growth

Posted by UEPI on June 23, 2008

Thirst for Growth: Water Agencies as Hidden Government in California

Robert Gottlieb and Margaret FitzSimmons

May 1994, University of Arizona Press

Water policy today is at a crossroads. Continued efforts to secure new water supplies to support urban and agricultural expansion have reached an impasse. The viability of the Big Water Project, long the symbol of western water development and the underlying basis for its mission of growth, now seems increasingly uncertain. Read the rest of this entry »

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