New Society Publishers co-owners Chris and Judith Plant. The couple along with Carol Newell purchased the Gabriola Island-based publishing company in 2013 after the previous owners

New Society Publishers co-owners Chris and Judith Plant. The couple along with Carol Newell purchased the Gabriola Island-based publishing company in 2013 after the previous owners

Publishers trace their roots

New Society Publishers' background stems back to 1970s anti-Vietnam War movement.

Their roots may be firmly planted on Gabriola Island, but New Society Publishers’ seeds were sowed on the streets of Philadelphia.

On Saturday (Dec. 6) co-owners Chris and Judith Plant will tell the story of New Society Publishers in a presentation called Gathering the Threads of Social Change at the Phoenix Auditorium at the Haven on Gabriola Island.

“I promise anybody who comes out a really good story,” Judith Plant said.

New Society Publishers was originally formed back in 1971 as a Quaker-based organization called the Movement for New Society.

“These folks organized to do the first non-violent civil disobedience training … in North America,” explained Plant. “They were standing up against the Vietnam War and they needed to know how to do this in a safe and effective way. These were heavy times.”

By the late 1970s, the movement, which had begun to organize non-violent opposition against other issues such as nuclear weapons programs, developed a mandate to publish books. The Movement for New Society had also started expanding around Philadelphia and the United States.

“They first started creating pamphlets,” Plant said. “They would disperse them, like thousands at a time, to the people who needed the tools to do the work.”

In 1990, a publishing organization called Catalyst Education Society was formed and operated on Gabriola Island with a similar mandate and concept as the Movement for New Society.

In 1996, the Movement for New Society folded after decades of successful community outreach. It was at this time that The Catalyst Education Society decided to acquire The Movement for New Society and their list of books and form The New Society Publishers.

“The Philadelphia organization decided to lay their organization down. They had done almost 20 years of service to activist community and they were done, but we weren’t. We were just getting going,” Plant said.

Since becoming New Society Publishers in the mid-1990s, the company, which had always preached the importance of environmental awareness, has become one of the leaders in environmental and social responsibly. In 2001, they decided to branch out from the pack and use acid-free paper for all of its upcoming book titles.

“We were the first,” she said. “We had to do it. We had to walk our talk or we were going to get caught.”

In 2005, New Society Publishers become the first North American publisher to go carbon neutral.

“At the back of each book is an eco-audit, which tells the reader how many trees have been saved by using 100 per cent post-consumer paper, how much water has been saved and how much is going to the landfill.”

Today, New Society Publishers is an award-winning company with a lengthy roster of authors from Canada and the United States, whose books have been distributed worldwide.

Judith Plant speaks at the Phoenix Auditorium on Saturday (Dec. 6) at 7 p.m. The event is free and will include a book sale. For more information please visit www.newsociety.com or call 250-247-9737.

arts@nanaimobulletin.comTwitter: @npescod