Books

Independence Days – My ‘To Be Read’ Pile Expanded

I’ve been taking it easy this weekend because I do not want to risk a relapse of the illness that’s been dogging me for two weeks. After a couple of cups of coffee yesterday, my brain recovered from the fog and I managed to get to the library. This is my ‘To Be Read’ pile at the moment. I don’t imagine I’ll get through all of these books this month, but I like to have a variety of books at home to choose from as the mood takes me.

The Librarian noticed I was checking out Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed and began singing Jared Diamond’s praises. Apparently he comes to San Diego most summers to give a presentation at the Natural History Museum. I’ll have to keep an eye out for him. I really enjoyed his documentary Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Because I’ve been housebound all week, I’ve also been listening to quite a few podcasts. These are a fantastic editions to any iPod and I listen to them all the time when I’m travelling or when I want to give my eyes a rest from reading. One podcast I can recommend is Radio Ecoshock. I think it started out as a scientific show based mostly on environmental issues, but since I’ve been listening there has been a wide variety of topics including energy depletion and societal collapse. Two of my favourite authors, Dmitry Orlov and John Michael Greer were on last weeks show. You can also subscribe to Radio Ecoshock on iTunes.

Ok, onto this weeks roundup based on my self-sufficiency, independence and lifestyle planning goals

Preparedness

  • We finally bought a first aid kit for the car. We got the large Johnson & Johnson First Aid Kit, which is surprisingly comprehensive for a such a compact box.
  • Brendan also bought the Energizer Rechargeable Compact Charger and Energizer DUO USB Charger to recharge all the rechargeable batteries in our headlamps, portable lanterns etc. We have a couple of small solar panels which Brendan is going to try to adapt so that they can charge our batteries via a USB cable. He’s smart like that, so I hope it works.

Getting Off the Economic Grid

  • Brendan’s bike maintenance business is still growing. One of our neighbours popped over the other day to see whether Brendan could fix her daughter’s bike. This is fantastic, because Brendan had been hoping to break into the ‘local’ market rather than continuing to rely on other ex-pats for his work.
  • Brendan also starts conducting personal training down at our local park this week. Finally, after more than two years here everything seems to be falling into place. I guess it helps that we aren’t always travelling this year. It just goes to show that it really does take time to make yourself a part of a community.

Stockpiling Food

  • I finally dealt with all those collards in my garden. I chopped back about a third of the leaves, then blanched and froze them to eat some other day.

Grow some food

  • In addition to freezing the best of the collards, the less than perfect leaves became compost tea; a very efficient way of turning something inedible into free fertiliser!
  • We’ve been eating beet greens, collard greens, spinach, snow peas, onion and leek fresh from the garden. We’re also still enjoying tomato relish, orange relish, apple jam, tomato sauce and cayenne peppers from our garden reserves.
  • I’m still amazed how much food we’ve actually managed to produce in the last year given the small space we have to work with, our complete novice status and limited time we’ve had at home. This started out as an experiment but I think it’s turned into a way of life.

Reducing Energy Dependence

  • A few months ago Brendan did a hands-on course on Solar PV Installation and Design. He’s very much a technically minded person and has a real interest in energy auditing and efficiency. This week, he has been working on designing a generic document to help some friends in Australia understand the various credits and tariff systems available and determine the correct sized Solar PV system for their circumstances. It seems like there are a lot of people out there ‘investing’ in Solar PV without understanding all the details. There doesn’t seem to be much unbiased advice available so people are relying on what salespeople tell them, and unfortunately that means they are buying Solar systems that are much larger than they need (which can cost many thousands of dollars more than it needs to). If anyone is interested in the information, I’m sure Brendan will write-up a post for this blog.

Hedge against disaster

  • When Brendan and I recently undertook some short-term disaster planning, it became obvious to us that the most likely type of disaster we could face would be a house fire. Of course we have insurance to cover the replacement of items that might be lost to fire, but there are some things that simply cannot be replaced. For this reason, we purchased a fireproof box this week. In it we’ll keep important documents, passports, photos and backup hard drives for our computers (although I’m not sure that the data would survive the heat). The one we have is rated to survive in fire for an hour which I figure is reasonable based our proximity to neighbours and the fire department.

Hoodwinked – A Book Review

Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded–and What We Need to Do to Remake Them by John Perkins

John Perkins has seen the signs of today’s economic meltdown before. The subprime mortgage fiascos, the banking industry collapse, the rising tide of unemployment, the shuttering of small businesses across the landscape are all too familiar symptoms of a far greater disease. In his former life as an economic hit man, he was on the front lines both as an observer and a perpetrator of events, once confined only to the third world, that have now sent the United States–and in fact the entire planet–spiraling toward disaster.

Here, Perkins pulls back the curtain on the real cause of the current global financial meltdown. He shows how we’ve been hoodwinked by the CEOs who run the corporatocracy–those few corporations that control the vast amounts of capital, land, and resources around the globe–and the politicians they manipulate. These corporate fat cats, Perkins explains, have sold us all on what he calls predatory capitalism, a misguided form of geopolitics and capitalism that encourages a widespread exploitation of the many to benefit a small number of the already very wealthy. Their arrogance, gluttony, and mismanagement have brought us to this perilous edge. The solution is not a “return to normal.”

But there is a way out. As Perkins makes clear, we can create a healthy economy that will encourage businesses to act responsibly, not only in the interests of their shareholders and corporate partners (and the lobbyists they have in their pockets), but in the interests of their employees, their customers, the environment, and society at large.

We can create a society that fosters a just, sustainable, and safe world for us and our children. Each one of us makes these choices every day, in ways that are clearly spelled out in this book.

“We hold the power,” he says, “if only we recognize it.” Hoodwinked is a powerful polemic that shows not only how we arrived at this precarious point in our history but also what we must do to stop the global tailspin.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. John Perkins does an exceptional job of guiding you through the troubles and atrocities that the corporatocracy has placed on the entire world through greed and deception. It is time to change the status quo if we are to provide a sustainable future for those generations to come.

In this book, Perkins tells of his experiences as an Economic Hitman.

Economic Hit Man – A highly paid professional who cheats countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars, funnelling money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign aid organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, pay offs, extortion, sex and murder. ~ Urban Dictionary

Perkins also links the policies and philosophies of short-term (so-called ‘mutated’) capitalism to the negative economic effects currently unfolding in the American economy. This book is not all doom and gloom though. A substantial portion offers policy and philosophical advice aimed to stem the downturn.

Watch Speeches by John Perkins

Farewell My Subaru – A Book Review

Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living by Doug Fine

In this memoir of mishaps and lessons learned, Fine shares his yearlong trek to turn his newly bought New Mexico ranch into a green and sustainable environment with as little carbon fuel as possible. From using two very lovable goats for his organic food production to transitioning into a biofuel engine for his truck and even installing solar panels, Fine balances the troubling decisions Americans must consider while also revealing a host of unexpected benefits. He advocates that a gradual process, despite having to deal with moments of hypocrisy, is essential for it to work. Fine’s wry narration blends well with his often humorous and sarcastic tone. The energy and enthusiasm of his reading indicates that Fine not only relished the events but is happy to share his experience with listeners. ~ Publishers Weekly

At only 224 pages this was a a quick and enjoyable read, just perfect for some vacation down time. Even Brendan who never was much of a reader knocked this one over quite quickly with a few chuckles along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and came away more inspired than ever to get my little piece of land somewhere and make a go of living more locally. The message throughout is that we need to take steps, however small, to move to a more sustainable lifestyle. We can’t avoid being hypocrites at some point along our journey, but as long as we are moving in the right direction it’s better than doing nothing at all. I also really enjoyed reading about the journey from a guy’s point of view (as did Brendan). I highly recommend this book (8/10) and had added it to my list of books in the blog’s resource section.

I *heart* the library

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Photo by: sendung

One of our favourite outings is to spend a couple of hours at the local library and that’s where Brendan and I spent yesterday afternoon. It’s simple, educational and frugal, so we try to go at least a couple of times a month. I’ll check out a couple of books and then we’ll grab a comfortable armchair and while away the day reading as many magazines as we like. There’s no need to hurry and when we’ve had enough, we jump on our bikes and coast home.

Here’s what I have checked out for the month. It’s probably a little ambitious to think I’m going to get through them all, but I’ll give it a try.

Recommended books

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Over the last couple of years I’ve done a lot of reading on the topics I touch on in this blog, including peak oil, the economy, the environment, our food systems, voluntary simplicity and much more. I’ve finally gotten around to adding a new page with a list of books I can recommend on these topics.

Resources – Books

Please check it out, and if you can recommend any other worthy reads, please let me know. I’m always after book suggestions.

August reading

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Photo by: ailatan

Over the last 12 months I have been reading more and more non-fiction. This whole economic collapse has been fasinating to watch, even if it’s not so much fun to participate in. For people of our generation, who have never really seen a recession, I think this last year has been a wake up call. We’ve lived in a time of perpetual growth and I guess we all came to believe that was how the world really was. I’ve certainly had my eyes opened and will never again take our economy for granted.

As such, I’m reading a lot of interesting books which I probably wouldn’t have bothered picking up before. Here’s my reading list for this month.