MOTHER EARTH NEWS has published my book review of Paul Wheaton's book Building a Better World in Your Backyard this morning. Here are some highlights since I'm not allowed to publish the whole article here:
What Is This Book About? It’s purpose is to help the average person transform the world, one truly ecological act at a time. That means that instead of writing angry letters to politicians and protesting, you can do things in your everyday life to help the Earth. Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop offer easy-to-implement, simple solutions for anyone looking to reduce your energy/petroleum usage and clear toxins from your life. They briefly cover how to save money and make passive income so that you don’t have to participate in the rat race and commute to work (thereby polluting the environment). The theme of luxurious living is in the forefront of the book throughout reading it. So it is not a book about sacrifice in the name of environmentalism. The main goal of the book is to direct your current anger at how messed up we’ve made the world and put it towards doing simple practical things to lessen your carbon footprint and give yourself a better more fulfilled life. Paul & Shawn’s Eco-Poser Test Do you spend less than $83/month on energy (electricity & heat)? They say that even if you have five kids, you still have to spend less than that to be a real environmentalist. Not a poser. It’s a very interesting, thought-provoking argument. Heating and electricity account for a large amount of fossil fuels that we use. However, transportation takes the cake for the highest fossil fuel use : 33% in 2017. Electricity & heating use was 28% of total fossil fuel consumption. So, together, all three total over 60% of overall fossil fuel use in the United States. Next time you book a flight to Mexico or order something Next Day from Amazon, give that a thought! Back to the book. I love the anecdote about the protester driving to protest fracking and he’s driving his car 1500 miles to do so, thereby using lots of petroleum! Most people don’t think about their iPad use (plus the mining to make the iPad), driving in their car, and taking yearly vacations on cruises or airplanes. The majority of us use either coal, natural gas, or hydroelectric power (still not always environmentally friendly) for our daily addiction to electricity. These are big problems but Wheaton has some good answers that we can all do in our daily lives. In the subsequent chapters, he makes some great points for how to do this without giving up a lot of “luxury”. Radically Deviant Financial Strategies One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 10: Radically Deviant Financial Strategies. In this chapter, Wheaton covers some very smart strategies for saving up money to get your own land, or own your own tiny house/shack that you build onto. These practices are critical for anyone who is drowning in debt and wanting to escape the rat race. Wheaton has a great list of passive income stream ideas, which will likely get the creative juices flowing for most readers. What if many of us could find a way to live free from debt and the “slavery” of working in a big city with long commutes? I know there are many people out there hoping to figure out this puzzle. For a lot of Millenials, it can be easy to save money while living at home with Mom and Dad, with the goal of renting or buying land. It will require a person to give up eating out as well as exercising at home instead of driving to the gym and paying monthly fees.
Permaculture to Grow Your Own Food The most important part of the book is about permaculture. Paul Wheaton has been lovingly dubbed “The Duke of Permaculture” by Geoff Lawton, (arguably the most “famous” permaculture teacher in the world, trained by the founder, Bill Mollison) for his contributions in spreading the ideas of permaculture. So it makes sense that Wheaton would give this as a solution to a lot of the world’s problems. Like he points out, petroleum is used to prepare the ground for growing food, to grow food (fertilizer), to transport food to the store, and the customer uses petroleum to go buy it. Growing your own food is a very critical part of environmentalism. Wheaton gives a good overview of some basic permaculture concepts, and tantilizes the reader to learn more outside of the book. Permaculture is a symbiotic way to live with Nature, and it also includes surrounding yourself with perennial plants and trees with lots of diversity throughout. This year we are planting a long list of perennials in hopes that I and my grandchildren can benefit from the bountiful harvests in the future. We will be planting hazelnuts, nitrogen-fixing trees (called Princess Trees), paw paws, persimmons, walnuts, buartnuts, oak trees, grape vines, and lots more herbs and perennial greens. I hope that Paul’s chapter on permaculture, berms, tree-planting, and lazy gardening will inspire readers to dive into growing their own food. Paul and Shawn’s book has a lot of chapters and the reader will need to take time to go down a few rabbit-holes of juicy information before finishing the book! They have provided lots of links to Paul’s online forum www.permies.com as there are in-depth discussions about all the topics in the book. So, while reading you can join in discussions about related topics. Overall, this book is simply a brilliant way of looking at the problems that our world faces in 2019. Although some may not want to try the more extreme ideas out, it can get readers thinking about ways they can dig deeper to help combat climate change and widespread pollution. It goes far beyond simply recycling, and places the responsibility on our everyday actions and choices.
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