The New Home Economics

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Book review: Toolbox for Sustainable City Living

toolboxAuthors: Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew

This book is full of ideas for really hardcore people who want to practice radical sustainability and preferably live in a mild climate.  The whole time I was reading it I kept picturing the people on the high bikes in the Minneapolis MayDay parade, and what they must do in their spare time.  Maybe they really do install humanure composting toilets in their homes?

Let me share a quote from the book so you can really get a flavor for what I’m talking about:

Will cities still be capable of supporting their populations when big trucks are no longer delivering food?  What will happen when it becomes too costly to heat buildings?  Will basic sanitation collapse as water becomes scarcer and more expensive to pump?

So basically we’re talking about: how to get set up so that you and yours can still feed yourselves come the apocalypse (or, the collapse of a petroleum-based society).  This is one of those weird areas where far-right people and far-left people actually are quite a bit alike.

It would be easy to just dismiss this book, and the writers’ philosophy, after reading a quote like that.  But the thing is, they are so right about so many things.  They call out modern farses like green consumerism:

Green consumerism encourages consumption of a different variety.  It does nothing to challenge the patterns of over-consumption and excess that have created the environmental crisis.

Yes.  Right on.  Although maybe for some people “green” consumerism is a small first step.  If you’re really dedicated to this stuff and are interested in some ideas on how you can take it to the next level, I recommend this book.  It also helps if you live in a climate where the temperature rarely dips below 32 degrees, because most of the systems they describe don’t function well or even at all in the frozen tundra of Minnesota.

They cover the very basics of: raising chickens, perennial food crops (including mushrooms), aquaculture (including small-scale fish farming), insect breeding, water conservation including rainwater catchment and greywater systems, various compost systems, using biofuels, and creating some passive solar systems, all sprinkled in with scary talk about peak oil.  Note that they only cover the very basics; if I were going to install a greywater system I would get an entire book dedicated to only that subject.

I feel like this is the “next level” from us and I’m honestly not quite there yet.  I’m getting a lot closer to convincing Adam that we should get chickens, but having a hard time getting my head around composting toilets and the like.

But maybe I should try to get there, as a new report by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared with previous expectations).   Click here to read more on that, then get your bikes greased up.