Our Blog | New Books

The Better World Shopping Guide - 2nd Edition

by: Heather on 09/15/2008
Posted in: New Books

Completely revised and updated for 2008, The Better World Shopping Guide - 2nd Edition by Ellis Jones is just off press! Make sure that your dollars make a difference with this comprehensive guide for socially and environmentally responsible consumers (like you). The guide ranks a huge variety of products from "A" (companies created specifically …

read full article

Food Security for the Faint of Heart

by: Heather on 08/21/2008
Posted in: New Books

Robin Wheeler's wonderful new book Food Security for the Faint of Heart is just off press! To whet your appetite, here are Robin's Top 10 reasons to get food secure:

1. Stuff happens. Earthquakes, trucker strikes, who knows; in an instant, our world could change. We should be better prepared.

2. It can be difficult for low-income families to afford …

read full article

The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age

by: Heather on 08/18/2008
Posted in: New Books

The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age is just off press! This is an exciting book - in my experience John Michael Greer is one of the most coherent authors it has ever been my privilege to encounter. In his book and his blog he frequently explains extremely complex issues in great detail, in a way that is both brilliant in its simplicity, and leaves you thinking "of course - it's so obvious - I should have thought of that".

As an example, here's an excerpt from Chapter 3 of The Long Descent where the author explains his theory of "catabolic collapse".

 

The basic idea is simple enough, and it's best communicated through a metaphor: imagine that, instead of the fate of civilizations, we're discussing home ownership. Until recently, when people went shopping for a home, most of them were sensible about it and bought one within their means. The housing bubble of the last few years, though, encouraged many people to buy much more house than they could afford, on the assumption that appreciating real estate values and the other advantages of home ownership would make up the difference.

Too many of these people, however, didn't take the time to work out just how much their new McMansion would cost to own, maintain, and repair, and soaring real estate prices made it very difficult to remember that every boom sooner or later ends in a bust. Once these realities began to sink in, many people who expected to get rich off their houses found themselves in an awkward predicament as their monthly paychecks no longer covered their monthly expenses. Home equity loans offered one popular way to cover the gap, but once housing prices began to slump and banks cut back on easy credit, that option shut down. From that point on the possibilities narrowed sharply, and every option -- taking on more debt, deferring repairs and maintenance, leaving bills unpaid -- eventually adds to the total due each month. Sooner or later, the rising tide of expenses overwhelms available income, and the result is foreclosure.

That's catabolic collapse in a nutshell. Like suburban mansions, civilizations are complex, expensive, fragile things. To keep one going, you have to maintain and replace a whole series of capital stocks: physical (such as buildings); human (such as trained workers); informational (such as agricultural knowledge); social (such as market systems); and more. If you can do this within the "monthly budget" of resources provided by the natural world and the efforts of your labor force, your civilization can last a very long time. Over time, though, civilizations tend to build their capital stocks up to levels that can't be maintained; each king (or industrial magnate) wants to build a bigger palace (or skyscraper) than the one before him, and so on. That puts a civilization into the same bind as the homeowner with the oversized house. In the terms used in the original paper, production falls short of the level needed to maintain capital stocks, and those stocks are converted to waste: buildings become ruins, populations decrease, knowledge is lost, social networks disintegrate, and so on.

read full article

Depletion & Abundance: Life on the New Home Front

by: Heather on 08/12/2008
Posted in: New Books

Sharon Astyk's wonderful new book Depletion and Abundance is just off press! To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt where Sharon explains the Riot for Austerity - a project she was involved in starting in 2007 which was insprired by George Monbiot's contention in his compelling book
Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning that what we really …

read full article

Plan C: Community Survival Strategies for Peak Oil and Climate Change

by: Heather on 07/15/2008
Posted in: New Books

It has become blatantly obvious in the western world that Plan A (business as usual) is a miserable failure, and Plan B (continuing on our present economic path while substituting new energy sources for our vanishing reserves of fossil fuels) is not viable either. It is well past time to examine our options and create a realistic strategy for a …

read full article