Monday, 18 March 2013

Book Review - 'Depletion and Abundance'

I have spent most of the last week coughing and sneezing (and I am talking earth-shattering sneezes), devoid of energy. Luckily I had a good book to hand and I really didn’t realise how good a book until I started getting into it.

“Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front” by Sharon Astyk is certainly well worth a read. Published in 2008, at the start of the financial crisis, it is still very valid to the current situation and I wish I had read it sooner.

Sharon Astyk is an American living with her young family on a 27 acre farm in rural upstate New York, but she has written a remarkable book which is very ‘British’ and really very applicable to changes needed in the UK. Clearly studying Shakespeare and British literature at University have made an impression on her writing. More than that though, she brings a warm-hearted woman’s perspective to difficult subjects. She has looked at the everyday individual issues but through an open-minded and educated view of the World.

I found lots of similarities with Sharon - she drinks Earl Grey for breakfast for a start. We share views on how our history of pulling together for the war effort during WWII can show us a way for the future, through the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaigns. I would go further and say that rationing could also play an important role in stabilising food prices, making food more accessible for the poor and reducing the risk of rioting and political unrest, but more on that in another blog.

Sharon has plenty of solutions, inspiring ideas and examples to help individuals make changes to reduce their environmental footprint. She is writing from her own experience having made some significant changes to how her own family lives, and I think this makes her book all the more powerful because she is walking the walk. It certainly isn’t an easy walk and there are some tough choices that she has faced, but the outcome seems to be an enjoyable and more sustainable lifestyle.

Anyway this book has inspired me to make a few comparisons and see where that may lead me with changes to my lifestyle. For a start Sharon’s target was to reduce her family’s energy consumption by 90% compared to an average American family, so it would be good to compare that to a British family. Also it isn’t that easy to get a home with 27 acres in the UK, and backyards are the size of a handkerchief and still shrinking! Let’s see how this compares and if there is still hope to get part way to self-sufficiency. Homes are also a lot smaller too and no longer have basements or cellars, so food storage is going to be a big issue – especially the 2 years of supplies that Sharon talks about, which is no problem in her 3,000ft2 (280m2) farmhouse.

See how the figures stack up for us Brits in the next blog.

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