Sharon Astyk’s book, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front, is one of the most useful books I’ve read this year. Like many folks in the blogosphere, I enjoy following Sharon’s blog, Casaubon’s Book. When her book came out, I was so happy to win a copy in Crunchy Chicken‘s random drawing!
One of the things I like best about Sharon’s blog is that she has a deep understanding of the environmental, social and economic problems of peak oil, but she chooses to focus on the solutions, not the problems. Instead of preaching about the inevitability of climate change, fossil fuel price hikes and energy shortages to scare the heck out of me, Sharon gives me suggestions for things I can do to survive and thrive in a changing world. Her book is a go-to resource for a simpler way of life that lets you live to the fullest.
I agree with much of what Sharon has to say. She stresses the importance of inter-generational bonds and believes that everyone, from young children to the elderly, will learn and benefit from these bonds. She values families and talks about living with her husband’s grandparents, which really hit home for me. Growing up on a farm with extended family, including my great-grandmother, grandparents, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins, I learned to value these relationships. It’s sad that families lose these connections, but I like how Sharon makes it clear that people can get these relationships back.
Sharon talks about living in the unofficial economy, and how having a foot out of the official economy can be a good thing. I think it’s true that it helps when I trade work at my family’s farm for groceries or when Ed trades his woodwork for a friend’s skills, or for firewood. However, for right now, the reality is that our roles in the official economy are the ones that pay for our mortgage and healthcare. If I didn’t have my teaching job, we’d be without health insurance, which is not something we can do without. However, having that foot in the unofficial economy will add to the variety of our lives, if anything, and will form and keep strong ties between us, our families and the community. Sharon’s take on healthcare is interesting, too. She believes we as a country are over-medicated, and that there’s no reason why medical care has to be so expensive. I think lots of people agree there.
Toward the end of the book, talking about producing our own food, Sharon states:
“This work of putting food-producing gardens, trees and shrubs on our existing properties may be the single most powerful thing any of us can do to save the world. If you do nothing else I suggest in this book, I hope that all of you will begin to garden, whether in the smallest window box or on an acre or more. There is nothing potentially more transformative on the earth.”
I believe that growing our own food and getting what we can’t grow from local farmers is one of the best ways we can show our independence from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture. Ed and I continue to work on growing our own food and plan to put in some fruit trees in the spring.
The suggestions that Sharon makes, from growing our own food, conserving energy, living simply, and valuing family are all realistic. Living this way may be harder work, but as Sharon points out, we may just enjoy it more. There is a sense of accomplishment that goes along with gardening, canning food, working with what you have and cooking from scratch. Think about it: many of our grandparents or great-grandparents lived this way and look fondly back on their simple lifestyles.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about hard times, global climate change, economics, peak oil, or are just looking for a way to live more simply, Sharon Astyk has answers for you and I suggest you read Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front.