When I was about three-fourths of the way through Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place, I realized that it was a real-life equivalent to Douglas Adams' famous Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the ticket to a safe intergalactic ride rested on a book with the words "Don't Panic" on its front cover.
Astyk does not spend a lot of time in Making Home convincing us of the realities of Peak Oil, or that change, and perhaps even collapse, is going to come to our society sooner rather than later. Instead, she works on the assumption that the reader already has some knowledge of this, and is looking for ideas on what to do to get through whatever the future holds. After a brief first chapter discussing the inevitability of change, she gets down to the nitty gritty of planning and preparing for a future without many of the conveniences that many of us hold to be necessities, like electricity and flush toilets.
Astyk understands the need for people to make fundamental changes in their lives in order to adapt and be content in the places in which they choose to live. Making Home goes deeper than actions such as buying a certain type of light bulb or a hybrid car. Indeed, it settles into the very core and essence of our existence, an existence in which we must learn to celebrate simplicity and learn to live without many of the extras we take for granted. Instead of looking for different ways to do all of the things we are now capable of doing, we must instead question why we do those things and, in many cases, choose to not do them at all. An example of this is in her discussion of heating. Instead of coming up with an elaborate alternative energy scheme that makes it possible for every room in one's house to be 80 degrees all winter long, Astyk tells us that we have to learn to think of cold and heat differently, focusing instead on wearing layered clothing, drinking warm beverages, rising and sleeping with the sun, and utilizing localized heating in rooms as necessary.
In Making Home I find a kindred spirit. In Astyk's descriptions of the ways her family has already made so many changes and are living happy and fulfilled lives on their small farm, I see many of the same adaptations we made when we lived in a mountain village in Yemen with no power or running water. I once explained to someone that it was like cutting the static out of our lives so we could really live, really experience the world in a more immediate manner. Since returning to the States we have striven to retain and continue to practice what we learned there in as many ways as are possible, so that our family of nine has a carbon footprint that is less than that of most American couples. It is a conscious choice to do what is right for ourselves as individuals, as a family, and as a part of a larger community and society as a whole.
Making Home is full of practical, sound advice on how to live a better life and weather whatever storms the future may hold. Don't panic. Buy this book, take it to heart, and get to work making positive changes in your life—now.
Sharon Astyk is a writer, teacher, blogger, polymath and farmer who covers issues that range from agiculture to energy policy, from food preservation and cooking to religious life and democracy, while trying to live a life that corresponds with her principles. She is the author of three books, including Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front, which explores the impact that energy depletion, climate change and our financial instability are likely to have on our future, and what we can do about it. Sharon and her family farm in rural upstate New York, raising vegetables, pastured poultry and dairy goats at Gleanings Farm, a 27 acre homestead. Visit her website and her blog.
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