Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Surviving the city

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living” imbues the reader with that comforting apocalyptic feeling, but occasionally misses the mark with remarkable margins.

There's obviously a permanent market for those all-encompassing handbooks on how to live closer to the land and hopefully survive whatever catastrophe we see coming over the horizon. As these books go, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living is both very contemporary and mercifully free of all that stuff about gardening you can find in other books.

The authors choose to pooh-pooh both solar panels and hydroponics, on grounds that make very little sense. Solar panels, they claim, last “only 25 years”, which is patently untrue (though they do become less efficient with time) and in any case is certainly considerably more than many of the projects outlined in this book. Batteries, of course, do not last 25 years, weather connected to solar panels or the authors' choice: wind generators.

Hydroponics, the authors say, is “energy intensive”. Considerably less so than the present system of transporting food over amazing distances, one would think, but no matter. Hydroponics has obviously not passed some kind of purity test.

Not that the authors are fanatics, though. Living without a washing machine is obviously out of the question, as indicated with funky and pretty cool designs of wetland systems for filtering greywater.

As always, when I read American books of this kind, I am amazed at the possibilities that exist for people who live far south and in drier climates.

This is a pretty good companion to, and even has some pretty inspiring drawings in the same vein as John Seymoures classic The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency. Toolbox for Sustainable City Living has lots of interesting information, though some is gibberish, and some very up to date fear-mongering to go with it.

Toolbox for Sustainable City Living
A Do-it-ourselves guide

Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew
Illustrations by Juan Martinez
South End Press, 244 pp

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