How to Kill Things.
I tend to hoover up books and web articles. Most of it I skim through pretty fast, as I place little pieces in the gaps of the puzzle. So, I tend to have at least 40 tabs open, slowing down my browser and computer. And, in what may show my age, I have a large RSS feed—but here are the most influential.
The Archdruid Report comes out every Wednesday. John Michael Greer is a noted speaker on Peak Oil, but he is really a systems thinker. He draws in historical references and highlights patterns similar to our own. He is the author of many books, several of which will likely be recommended below. Greer tends to take on chunks and work them over in pieces each week. As of this writing, he is looking at governance, but his topic areas have ranged over energy efficiency, systems thinking and magic to name just a few. One of my favourite tidbits is that, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, Britain forgot how to use the potter’s wheel. For several hundred years. I like to point out the potter’s wheel has just one moving part—which means it should be about as easy to understand as a sharp stick.
TreeHugger.com is generally where I go to become enraged. TH is where I first wrote online, back in 2005, and the same things irritate me now as then. TH is basically a hope-y, green shopping will set us free, and the future will be built with unicorn poop, sort of place. With a few notable exceptions, I find the knowledge of what I would call sustainability to be very low and the systems thinking to be poor. Obviously. Or you wouldn’t think green shopping was going to help anything. Still, TH is a big, green blog, and they aggregate a lot of stuff from a lot of places. I read every headline and comment on too many of the posts.
Too much of our world has been built by people with a very mechanical, clockwork sort of understanding of things, but Charles Marohn totally avoids that at Strong Towns. His case studies are directly related to urban design, but his way of thinking is inspirational. Like the Archdruid, Marohn is a pattern-thinker. I haven’t found any better or more clear analyses of municipal financial sustainability. But, if those three words sound boring to you, give him a read—what he writes about impacts your town.
The Automatic Earth is what I call an Econopocalypse blog. The hosts are multi-disciplinary analysts, but believe the first squeeze will come from the economy, not energy or the environment. Their Primers, are absolute must-reads. I must admit that some of the details of global finance are over my head, but I recognize the pattern they are working with, so I tend to trust their analysis. If you get a chance to see Nicole Foss speak, jump at it.
On the economic meltdown front, I do enjoy Garth Turner’s blog. I disagree with his big picture—he seems to think we are merely experiencing an ‘investment opportunity’ before Business As Usual recommences—but he shakes the dirt out of real estate press releases. Don’t dress up before you visit.
James Howard Kuntsler is a famous critic of ‘our failed suburban experiment’ and coiner of the phrase ‘places not worth caring about’, and his Monday morning rant is the best way to start getting up early on weekdays. He doesn’t tell you anything you don’t know, but he spews vitriol against idiocy in such an enjoyable way that you don’t need a second cup of coffee (note: blog title includes cuss words, if that is of concern to you). I have seen Kunstler speak, and, of course have seen him in lots of movies, and always enjoy it—while I agree wearing pants around your ass is idiotic, I disagree that having tattoos and piercings shows you have thrown your life away. He also does a podcast where he has long conversations with John Michael Greer and Nicole Foss, among others. Kunstler writes fiction—the World Made by Hand series—which have gained some criticism for being kind of dopey about women. But, they are also an interesting future vision worth reading.
Sharon Astyk is a feminist peak-oil farmer. Again, interesting historical knowledge and very important ways of looking at things. Plus, there are goats! Sharon is the most frequent writer about the concrete issues of everyday life in a contracting world. I call her a feminist with some trepidation, as I know some people may assume she is shrill or something. Out of all these links, she is the one that constantly asks how it is we should treat each other—and part of the answer is equally. So, bring whatever baggage you have to this making-the-problem-worse description of mine; she truly cares about you and your loved ones.
And of course I read George Monbiot. His book Heat may be how I incorporated climate chaos into my pattern of understanding the world. I think he has gone off-piste with his recent support of nuclear (for reasons best explained at The Automatic Earth), but he is still a staunch defender of the planet and the poor—his tagline says it all, “Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.”
The New Organic Gardener, Eliot Coleman’s tour de force. I tried to think of my top take-away, but there are so many: soil blocking, planting in clumps, massively detailed crop rotation and complementary planting guides, mobile greenhouses, et c. I am only using a fraction of his system but I think about this book very, very often. He relentlessly pursues the methods and tools that will allow small farmers to make a living.
Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies examines the diminishing and negative returns on complexity. Follow the link for a small explanation and a bunch of good links.