We (Rachel in particular) read a lot about self-sufficiency, green living, anti-consumerism, and food politics. Here (in no particular order) are some of our favourite reads along that theme, with a brief synopsis of each book (ie. the author’s synopsis from the back of the book):
Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes
Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises-drive less, consume less, increase self-reliance, buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities. In essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires. Radical Homemakers is about men and women across the U.S. who focus on home and hearth as a political and ecological act, and who have centered their lives around family and community for personal fulfillment and cultural change. It explores what domesticity looks like in an era that has benefited from feminism, where domination and oppression are cast aside and where the choice to stay home is no longer equated with mind-numbing drudgery, economic insecurity, or relentless servitude. Radical Homemakers nationwide speak about empowerment, transformation, happiness, and casting aside the pressures of a consumer culture to live in a world where money loses its power to relationships, independent thought, and creativity. If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans and heal the planet, this is your book.
Better Off by Eric Brende
What is the least we need to achieve the most? With this question in mind, MIT graduate Eric Brende flipped the switch on technology. He and his wife, Mary, ditched their car, electric stove, refrigerator, running water, and everything else motorized or “hooked to the grid,” and spent eighteen months living in a remote community so primitive in its technology that even the Amish consider it antiquated. Better Off is the story of their real-life experiment to see whether our cell phones, wide-screen TVs, and SUVs have made life easier — or whether life would be preferable without them. This smart, funny, and enlightening book mingles scientific analysis with the human story to demonstrate how a world free of technological excess can shrink stress — and waistlines — and expand happiness, health, and leisure.
The 100-Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon (note: I believe this book has been re-released with a new title – “Plenty”)
The remarkable, amusing and inspiring adventures of a Canadian couple who make a year-long attempt to eat foods grown and produced within a 100-mile radius of their apartment.
When Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon learned that the average ingredient in a North American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, they decided to launch a simple experiment to reconnect with the people and places that produced what they ate. For one year, they would only consume food that came from within a 100-mile radius of their Vancouver apartment. The 100-Mile Diet was born.
The couple’s discoveries sometimes shook their resolve. It would be a year without sugar, Cheerios, olive oil, rice, Pizza Pops, beer, and much, much more. Yet local eating has turned out to be a life lesson in pleasures that are always close at hand. They met the revolutionary farmers and modern-day hunter-gatherers who are changing the way we think about food. They got personal with issues ranging from global economics to biodiversity. They called on the wisdom of grandmothers, and immersed themselves in the seasons. They discovered a host of new flavours, from gooseberry wine to sunchokes to turnip sandwiches, foods that they never would have guessed were on their doorstep.
The 100-Mile Diet struck a deeper chord than anyone could have predicted, attracting media and grassroots interest that spanned the globe. The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating tells the full story, from the insights to the kitchen disasters, as the authors transform from megamart shoppers to self-sufficient urban pioneers. The 100-Mile Diet is a pathway home for anybody, anywhere
Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel
How can starving people also be obese?
Why does everything have soy in it?
How do petrochemicals and biofuels control the price of food?
It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before (800 million) while there are also more people overweight (1 billion).
To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked paddy-fields and Africa’s bankrupt coffee farms, while along the way he ate genetically engineered soy beans and dodged flying objects in the protestor-packed streets of South Korea. What he found was shocking, from the false choices given us by supermarkets to a global epidemic of farmer suicides, and real reasons for famine in Asia and Africa. Yet he also found great cause for hope–in international resistance movements working to create a more democratic, sustainable and joyful food system. Going beyond ethical consumerism, Patel explains, from seed to store to plate, the steps to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of both farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.
Righteous Porkchop by Nicolette Hahn Niman
When Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., first asked Nicolette Hahn Niman to head up his environmental organization’s “hog campaign,” she balked. Investigating hog manure pollution was hardly the glamorous assignment she pictured when leaving everything to work for him in New York. But Kennedy, she discovered, is not a man who takes no for an answer. Thus began Niman’s fascinating odyssey into the inner workings of the “factory farm” industry and her transformation into an intrepid environmental lawyer who goes up against the big business farming establishment and—unexpectedly—finds love along the way.