sustainable living http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9382/all en-US Book review: Game Over http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-game-over <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-game-over" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/game-over-cover.jpg" alt="Cover of Game Over by Stephen Leeb" title="Cover of Game Over by Stephen Leeb" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="377" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446544809?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0446544809"><em>Game Over: How You Can Prosper in a Shattered Economy</em></a> by Stephen Leeb.</p> <p><em>Game Over</em> makes that case that we're running into resource limits on every front--energy, metals, water--and that this problem is going to affect everything we do. Then, it looks at what can we do about it, as individuals and as a society.</p> <p>The book breaks down into four sections.</p> <p>The first lays out the case that we're running into resource limits on every front. The second suggests that we, as a society, may well be able to do something about this--but only if we're clever and foresightful. The third looks at some issues related to the way we've been running the economy for the past few years. The fourth suggests a bunch of things individuals might do, to position themselves so that their finances don't get too beaten up by the problems.</p> <h2>Peak oil (and peak lots of other stuff)</h2> <p>Part one begins with peak oil, but then expands on that issue by pointing out that we're hitting limits with many other resources as well--metals, water, etc.</p> <p>It's no surprise that we're hitting so many limits at once. For almost any resource there are partial substitutes. The end result of going down that path, though, is that the substitutes get used wherever they're adequate--meaning that eventually they'll hit a limit as well. If you aggressively substitute the cheapest alternative in every case--which is exactly what happens in a free market--pretty soon all your resources will be pushing up against their own limit.</p> <p>Leeb lays out the case for peak oil pretty well. At some point--roughly at the point when half the oil has been produced from a field--that field hits a peak: it produces more oil than it has ever produced before or will ever produce again. This is clearly true of individual fields--we've seen it over and over again, all over the word. It is also clearly true of countries. The United States hit its peak in 1970. Since then, even with the addition of oil from Alaska, we've never produced as much oil again. It is true of the world as a whole as well--add up all the production from all the fields, each one eventually hitting its own peak, and at some point the planet hits a peak. Every year after that, the world will produce a bit less oil than the year before.</p> <p>Besides laying out the case for peak oil, Leeb introduces another concept that he calls &quot;absolute peak oil,&quot; by which he means that point at which it takes more energy to produce a barrel of oil than you'll get by burning the oil. It's an important concept, although I don't think Leeb develops it very well.</p> <p>The concept he's referring to is the &quot;energy return on energy invested,&quot; usually abbreviated EROEI. When your EROEI is less than one--when the energy produced is less than the energy it took to produce it--whatever you're doing is no longer an energy source. Of course, that doesn't make it worthless. Batteries, for example, have an EROEI of less than one--it takes a lot more energy to construct a battery and deliver it to you than your battery-powered device will ever get out of it. But that's okay. Batteries are an energy <strong>delivery</strong> mechanism, not an energy <strong>production</strong> mechanism. As long as people will pay more for a battery than it costs to make it, people will keep making batteries.</p> <p>Peak oil will start to bite long before we hit that point. Once we hit the peak, the world as a whole will have to burn a bit less oil each year than the year before. The consequences for how people live will be enormous.</p> <h2>Alternatives</h2> <p>Part two talks about the development of alternative sources of energy, and the key message is that many alternatives that look possible simply don't scale, because of limits in other resources.</p> <p>Wind, for example, could replace most of the energy that we get from oil. The EROEI for a wind turbine is pretty good. But there's a huge capital investment--you need to build towers, turbines, and generators. You can build hundreds of wind turbines no problem, but if you tried to build enough wind turbines to replace the energy we get from fossil fuels, you start running out of things like steel to build them out of.</p> <p>All the alternatives have similar issues. Try to replace oil with ethanol and you start running out of land and water (and, in the shorter term, food). Try to replace oil with tar sands, and you run out of natural gas and water.</p> <p>The key take-away from part two of Leeb's book is that there are many possibilities for alternative energy production, and that many of them will work to some extent, but that we need to look very seriously at which ones can be scaled up to produce enough energy to make a difference without hitting other resource limits.</p> <p>I should add that this part of the book has Leeb's worst misstep. He talks about conservation as part of the basket of choices to get us through the rough patch where resource limits really start to bite--and then thoughtlessly dismisses the notion on the grounds that our conservation probably just makes the energy cheaper, so other people will use it up all the faster.</p> <p>The point he misses (and he's certainly not the only person to make this mistake) is that the goal of conservation is not to &quot;stretch out&quot; the depleting supply for a while longer. The point is to find a balance between the production of energy and the use of energy.</p> <p>It's sad that he couldn't take this step, as it follows rather directly from his previous point--that if we try to build enough windmills to replace the energy we get from oil, we run out of steel. Suppose, though, we could build some windmills--enough to replace a fraction of the energy we get from oil. Suppose we could also get modest-but-significant amounts of energy from other renewable sources (photovoltaics, biofuels, geothermal). The point of conservation is to find a way to live comfortably <strong>using only that much energy</strong>. Duh!</p> <h2>Inflation</h2> <p>The third section talks about the economy, making the case that inflation will be the big economic problem over the next few years, and that it won't be easy to deal with.</p> <p>The central banks have made the determination of late that inflation is the safer risk. We know how to end inflation, so it's safe to risk a little inflation in an effort to avoid a depression. Leeb says that this isn't going to work. Yes, we know how to stop inflation--but only by causing a recession. If the economy is already in a recession, the central banks will never make that worse just to end inflation.</p> <p>There is, of course, the key counter-example of the policies of the Federal Reserve under Paul Volker in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Leeb's analysis, though, is that we were in better shape then to tolerate the disinflation, but that we're not now.</p> <p>Personally, I hope he's wrong--and I think there's a good chance he is. In a recession, the pain hits some much worse than others--business owners suffer, workers who lose their jobs suffer. In an inflation, the pain hits everybody, but it especially hits people with money. To the extent that &quot;people with money&quot; have power within society, I think eventually the pain of a bad inflation will push policy maker's to grind the inflation out of the system, even at the cost of a recession.</p> <h2>Investments</h2> <p>The last section of the book is on investments. It's informed by his thinking on inflation, so one key suggestion is gold. He suggests a variety of companies that should make money as we try to build out alternative energy production facilities, and he suggests some companies that will thrive as developing countries (where they use less energy than the rich countries do) continue to grow.</p> <p>On balance it's a good book. Certainly it's right about the problem. It also has a thoughtful (if limited) look at the range of possible solutions. His economic analysis is different from mine, which leads to different investment suggestions than I would make, but that's really the least important part of the book (and time may yet prove that he's hit closer to the mark than I).</p> <p>If you're interested in learning more about how limits in energy and other resources are going to affect us, and how we might address those problems both as individuals and as a society, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0446544809?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0446544809"><em>Game Over</em></a> is a good place to start.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-game-over">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-farewell-my-subaru">Book review: Farewell, My Subaru</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-in-defense-of-food">Book review: In Defense of Food</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-little-book-of-common-sense-investing">Book review: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-cash-rich-retirement">Book review: Cash-Rich Retirement</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-only-investment-guide-youll-ever-need">Book review: The Only Investment Guide You&#039;ll Ever Need</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living Investment book review books energy gold investing peak oil review sustainability sustainable living Sun, 11 Jan 2009 18:45:29 +0000 Philip Brewer 2734 at http://www.wisebread.com Book review: Farewell, My Subaru http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-farewell-my-subaru <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-farewell-my-subaru" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/farewell-my-subaru-cover.jpg" alt="Cover of Farewell, My Subaru" title="Cover of Farewell, My Subaru" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="376" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400066441?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1400066441"><cite>Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living</cite></a> by Doug Fine.</p> <p>There are a number of books now by people who set out to live a more local, more sustainable life, and wrote a book to document their experiences. Most of them approach the problem with the perspective that living a lower-carbon lifestyle is going to entail giving up some of the things that modern Americans have come to expect. Doug Fine, though, would rather not. Especially not ice cream.</p> <p>There's a fundamental trade-off that you can't really escape. All that carbon gets released producing energy, so if you want to release less carbon, you've got two options: You can make do with less energy or you can find a way to get the energy without burning carbon. The first option requires sacrifice; the second typically requires either doing large amounts of hard work or else spending large amounts of money. Unlike some of the other authors of recent books on low-impact living, Fine is inclined toward the second option--going to great effort and spending large amounts of money to get his modern American lifestyle with less carbon burned.</p> <p>The book is basically a series of funny stories of Fine's first year or so trying to live more sustainably on forty-one acres of rural New Mexico. The humor is largely of the self-depricating sort--Fine bumbles about making beginner mistakes, but through a combination of perseverance, help from friends and neighbors, a modest amount of good luck, a lot of hard work, and the expenditure of a whopping amount of money, manages to set himself up to be successful.</p> <p>The book actually ends before we see a lot of pay-off from the hard work. It would have been nice to hear about the ice cream that he was going to make from his goats milk. But that doesn't make the funny stories about his hard work any less funny.</p> <p>There are two things this book isn't.</p> <p>First, it isn't out to convince you that living a low-carbon lifestyle is the right choice. The audience for this book is largely people who have already decided that--but are daunted at the prospect of the changes involved in living in accordance with their values. (People who don't think low-carbon living is necessary to save the biosphere could possibly be amused to watch Fine go to all this trouble for no good reason that they can see, but I doubt if they'd really be interested.)</p> <p>Second, it most definitely isn't a how-to manual. Although the author talks about raising goats and chickens, and installing a solar-powered pump and a solar hot-water heater, and getting his truck converted to run on used cooking oil, he just tells the funny stories of his mishaps. It may give you some ideas and it may make certain choices seem more (or less!) reasonable, but this is not the book that's going to tell you how to do any of those things yourself.</p> <p>Probably the best thing about the book is the way it provides a worked example that doesn't seem too daunting. Instead of trying to achieve sustainability through the sort of extreme simple living that amounts to a repudiation of the modern American lifestyle, Fine tries to achieve it through a large investment of time, effort, and money. Where the other books leave you thinking that their writers are capable of superhuman feats of self-deprivation (admittedly alleviated by the opportunity to eat lots of great, local food), Fine's book gives you nice crisp stories that emphasize his foibles and leave you with a sense of &quot;If this clown can do it, I can certainly do it.&quot;</p> <p>Sometimes his tone bugged me. One example was in talking about trying to go hunting. His other stories sounded like the efforts of someone trying (and eventually succeeding) in some endeavor despite a certain amount of ineptitude--which make them fun to read. The story of his hunting endeavors, though, ends in failure. His ineptness is great enough in this case that it seems almost willful. That, combined with giving up right away, makes it less interesting to read about than the endeavors where he perseveres. That's a minor complaint, though.</p> <p>If you're interested in living a lower-carbon lifestyle, but you're not quite ready to make the leap yourself, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400066441?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisbre08-20&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=1400066441"><em>Farewell, My Subaru</em></a> packs a nice mix of inspirational and cautionary tales into one funny little book. I enjoyed it a lot.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/philip-brewer">Philip Brewer</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-farewell-my-subaru">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-game-over">Book review: Game Over</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-in-defense-of-food">Book review: In Defense of Food</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-happier">Book review: Happier</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-your-money-or-your-life">Book review: Your Money or Your Life</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-wabi-sabi-simple">Book review: Wabi Sabi Simple</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Green Living book review books carbon emission carbon footprint gardening goats ice cream review sustainability sustainable living Mon, 22 Dec 2008 20:39:42 +0000 Philip Brewer 2668 at http://www.wisebread.com Book Review: Living On An Acre, A Practical Guide to the Self-Reliant Life http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-living-on-an-acre-a-practical-guide-to-the-self-reliant-life <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/book-review-living-on-an-acre-a-practical-guide-to-the-self-reliant-life" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/living on an acre.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="120" height="180" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">Ever since I left the city and crept my way back into my childhood farm house, I have been slowly adjusting to a simpler lifestyle.<span> </span><a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592281141?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisebread03-20&amp;link_code=as3&amp;camp=211189&amp;creative=373489&amp;creativeASIN=1592281141">Living On An Acre</a> has been a steady and dependable guide to covering the bases of both the practicalities and the possibilities of living a more sustainable dream. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">You don’t have to have an entire acre to implement the plans in this very straight-forward manual to living the rural life.<span> </span>Designed for those individuals looking to start a part-time farm, buying a second home in the country, or just those curious enough to read this 330+ page text, it is an enlightening reading for anyone.<span> </span>DIY’ers and the independent will find enough potential projects for a lifetime of new challenges and productive work. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">There are too many topics covered in this book to even begin to list them all.<span> </span>My favorite sections include: </p> <ul> <li>How to select a community</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Planning for a home</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Landscaping</li> </ul> <ul> <li>Proper disposal of property</li> </ul> <p class="MsoNormal">And of course, the fun stuff!<span> </span>Berries, herbs, starting a kennel, beekeeping, Christmas trees, keeping hens, dairy cows, dude ranches, and earthworms in a washtub are ALL covered in brief but adequate detail. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you want to delve very deeply into any one of the touched-upon topics for a profitable business or a large-scale operation, I would suggest getting additional material.<span> </span>If you are wanting to simply explore the topic to see if it is right for you, however, this book may have everything you need. </p> <p class="MsoNormal">This book pulls no punches.<span> </span>This classic US Department of Agriculture handbook won’t coddle you into believing that anyone is cut out for farm life.<span> </span>The pros and cons of switching to a rural mode are weighed heavily at the beginning of the book.<span> </span>Many of the topical chapters begin with a list of equipment and land needs, as well as the expected demands of undergoing a new operation on the farm. Christine Woodside (the editor) lends her expertise to the book, giving it a human side that keeps it from having too much of a “textbook” feel.<span> </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">If you’re looking for a no-nonsense primer that discusses the dollar and cents of sustainable living, this might be a good read to add to your collection.<span> </span>Living rural is hard work, and this book makes no promises that it will be the dream lifestyle you’ve always imagined.<span> </span>But if your response to impending economic instability and the desire for simple living has you considering an exodus to the country, I’d recommend <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1592281141?ie=UTF8&amp;tag=wisebread03-20&amp;link_code=as3&amp;camp=211189&amp;creative=373489&amp;creativeASIN=1592281141">Living on An Acre</a> to help you with your decision.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/linsey-knerl">Linsey Knerl</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-living-on-an-acre-a-practical-guide-to-the-self-reliant-life">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/these-diy-magazines-can-help-you-be-self-reliant">These DIY Magazines Can Help You Be Self-Reliant</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/book-review-the-education-of-an-american-dreamer-by-peter-g-peterson">Book review: The Education of an American Dreamer by Peter G. Peterson</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-baking-soda-took-my-bathroom-from-yuck-to-yes">How Baking Soda Took My Bathroom from “Yuck” to Yes!</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-reasons-to-use-your-outdoor-furniture-inside">5 Reasons to Use Your Outdoor Furniture -– Inside</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/3-cheap-and-easy-formulas-for-homemade-windshield-de-icer-plus-bonus-tips">3 Cheap and Easy Formulas for Homemade Windshield De-Icer (Plus Bonus Tips)</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Frugal Living DIY Lifestyle book review country farming sustainable living Sat, 28 Jun 2008 16:54:30 +0000 Linsey Knerl 2203 at http://www.wisebread.com