Walden, and the dryer update

Well, I missed some posting there over the holidays – but it’s a new year, so off we go!

I borrowed Walden from the library recently, and have been enjoying it, though so far the first chapter (“Economy”) is still my favorite. He presents the values of simple living most clearly there, whereas the rest of the book so far (I’m not quite halfway through) seems more just musing around. Here’s a nice quote:

“I cannot believe that our factory system is the best mode by which men may get clothing. the conditions of the operatives is becoming every day more like that of the English; and it cannot be wondered at, since, as far as I have heard or observed, the principal object is, not that mankind may be well and honestly clad, but, unquestionably, that the corporations may be enriched. In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high.”

If you’d like to read some Thoreau, his complete works are online as free PDFs through the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods Digital Archive, and some of them are available in plain text at Project Gutenberg.

Dryer update: After a bit of experimentation, I seem to be able to get most of my clothing dry with 35 minutes of low heat. A few items (heavy things) may still be damp, but static electricity seems nonexistent, except for an occasional item. I’m going to try to minimize the synthetics in my wardrobe, which over time should cut down on the static in my life. I don’t think adding aluminum foil balls does anything, which I suppose makes sense since the inside of the dryer is metal, and that doesn’t dispel the static.

[formerly at http://www.colintedford.com/downpower/2008/01/02/walden-and-the-dryer-update/]

In The Absence Of The Sacred

In The Absence Of The Sacred: The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry ManderSierra Club Books, 1991 – 446 pages

It’s occurred to me, as it has to many others, that if I want to live more harmoniously, I might do well to learn more about the folk who peopled this land in relative peace for thousands of years. I’d read and liked Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television (a review for another day), but felt a little dubious when I saw In The Absence Of The Sacred. It looked like it might be some kind of misguided, backward-looking, native-romanticizing, technology-hating hippie trip, so I made a mental note and passed it by. But in light of the concern above, I wondered if the book might be more relevant than I’d realized – and it is. The two main points of the book are: 1. Our society needs to slow down and view new technologies much more skeptically, debating their potential extensively before they embed themselves in our lives, and 2. Our society could learn much of value from traditional tribal and subsistence-oriented peoples. Though I found some of the ideas in the book difficult to accept, I unfortunately also found them hard to argue with. Continue reading

Cutting Your Car Use

Cutting Your Car Use by Randall Ghent with Anna Semlyen
2006 – 5″ x 7″ – 116 pgs – US $9.95
New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada
(There was a website that went with the book which seems to be gone now – www.cuttingyourcaruse.co.uk, for the original British version by Semlyen alone, is still around.)

I picked up this book in San Francisco last year. I guess I probably first realized I might ultimately want to stop owning a car when I was in college (pre-2000). I didn’t have a car there, so I walked a lot and used the campus shuttle sometimes – and it was around this time that I learned you don’t really need a car if you live in a city. Sometime in the year before my trip to San Francisco, I’d been introsuced to the concept of Peak Oil and it’s uncomfortable nearness. Mostly that just paralyzed my brain with horror; I think of this book as marking my first step toward actually doing something to live more sustainably. It’s not a mind-blowing book, and it didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know (nor did I expect it to), but it’s a nice little book, full of tips, facts, lists, testimonials, and cartoon illustrations (by Axel Scheffler). I suppose one way to go about changing your habits is to foucs on one area at a time; if you choose to focus on transportation, than this can be a handy little book (it introduced me to the concept of folding bikes, which is a whole other story). You might also have a look at the website cuttingyourcaruse.com.

Another book I’ve only flipped through in the bookstore but looks pretty good is How To Live Well Without A Car by Chris Balish. It’s another small book with cartoon illustrations, but seems to have more prose than lists, which I like. Another book I haven’t read but would like to is Divorce Your Car! by Katie Alvord. in addition to practical advice on living car-free, she offers a history of how we became so car-dependent. A book that I have read which covers that history in depth in Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Kenneth T. Jackson.

[formerly at http://www.colintedford.com/downpower/2007/11/28/cutting-your-car-use/]