Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Book Review: Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs

There is a book that has been sitting on our night stands, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs, by Wendy Brown. Wendy blogs at Surviving the Suburbs. She lives in southern Maine. Most book reviewers are able to approach their book reviews with an unbiased opinion. I, actually, have met Wendy. I have also been to her home. This being stated, however, also means that I have a perspective that other reviewers do not. I have seen her suburban homestead and I can attest to the amount of food she can produce on her 1/4 acre. Wendy has a yard with mixed fruits, raised beds and livestock; including, bees, chickens, ducks and rabbits. The day I visited her home there was a large can in her home of acorns being prepared for making acorn flour.

So it was with this knowledge that I began reading her book.

I have read plenty of books about preparing for The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). Among some of my favorite is Depletion and Abundance by Sharon Astyk, When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein and Peak Oil Prep by Mick Winter. So I have read enough to wonder how Wendy would approach this subject. Wendy sets up a scenario where a world altering event will take place in 21 days. We have 21 days to prepare for this change. She suggests that most folks will not be able to "bug out" to a secluded bunker in the middle of no where with an endless supply of MRE's. Instead we will have to learn to grow where we are planted.

Each of the 21 days she chooses one topic for consideration: shelter, water, fire, growing food etc. She takes a careful consideration of the existing systems in her home; for instance, with sanitation or water supply, and thinks how to recreate these systems,using existing infrastructure, in a low energy future on a 1/4 acre suburban lot. She tackles some challenges unique to suburban home owners such as Home Owner Association restrictions, limited space. She also takes careful consideration of what is available to her beyond her small suburban homestead.

All in all, the book is rich in practical advice and information. Wendy has really thought about the practice of substitution. If our lives become more local many of commodities that we take for granted will not be available to us; either because it is no longer brought to us on semi trucks or because our limited financial resources will prohibit us from using them.

The book also challenges the reader to think beyond their own lot. She shares this in terms of foods available in the wild. But also asks us to think about the connections we make within our community. The final goal after the 21 days is to try to think of self-sufficiency in ways the really source our needs on a very local level. It is this approach that I find to be the best aspect of the book.

I think there could be so much more information that could fill this book if we were to think beyond the first 21 days. But for the sake of this book it is a great start. Some of the topics are still works in progress on Wendy's homestead. I look forward to perhaps a second book that shares more of her personal experience as she follows down this path. There were moments of humor and tenderness that a reader would not expect from a book that is geared towards someone trying to prepare for TEOTWAWKI. In the end Wendy imagines a world after the 21 days. It is a world of lower energy but a connectedness with the earth and her community that adds a depth to life that one does not associate with life in the suburbs.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Thank you. I appreciate your insights and the positive comments you made ;).

I hope you'll be able to make it down again soon. The Jerusalem artichokes you gifted me are thriving ;).