Saturday, January 9, 2010

An Adaptor's Reading List

Over the last year I've picked up enough reading material to choke a horse. I guess my New Year's resolution will be to schedule enough time to read it all. Most of it serves the very useful purpose of equipping readers to adapt to the present and ongoing collapse of the Western industrial economy. (However, none of it is about how to reload your own ammo, where to find the best site for a bunker, buying gold, or the best brand of baked beans to stockpile in a mountain hideaway.) Some of it is in hard copy and some of it I downloaded for free from the Web. Here's a short list of some titles that stick out immediately:

The Humanure Handbook, Joseph Jenkins, Jenkins Publishing, 2005. This is a good book for learning why our present industrial Western system of human waste management is unsustainable, how this system is contributing to impending worldwide shortages of fresh water, and what individuals can do about it. I got a paperback copy for myself and I am about halfway through it. I also downloaded a free PDF copy from Joseph Jenkins' website.

Decentralised Composting for Cities of Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Users' Manual, Eawag/Sandec and Waste Concern, 2006. This publication is available as a free PDF download from the Eawag webpage “Department Water and Sanitation in Developing Countries,” along with a number of other publications. I just started this one. (I'm up to page ten.) While I like Joseph Jenkins' approach to humanure composting, I am always impressed with the potential of ordinary humans to foul something up. The problem is not in Jenkins' method, but in the incompetence of some people I know (who might also say the same thing about me ;) ).The Eawag/Sandec publication seems to be a good way to insure that the composting process is put into trained and competent hands, even at the neighborhood level.

Where There Is No Doctor, David Werner, Hesperian Foundation, 1992. I downloaded this one for free from the Hesperian website as well as picking up a used paperback copy from a bookstore. We've been going through Chapter 11 of this book at work, during my “Neighborhood Resilience Brown Bag Lunches.” My paperback copy has a slightly musty smell, as if it spent a lot of time in someone's backpack in the tropics. Nothing like having something well broken in by the time you get to use it! I also downloaded a PDF chapter out of Where There Is No Dentist.

The Barefoot Architect, Johan van Lengen, Shelter Publications, 2008. I ordered a paperback copy of this book from Hesperian. I was surprised by how thick it is. So far I've barely had time to scratch the surface of the book. But to get some idea of how useful it actually is, I brought it in to work recently and gave it to an architect friend of mine to check out. (I also wrote my name all over it, just to make sure I get it back ;) )He and his colleagues seemed quite impressed. Looks like it's a keeper.

Setting Up Community Health Programmes, Ted Lankester, Hesperian Foundation, 2009. I ordered a paperback copy. This one was also surprisingly thick. I've only had time to lightly peruse it. I saw one rather unnerving section on setting up private health insurance plans in developing countries. I didn't have time to really dig in and see what Mr. Lankester was advocating, so I am holding off judgment on that section for now.

All of these books present simple, low-cost solutions and methods for individuals and communities to meet basic needs for sanitation, shelter and health. These books definitely strive to avoid high-cost, technologically complex, energy-intensive methodologies. They are suitable for poorer people in the Third World. And I suspect that as the glamor and notional wealth evaporates from the societies of the First World, we will see how applicable these resources are to us as well. Already I believe there are municipalities in the U.S. which can no longer afford complex wastewater treatment, or which are facing rate increases due to privatization of wastewater treatment. (See America's clean water systems and “State's wastewater treatment facilities have problems on tap due to declining revenue” for instance.) As I read these books and resources, I may dedicate a post to a more detailed review of each publication.

If anyone has other books or resources they'd like to recommend (or further comments on the books I have listed), feel free to send me a comment. Next week, I hope to have a useful and interesting interview for you all. I also have a new series of articles in the works. Thanks for reading and have a good week!

1 comment:

Aimee said...

I have a copy of where there is no doctor (on the shelf in my bunker, ha ha) and also the version for women, which I can't think of right now... where there is no gynecologist?