Aztext Press

Life Off-the-Grid

Thriving Book Launch


By Cam Mather

We just had the official book launch for “Thriving During Challenging Times” at the Tamworth Legion. It was a huge success and I think everyone enjoyed themself. I did a 90 minute overview of the book and then there was lots of discussion about the topics of climate change and personal action, renewable energy and other ideas examined in the book.

What was interesting to me was the different response from the community for this book launch, than for our “Green Energy Fair” last year. I promoted both events in exactly the same way. I wrote an article about the event in our exceptional local newspaper “The Scoop”, and placed a large color ad as well. I also was able to get an excellent article in the Napanee Guide, which draws on a larger population to our south.

We held the Tamworth Green Energy Fair at the Tamworth Legion as well. The Legion holds 120 people and most of the tickets were sold in advance. With the fire code restricting the number of people in the room, Michelle had to turn many people away at the door. For our Thriving launch we had just 50 people attend. Same speaker. Same time of the year. Same promotion. So what changed?

From my college workshops this fall I think the economic downturn has affected how people spend their money, and although a $10 ticket isn’t a huge amount, I think many people have just hunkered down to wait out the economic storm. I also think, as I did when I wrote the book, that the topic is much darker. Green energy is a shiny happy topic where people feel they can become more independent and reduce their carbon footprint. A title like “Thriving During Challenging Times” suggests something a little less bright and cheery. The message of all our books and my talks is the same. Making yourself more independent, whether by growing your own food and reducing how far your meals travel, or installing a solar domestic hot water heater, help you deal with a number of converging challenges. We’re running out of easy to find and inexpensive fossil fuels, so energy is going to take a bigger chunk of every North American’s income. As will food. We spend 11 or 12% of our incomes on food, while many in developing countries spend 50 to 90%. As food gets more expensive we’ll be devoting more of our paychecks to our dinner plates.

Climate change is real and a threat to our well being. The recent “350” Day of Action was designed to tell our politicians that at the Copenhagen Climate Talks we need to be aggressive to reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide from our current 380 parts per million on the way to 450 ppm in the next decade or so, back down to 350 ppm to avoid catastrophic impacts on the planet. Climate change is happening much faster than climate scientists had predicted, so humans have to act much more aggressively than previously thought.

The message of “Thriving During Challenging Times” is not that this is necessarily a bad thing. What matters is your attitude. So many of us have spent so much time trying to find self-actualization in technology driven careers, that we forget the joy that comes from digging potatoes and cooking them for dinner. We’ve traded away independence for an income, and making that money has left many of us stressed and depressed. Diverting some of the money you spend now on unnecessary things like ATVs and hot tubs, to “hard assets” like solar panels for electricity and hot water, will not only reduce your stress and energy inflation proof your family, it will bring incredible joy to your life. There is no way to describe the utter amazement of gripping a copper pipe that brings water heated by the sun into your hot water tank on a cold winter day. It doesn’t cost you a penny after a fast payback, and it doesn’t contribute at all to climate change.

The converging challenges of climate change, the economic crisis and peak energy can seem overwhelming.  Is it better to hide at home and escape into the latest mindless reality TV show? Maybe. I would challenge you though and say confronting it head on is a much better strategy. In the book I provide a road map to follow to make yourself more independent in all areas of your life. Food, energy and money. It’s really basic stuff. It employs existing technologies that are available today and with many the paybacks now are much better than anything you can find at a financial institution. Sure, it’s easy to get discouraged. But sooner or later you’ve simply got to pick yourself up, take stock of how great you’ve had it, and make a plan to cushion yourself and your family from some of the storm clouds that are forming on the horizon. It only seems bad if you let it. And from the day you put your first buckets of potatoes out of your garden into your new root cellar, or install your solar hot water heater, you’ll understand the great joy you can take in personal independence. Oh, and the planet will thank you too.



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