Sustainability Book Review: Our House is on Fire

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

Review:  Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis by Greta Thunberg, Svante Ernman, Malena Ernman and Beata Ernman

Reviewed by Angele DeNeve, Children’s Librarian at Queens Library at Glen Oaks

How does a 15 year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, selective mutism and a severe eating disorder become a world renowned climate activist? Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis offers a raw and honest look at Greta Thurnberg’s family and their personal struggles leading up to the now famous school strike for the climate in August 2018. Readers get a look at the whole family, which sets the scene for their impassioned outrage at  the lack of positive change in our planet’s rapidly increasing carbon emissions.

Greta’s mother, famed opera singer Malena Ernman, already an activist in her own right, fought for human rights, equal rights and the humane treatment of refugees. But it wasn’t until Greta saw a film about climate change that she and her family began to change their awareness of climate issues and made the decision to fight for our climate. In their research they learned that Sweden, their home, was one of the worst offenders in carbon emissions responsible for one of the largest ecological footprints in the world.  “If everyone in the world were to live like Sweden it would require 4.2 planet earths.” They began to look at their own lives to make changes like buying an electric car, becoming vegan and completely stopping all airline travel after realizing that air travel is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.  They quickly understood while these changes were important, they would not be enough.  

In the thirty years since the world was educated about the greenhouse effect and the damage we are collectively doing to our planet, nothing has changed.  Our efforts have not reversed, or even slowed down our carbon emissions.  In truth, they continue to steadily rise each year. More ice is melting, more forests are disappearing, more species are becoming extinct and oceans are becoming polluted. Sweden, which partially inhabits the arctic circle, provides a concrete example of how rapidly climate change is affecting nature and our planet. After visiting northern Sweden, Greta and her father saw firsthand the impact our carbon emissions are having on nature. The crisis was evidenced by the change in temperature, the shifting geography of the boundaries of forest and ice, and the movement of wildlife to accommodate the changes in temperature and vegetation.

Greta explains to readers that nothing is changing because “we are in a crisis that has never been treated as a crisis”. But that is exactly what it is.  A climate crisis.  She blames politicians; politicians who say carbon emissions must be reduced but never do anything to reduce them.  Greta blames the media, calling them a total failure, for neglecting to put climate issues in the headlines and making the crisis known. Our time to correct the planet’s carbon emissions is running out.  Without taking drastic measures the climate crisis will soon become irreversible.

While the story centers around the climate crisis, it also highlights the rise of mental illness in young girls which has directly affected their family with both Greta and her sister Beata being diagnosed with multiple disorders.  In Sweden, mental health issues in children 10-17 years old increased over 100 percent in 10 years.  While the family sheds light on their personal struggles, they also draw connections between climate change and the rise of mental health issues, climate change and the disparity between wealthy and poor countries, climate change and the tragedies that extreme weather have caused. Suggesting that these connections, which the majority of the population probably don’t think about, be explored further. 

After being immersed in this family’s story and their passion for change, readers will undoubtably be educated about the climate crisis and hopefully be inspired to make changes in their own lives.  Personally, I learned a great deal about climate change, the science and the politics behind it, and the leaders in the field, but I was mostly impressed by Greta. Her vast knowledge on the subject, her conviction for the health of our planet, and her remarkable ability to overcome personal adversity to fight for something she cares about while rallying others to support her cause are tremendous accomplishments. Greta gives me hope.

  1. Were you surprised, like me, to hear that in the 30 years since we learned about climate change we have not been able to reduce our carbon emissions at all?
  1. How much did you know about Greta Thurnberg before reading this?  Have you read or listened to any of her speeches?  Did you know anything about her personal mental health struggles? (Find Greta’s Ted Talk on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAmmUIEsN9A )
  1. Can you think of ways that libraries can bring awareness of this issue to the public right now (virtually) in their communities?

Member Monday: Matthew Bollerman

SustainRT Outreach Committee is excited to introduce a new monthly series of the SustainRT blog: Member Mondays! The first Monday of each month, we’ll feature a member of SustainRT with a short profile.

We’re super excited to kick off this new series with our first Member Monday profile of Matthew Bollerman, Chief Executive Officer of Hauppage Public Library. All SustainRT members are welcomed and encouraged to follow Matt’s example and fill out our short self-nomination form in order to become featured in a future Member Monday themselves. We’re looking forward to getting to know one another a little better in hopes of strengthening our community of people committed to sustainability in our profession. Happy Member Monday!

Welcome New SustainRT Steering Committee Members!

Welcome to the new SustainRT Committee Chairs and Steering Committee members!

This summer, SustainRT welcomed new members to both the Steering Committee and to the roles of Chair and Co-Chair to other standing committees. Please join us in welcoming:

  • Jenn Stayton from the University of North Texas, as our Secretary. She replaces Lisa Kropp of the Lindenhurst Memorial Library in NY, who moves into the Coordinator Elect position.
  • Casey Conlin of the Mid Hudson Library System in New York, assumes the role of SustainRT Coordinator. Uta Husson-Christian moves into the role of Past Coordinator, serving from Oregon State University.
  • Two new Member-at-Large terms began this year. Genee Bright of the New York Public Library, takes over the final year of a vacated term, while Vivienne Byrd of Los Angeles Public Library assumes a two year term.
  • Ed Garcia, from the Cranston Public Library  is the new liaison to the ALA Executive Board – an important position that helps keep SustainRT front and center within the ALA.

Matt Bollerman, CEO of the Hauppauge Public Library in NY, remains active as SustainRT’s ALA Councilor. And we are lucky to still have Marcia Bailey from the University of Michigan, serving as the Treasurer for another term.

SustainRT hosts six very active committees, and the Chairs and Co-Chairs of these committees engage members, move the work of SustainRT forward, and continue to keep sustainability in libraries at the forefront of our work. 

Kacper Jarecki of the Queens Library System, in NY, is back for another year of chairing the Booklist Committee. This committee publishes a “Top Ten” list of children’s books focusing on sustainable issues each year around Earth Day. They are also tasked with keeping the Zotero Library updated. The Zotero Library houses many articles, resources, and other information on sustainability that pertains to libraries.

Mandi Goodsett of Cleveland State University in Ohio, and Beth Stout of Indiana University East, chair the Outreach Committee. The committee does a fabulous job marketing the work of SustainRT, along with other sustainable information and resources across the field. They organize Facebook, Blog, Instagram and Twitter posts, along with posting to ALA Connect on behalf of SustainRT.

Laura Ploenzke of the Avon Lake Public Library in Ohio, returns for another year chairing the Governance Committee. This committee works closely with the SustainRT ALA Councilor, moving forward the Task Force on Sustainability recommendations, as well as ensuring that SustainRT has a voice with the ALA Executive Board.

The Online Education Committee welcomes new Chair, Sarah Joy Hrachovy, from the Concordia University Irvine. She will be working with committee members on a series of webinars for SustainRT members to help educate and guide us on sustainable practices and programs.

Tara Lingg of the Half Hollow Hills Community Library, in NY, takes over as the Chair of the Programming Committee. This committee ensures that SustainRT has quality, innovative and interesting programs and discussion groups at both MidWinter and Annual conferences.

The Membership Committee also has a new Chair – Britt Fagerheim, of Utah State University. With changes coming soon to ALA’s structure and membership base, this committee will be working hard to ensure that SustainRT has the minimum number (and beyond!) of paid membership necessary to remain an active roundtable within ALA.

With so much going on, there is always an opportunity to both join SustainRT if you aren’t yet a member, and to volunteer for a committee! In fact, the Steering Committee recently voted to approve a new Awards Committee that will administer the awards and citations of the roundtable, while supporting and promoting sustainability in libraries by recognizing exemplars and best practice in the field. Interested in learning more about serving on the Awards Committee? Email SustainRT Coordinator Casey Conlin at cconlin@midhudson.org for more information or to apply.

Sustainability Book Review: Poisoned Water

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

Review: Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson (May 2020; Bloomsbury Children’s Books).

Submitted by Mary Callahan, Queen Public Library

At a time when conversations about systemic racism are taking place across the country, Poisoned Water: How the Citizens of Flint, Michigan, Fought for Their Lives and Warned the Nation by Candy J. Cooper and Marc Aronson is a reminder that environmentalism cannot be extricated from the quest social justice.

The source of the water that gives this book its title was indisputably the polluted Flint River, but, as this book clearly describes, the environmental issues of the Flint water crisis were inextricably linked to issues of race and class.

‘The book has been labeled “for young readers” (ages 10-17) by its publisher, but its subject matter seems more suited to teens than younger readers. In fact, adults looking for a straightforward and engaging overview of the story will find it here. In clear prose, the authors document the events and decisions that led to the water crisis in Flint Michigan and the ways in which the city’s residents—many poor and people of color—struggled to have their concerns about the city’s polluted water supply addressed.

The decision to change Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River had its roots in the economic disaster created by massive layoffs at General Motors, the company that was responsible for the growth of Flint and the source of its nickname, the Vehicle City. In 2011, the city, in massive debt, was placed under the supervision of a series of governor-appointed emergency managers whose primary focus was saving money. The water crisis began as a cost-cutting plan. For the preceding 50 years, Flint’s drinking water was taken from Lake Huron and processed and piped in from Detroit. But as Detroit’s water rates increased, Flint officials decided to save money by creating a new pipeline that would deliver water directly from Lake Huron to the Flint, bypassing Detroit. During the two to three years the new pipeline was being built, Flint’s water would come from the Flint River.

The switch occurred in April 2014. In the ensuing year and a half, polluted river water, further tainted by the city’s improper chemical treatment and aging water pipes, poisoned thousands of Flint children with lead, resulted in an outbreak of Legionnaires disease, and caused countless other health ailments. But while Flint residents raised their concerns about the water almost immediately, the water supply was not switched back to Lake Huron for 18 months—until October 2015—and the effects on the city’s water system and its residents still linger.

Cooper, a journalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, conducted extensive research into public records, news accounts, and emails. But the story is primarily focused on the experiences of city residents who tried to get city, state, and federal officials to address the problem. The indifference of the local officials is mind-boggling: although they were repeatedly presented with samples of off-color, foul-smelling water; with tests revealing high lead levels; and even with clear evidence that the water corroded metal parts at a GM factory, they refused to admit the water posed a danger to people. (Eventually GM arranged to get its water from Lake Huron, but the city would not do the same for the residential water supply.)

Poisoned Water is a testament to the power of grassroots activism. It recognizes, in particular, the leadership positions played by many people of color in Flint. These leaders, the authors note, were often overlooked in earlier reports on the Flint water crisis. As Curt Guyette, a journalist who covered the water crisis story for the ACLU notes, “A lot of people who were never before at the same table came together and worked together really effectively to bring this crisis to the attention of the world.” He added, “It was the residents who saved themselves. That’s the really inspiring aspect of this story… We can save ourselves.”

As much about government mismanagement as it is about water pollution, Poisoned Water draws a timely connection between the environmentalist and social justice movements. As co-author Marc Aronson said in an interview with Publishers Weekly, “As we think about preserving the Earth and our relationship with it, we shouldn’t separate concerns of environmentalism and ecology from the power structures in our world. Those who are most victimized are those with the least power.”

For further reading about how Flint is navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, check out this photo essay published by the New York Times.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much did you know about the Flint water crisis before reading this book? Were you surprised by anything that you read?
  2. Why do you think officials were so slow in responding when Flint residents complained about the water from the Flint River?
  3. Do you think the Flint water crisis was an environmental crisis or a political one?
  4. Can you think of other environmental crises that were caused or complicated by political issues?

Sustainability Book Review: The Uninhabitable Earth

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells

Book Review by Kacper Jarecki

It’s easy to take things for granted – and possibly the biggest thing we take for granted is planet Earth. This non-fiction book is a real eye-opener because it shows us that Earth as we know it, may not be around for much longer. During this time of the pandemic, we are already experiencing and adjusting to new realities of everyday life. However, according to David Wallace-Wells, this might just be a walk in the park compared with what’s to come.

This book does not pull any punches, David Wallace-Wells does not spare us one bit, starting with the title itself. In the first page he writes about the 5 mass extinctions that have already occurred on this planet. I didn’t know there were that many, I only knew about the dinosaurs! A few pages later on page 6, he writes, “whole regions of Africa and Australia and the United States, parts of South America north of Patagonia, and Asia, south of Siberia would be rendered uninhabitable by direct heat, desertification, and flooding” by the year 2100 if the global temperature rises by 4 degrees Celsius. That there may be 200 million climate refugees by 2050. That conflict and warfare between countries could double as countries strive to gain access to more and more limited resources.

David Wallace-Wells writes that instead of dominating Earth, we are actually arming it through pollution, and turning it into an “angry beast” or even “war machine.” David Wallace-Wells even debates whether it is moral to reproduce and have children in this climate where so many things can go wrong. He decides to have hope and he does have a child, named Rocca. Fortunately, we still have a small level of control over what happens. He writes on page 30, “Each of us imposes some suffering on our future selves every time we flip on a light switch, buy a plane ticket, or fail to vote.” He cites ways cities in the future will compete to be greener (since they will have no choice), like banning cars, and having local vertical farms so food won’t have far to travel.

Most of this book describes the multiple horrible ways that global warming will affect Earth including droughts, floods, fires, new deadly virus and bacteria strains, and much more. If you are a fiction writer, this book certainly provides different worst-case scenarios you may not have imagined. The scary part is that this may be real. However, if the author can still have hope and be optimistic after writing this, then we as readers should be hopeful too, and not just hopeful, but inspired to take an active part to save Earth, not just for ourselves, but for all the creatures who call Earth home.

Discussion Questions:

1.       Which facts in the book surprised you? For example, I didn’t know about the “Great Pacific garbage patch” twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean.

2.       Which of David Wallace-Wells’s scenarios scares you the most?

3.       What are some things you are doing now to help combat climate change?

4.       Is there anything more you can do?

5.       Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of Earth? Do you think things will get better or worse, and why?

2020 SustainRT Carbon Offsets Grant

The ALA Sustainability Round Table is excited to announce that this year it will be donating its Carbon Offset Travel Grant to help reduce the carbon footprint of the technology necessary to conduct the ALA Annual Conference remotely. In the past, SustainRT offered a $500 travel grant to offset travel costs for a SustainRT member to attend the ALA Annual Conference. However, with the ALA Annual Conference canceled and its necessary travel suspended, this year SustainRT has decided to instead contribute a $500 carbon offsets donation to Native Energy, ALA’s carbon offsets provider. This money will help to offset the carbon emissions caused by ALA members’ increased use of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Native Energy is an organization dedicated to helping build Native American farmer-owned, and community-based projects. You are welcome to join ALA in supporting the important work of Native Energy by purchasing carbon offsets.

Thank you for supporting SustainRT’s work and be well!

Sustainability during Stay-at-Home Survey: Results

Some of us may now be back to working in our library branches or buildings. Others may still be working from home, or dealing with challenges from furlough to job loss to providing full-time child care while working to pivoting to all-virtual programming. No matter our current circumstances, it feels important to reflect on the experiences, lessons, and changes wrought by our times under Stay-at-Home order, especially when it comes to sustainability in our day-to-day lives! 

To this end, we’re so excited to share the responses to our SustainRT Outreach Committee “Sustainability During Stay-at-Home” Survey. More than 100 people responded, and it was a pleasure to receive these small glimpses into each other’s lives in a time when we can all feel really spread apart. 

Below, find visual representations of responses to the surveys questions, as well as some selections from all the wonderful, individualized responses we received (some are excerpted from longer passages). Thanks to everybody who participated!

 

Question 1: Have you been more conscious of/practiced any of the following sustainable behaviors during your stay-at-home time? Select all that apply.

 

Question 2: Share some more about a sustainable practice that became part of your life during Stay-at-Home, whether big or small! Tell us how you got started, what inspired you, how easy or difficult this practice is, how you feel now that you’re doing it– whatever you’d like to share.

About foraging…something I’d be wanting to learn more about. Listening to a lot of podcasts (esp. Susus Weed) and re-reading Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Eulle Gibbons. I got permission to pick stinging nettle from a university garden. Now I’m making uber nutritious soups, quiches, etc. Also violet leaves, garlic mustard, redbud flowers and soon linden leaves and flowers. Free, highly nutritive food all over the place! I feel grateful for the abundance of the Earth. I want to teach people about how to forage.”

“I started walking and then biking longer and longer distances. It honestly never occurred to me before. I always felt like I didn’t have enough time. In reality, biking takes about the same time as driving in many instances. But I didn’t have the mental space required to try it out until the lockdown.”

“Using a timer to limit shower time”

“I have been more conscious about providing amenities around my home to encourage biodiversity and support wildlife. I’ve created a “bird hotel” which is a series of bird feeders and hummingbird stations. I often make my own bird suet from leftover bacon grease and homemade sugar water for the hummingbirds. I also have planted many pollinator plants as part of my landscaping routine. Being at home allows me to observe the patterns of the birds more as well as provide better care for my plants….The care for the birds led to a desire to care for other species and the decision to focus on planting pollinator plants. It has been very easy to do this.”

 

Question 3: Are there any ways you’ve noticed Stay-at-Home/Covid-19 negatively affecting your ability to practice sustainable behaviors? 

Further Comments:

“I feel badly about all the plastic bags from shopping, since reusable totes aren’t allowed in our state now. We’ll save and reuse, but it still seems counter to our efforts in the last few years.”

“I’m trying to work from home which is good, except that transit ridership is way down and I’m afraid this will lead to far more car driving once the stay at home order lifts.”

“Using more toilet paper!”

“Lots and lots of wipes”

“Increased emphasis on single-use materials to prevent contamination”

“I regularly get supplies at a bulk store. COVID-19 has meant that I can’t bring my own clean containers from home, so I’m ending up buying a lot more packaging.”

Every meal at home meant running the dishwasher daily.  It broke!  The part can’t be replaced so the whole machine needs to be (and we’re washing less efficiently in the meantime.)”

“Increased packaging waste from take out for two reasons: 1) you can no longer bring your own containers to restaurants when ordered food to go, 2) I have ordered take out more often in order to support independent restaurants in the hopes they will make it through (previously I rarely ordered take out unless the restaurant allowed me to bring my own container).  Another example: with the elimination of bulk bins and reusable bags, I cannot buy nuts, lentils, dried fruit, etc. from bulk bins using my own reusable produce bags. I am forced to buy pre-packaged items…I can still practice my sustainable behavior but with more effort and time (it is worth it).”

Please Participate in our Survey: Sustainability during Stay-at-Home!

The SustainRT Outreach Committee has put together this super short survey about your thoughts and experiences around sustainability during Stay-at-Home/quarantine. We hope you’ll participate, and we’ll share some responses on the SustainRT Blog to keep us connected and hopefully inspire each other to adopt or continue sustainable practices in this time of great potential for change.

Click here to participate, and thank you!

 

Sustainable Connections during Covid-19: An Interview

Interview with Queens Public Library Manager Ronglin Wan

By Kacper Jarecki

One of the interesting things about working from home is that during online meetings and video conferencing, you get to peek into people’s homes. It was during one of these meetings that I learned that one of my fellow library managers, Ronglin Wan, raises chickens from home. I thought this was really cool, and also a sustainable way to make eggs.

KJ: How many chickens do you have? Do they have names?

RW: I currently keep six hens in five breeds: 2 Rhode Island Reds, 1 Barred Rock, 1 Buff Orpington, 1 Brahma, 1 Black Australorp. I have not given a name to each of them yet.

KJ: What inspired you to keep chickens at home? How long have you had them?

RW: It was primarily our intention to have chickens as pets and as egg layers. Both my wife and I used to keep chicks in our childhood and loved them immensely. Chickens can be lovely creatures to observe as they forage in the backyard. But our objective is now more on the side of keeping hens for fresh, organic eggs, which provide essential nutrients our body needs. 

We bought 3-day-old chicks last April so we have had them for thirteen months now.

KJ: Where do you keep your chickens? Is it hard to care for them?

RW: We keep them in the backyard. When they were small, we let them roam in the entire yard. As they grow older, they become quite “destructive”, meaning they will eat up all the grass. Now we keep them within the back half. It is not too hard to care for them. We feed them with organic chicken feed, non GMO rice and other grains, kitchen scraps, fresh vegetables or grass from the front yard. We spend about one hour on them each day. The work includes feeding and cleaning the coop. They are easy to keep: can be kept in a coop all day, or free range. 

KJ: How often do they lay eggs? Do their eggs taste better than the ones at the store?

RW: Currently a hen lays an egg in about 30 hours. In summer when the daylight is longer, each will give us an egg a day. One interesting thing about the hens is that they tend to lay their eggs in one nest, even though I have four nests in the coop. When a laying hen is occupying the nest, another hen, ready to lay as well, waits outside, if she is a patient one, or cackles loudly and repeatedly, if she is a noisy one, or squeezes in as well, if she is a bully.

The eggs do taste better than the ones we buy in stores, as we feed the chickens with organic feed supplemented with fresh vegetables and meat. 

 KJ: How does having chickens make you feel? Do you enjoy caring for them? 

RW: Keeping chickens is fun. Some hens are very friendly; they will follow you around thinking you might toss some goodies to them. The fluffy creatures are often a pleasant sight to watch as they are colorful and lovely. 

 My wife enjoys keeping the chickens. She cooks the feed even though chickens can eat feed raw. But the hot food makes the hens happy especially in winter. 

 It is very satisfying to collect eggs in the evening. For me, the eggs are the reward for a day’s work. 

KJ: How do you like to prepare your eggs? Do you have any good recipes? 

RW: We prepare eggs in several ways, scrambled (fried or baked), poached, boiled, dropped in soup, used in making omelet, quiches, bread, cakes. 

My wife also uses eggs to make egg dumplings. She scrambles eggs in a bow, drops a tablespoonful of the egg mixture into a round scoop, heats and swirls it over flames. When the egg mixture nearly hardens over the inner surface of the scoop, she adds minced meat onto the egg sheet, and folds half of it over to envelope the meat. When the two sides sticks together with meat inside, the dumpling is done. She makes many of them and uses them in a soup. They are delicious. 

KJ: Thanks, Ron! See you at our next Managers Meeting 😉

Sustainability Book Review: City Quitters

As a reoccurring feature on the Sustainability Roundtable blog, we will post reviews of books related to sustainability.  Interested in submitting your own review to the blog? Contact August at aolundsmith@gmail.com.

City Quitters Book — Karen Rosenkranz

City Quitters: An Exploration of Post-Urban Life

by Karen Rosenkranz

Reviewed by Kacper Jarecki

City Quitters is a high-quality book with glossy paper and beautiful photographs. As the title suggests, this book follows people who have “quit” city life to move to the countryside. It is a work of nonfiction. There are 22 personal stories of various people and what motivated them to change their lifestyle. What is also interesting is that there are small towns in 12 countries featured here, including America, Portugal, Japan, China, India, Brazil, and more.

I really enjoyed living vicariously reading stories of these different people: usually taking a chance to just leave it all behind and start anew. Some underlying themes that I saw were the affordability of living in the countryside. Having more time to engage in creative endeavors. The quietness. The ability to just go for a walk in the wilderness anytime. Reading this book and looking through the pictures was relaxing and felt like a breath of fresh air.

One story here featured someone who moved from New York City to Aresus, a small town in Italy with only 6 people! I can’t imagine doing that, but it certainly was fun reading about it. This same person was a graffiti artist, and there is even a picture of him doing graffiti on a cactus, drawing a smiley face on it with spray paint. I guess you can take a person out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the person, lol. I was even surprised to learn of another person moving to Hudson, NY, a small artistic community, about 2 hours away from where I live (and where I want to visit now). She left the city because it was just too expensive for her. She talked about being able to follow her dream and open up her own restaurant with her partner. She mentioned how affordable it was and how people in the community went out of their way to help her. If you saw the pictures, the design of her restaurant is very unique. She really had a very particular vision and I’m happy for her to be able to bring it to life, whereas in New York City, she would probably have gone deep in debt and spent countless hours, just to find a small place to rent. This is just a small sample of the stories. There are many more including someone who built her own home in the trees, a couple who decided to raise their kids to be closer to nature, someone (a skateboarder) who wanted to grow his own food…

After the end of every chapter is a web page link or resource so that you can learn more about the person featured, and possibly even get in touch with them. I love books because they can take you anywhere, and it is so inspiring to read about people taking a chance to turn their fantasy to reality. This book is not meant to be read in one sitting. Whenever you need a break from that big city life, you can just read a story at random, and feel a little better. The one thing I will say, is that most of these people in these pages seem to be artists or designers who can work remotely. Although I don’t exactly see myself in their shoes, I do enjoy reading about them.

 

Discussion questions:

  •         Out of the 22 stories in the book, which one did you relate to the most, and why?
  •         What are the benefits of living in a small town? What are the drawbacks?
  •         If you had a choice of a small town, what kind of town would you like? For example, would you like to live close to the beach, the forest, the desert, the mountains, an island?
  •         If you could try living in any country besides your own, which one would it be? Why?
  •         Many of the people in the book strive to be self-sufficient. Do you ever see yourself growing your own food? Making repairs to your own house? Would you be willing to learn?
  •         Cities usually have jobs, and if you want to leave the city, an entrepreneurial spirit is helpful to be able to get by. If you could create your own business, what would it be?
  •         Many people in this book talk about having more time after moving to the countryside. If you had more time, what would you do? What kind of hobbies or projects would you pursue?