Reading This Week

Peter Kalmus is a climate scientist, parent, human being. Being the Change starts with the most comprehensive round up of climate science I have ever seen. At last, a clear view of what is going on, how we got to where we are, how climate change works and what we will have to do to mitigate it.

A second section examines what we can do, as individuals, in the face of the enormous challenges we all face. In this, he walks the talk. As a climate scientist he realised that we all need to live on about ten percent of the average US emissions. Kalmus decided to do just that, along with his wife and two children. This section is a lovely, realistic tale of his family's journey, not only towards reducing their emissions, but also to the realisation that his simpler life is much better and makes his family happier.

The next section is an overview of collective action and ideas for moving forward.

The book is a little scary, even to someone like me who is well versed in what humans are doing to the planet. It is also grounded in quiet hope. In my opinion this is quite unfounded, but makes it easier to read. Kalmus is a great devotee of vipassana meditation and hopeful that humans will find a better, non-violent way forward. I think that anyone looking at history is unlikely to come to that conclusion. However, this is a useful book to read if you want to persuade yourself or someone else that a different life is possible. Tasmanians, you can get it from the library!

I first came across Harlan Hubbard and his enchanting writing and life via a library book - Shantyboat Journal. This was an edited version of his daily journal as he travelled with his wife Anna down the Ohio River for seven years in a home-built shanty boat, or houseboat during the 1940s.

Later I discovered he had written several books, and that after they had completed their epic boating trip Harlan and Anna had settled on a piece of land on the river in Kentucky, built their own small cabin and lived there for decades without electricity or any modern conveniences except a viola, cello and grand piano. Now how could you possibly resist such a book? Hubbard's writing style is simple, direct, down-to-earth, honest and endearing. He has been called the 'Thoreau of Kentucky' but really, Thoreau is very shrill compared to Hubbard, who quietly appreciates the patch of wild nature he lives in, and his simple life which gives him time for contemplation, music and painting, and he doesn't seem to feel the need to put everyone else in the wrong as Thoreau seemed to enjoy doing.

I ordered this book from Small Press Distribution, plus Payne Hollow Journal from the University Press of Kentucky (because I couldn't order them via my local bookshop and Amazon is actually evil), and now I can't imagine why I didn't order the shantyboat ones at the same time. Anyway, I have re-read these several times since they arrived last year, and they always offer me a new insight on simplicity and living how you want to rather than how society expects you to:

The small amount of money we need dribbles in from here and there. We are used to "littling along."
The secret is, spend little and you will have plenty. How much does one need to live on? As much as one has, I say. The first requirement is faith - plus imagination, freedom from prejudice, habit and public opinion; simple tastes and inexpensive pleasures.
Payne Hollow, Chapter 15


simplelife said…
Thanks for this Jo. I have heard of Peter Kalmus but haven't read his book. Now I must specially if I can get it from the library.
I've not heard of the other author but his work does sound interesting too. You know i tried to read thoreau but just couldn't.
Im loving all your posts lately
Cheers kate
Thanks for the reading tips Jo. I'm going to see if they have 'being the change' at my library. Sounds like an interesting and educational read.
Jo said…
Kate, yes, Thoreau does go on a bit.. Harlan Hubbard is a much easier read with a similar message:) Shantyboat Journal is in the library, or was last year..

Laura, it is well worth investigating.

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