The Next Whole Earth Catalog

Part of the holiday tradition here is visiting a favorite used book store with the whole family.  The past two years have each resulted in Very Important Finds.  It is amazing how powerful the Right Book at the Right Time can be.  Last year, that book was How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield.  There I found a toolbox I could use to not only decide what trees I wanted to plant for the following year but also how to organize them into a larger planned landscape.

This year, while killing time browsing in the clearance section waiting for others to finish up, I discovered The Next Whole Earth Catalog.  I had been aware of its existence, but assumed that being so old the information would be either out of date or generally not very useful to me beyond that of an historical artifact.  Boy was I wrong.  It is a marvelous embodiment of a powerfully coherent world view – one that is perhaps more relevant today than when my copy was published in 1981 (there have been multiple editions from 1968-1998).

True, if you actually wish to order the books or tools reviewed, you can assume the contact information is no longer correct, but that would be missing the point of the book.  It is a reference not for products, but for creating agency in your own life.  30 years ago, it recognized that you cannot count on a corrupt political or corporate system (or more accurately, the merger of the two) to create the change we need in order to grapple with the multiple challenges facing us.  Instead, it presents a vision of self-determining people taking personal action to improve their own lives and those of their family.  Through education, experimentation, community and courage, we don’t have to wait for some all-powerful Them to save us – it is our responsibility to save ourselves.

This is a book for hippies and libertarians, for risk-takers and the responsible, for dreamers and doers.  Go out and find yourself a copy.  Now.