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Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil

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In the latter half of the twentieth century, the percentage of the total American population living in suburbs grew to nearly fifty percent. Fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful, and car-dependent, energy-intensive lifestyles came hand in hand with this demographic transition. In the age of Peak Oil, environmental catastrophe, and a failing economy, it is imperative that In the latter half of the twentieth century, the percentage of the total American population living in suburbs grew to nearly fifty percent. Fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful, and car-dependent, energy-intensive lifestyles came hand in hand with this demographic transition. In the age of Peak Oil, environmental catastrophe, and a failing economy, it is imperative that we transform the suburbs into sustainable communities. Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs envisions a suburban evolution—from isolated cookie cutter houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages to small, closely packed, productive, interdependent homesteads. This guide to simplifying suburbia and adopting a lower energy lifestyle breaks down all our basic needs and describes how they might be met after the loss of the modern conveniences we currently take for granted. From small-space gardening techniques and a guide to small livestock to tips on cooking and heating, sanitation options, and much more, this is a complete guide to becoming more self-sufficient wherever you live. Required reading for anyone interested in increased self-reliance and a lower carbon footprint, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs will help you look past the white picket fence to a new world of possibilities. Wendy Brown is a suburban homesteader growing roots (both literally and figuratively) in southern Maine where she and her family have made the transition from a completely dependent, consumerist lifestyle to one of living debt-free in a comfortable, more efficient home in a desirable location with a bountiful garden.


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In the latter half of the twentieth century, the percentage of the total American population living in suburbs grew to nearly fifty percent. Fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful, and car-dependent, energy-intensive lifestyles came hand in hand with this demographic transition. In the age of Peak Oil, environmental catastrophe, and a failing economy, it is imperative that In the latter half of the twentieth century, the percentage of the total American population living in suburbs grew to nearly fifty percent. Fossil fuels were cheap and plentiful, and car-dependent, energy-intensive lifestyles came hand in hand with this demographic transition. In the age of Peak Oil, environmental catastrophe, and a failing economy, it is imperative that we transform the suburbs into sustainable communities. Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs envisions a suburban evolution—from isolated cookie cutter houses with manicured lawns and two-car garages to small, closely packed, productive, interdependent homesteads. This guide to simplifying suburbia and adopting a lower energy lifestyle breaks down all our basic needs and describes how they might be met after the loss of the modern conveniences we currently take for granted. From small-space gardening techniques and a guide to small livestock to tips on cooking and heating, sanitation options, and much more, this is a complete guide to becoming more self-sufficient wherever you live. Required reading for anyone interested in increased self-reliance and a lower carbon footprint, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs will help you look past the white picket fence to a new world of possibilities. Wendy Brown is a suburban homesteader growing roots (both literally and figuratively) in southern Maine where she and her family have made the transition from a completely dependent, consumerist lifestyle to one of living debt-free in a comfortable, more efficient home in a desirable location with a bountiful garden.

30 review for Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: The Thrivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily Mellow

    I had to give this book 3 stars because it really inspired us to make some changes and re-prioritize. For example, suddenly spending $120 on several fruit trees really made sense and we took the plunge, and now it feels like we are really on our way towards having an urban farm. I wanted to give less stars though, because I really didn't enjoy the tone of the book. I imagine it was written by someone who is very passionate about getting everyone to make these changes, but not someone who has much I had to give this book 3 stars because it really inspired us to make some changes and re-prioritize. For example, suddenly spending $120 on several fruit trees really made sense and we took the plunge, and now it feels like we are really on our way towards having an urban farm. I wanted to give less stars though, because I really didn't enjoy the tone of the book. I imagine it was written by someone who is very passionate about getting everyone to make these changes, but not someone who has much writing experience, and although she is well-intentioned, she doesn't have much real farming experience either. There were many things that I read aloud to Nik because they absolutely made no sense, and I had to share them with someone. However, inspiration comes from all kinds of places, and this book definitely worked for me on some level. Seems like every book I read these days moves us one step forward into sustainable urban farming!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Vegan Viajo

    Despite the fact I feel this book is a little too chipper and unrealistic about how people react in the face of disaster, I feel quite educated about the prepping lifestyle. This book brings many great ideas to mind I would have never considered before. I highly suggest everyone check it out. It will remain on my shelf indefinitely for a good reference.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Claudio

    I was very impressed with this book, which covers the usual concerns about survival in times of emergency or disaster: food, shelter, water, etc., but also asks the question, What if things don't go back to normal? The author paints a grim picture but points out the importance of taking a long-term view of one's preparations,for example, the dangers of relying too heavily on stored foods that can't be replaced easily or grown locally. I also appreciated her view that those of us in the suburbs h I was very impressed with this book, which covers the usual concerns about survival in times of emergency or disaster: food, shelter, water, etc., but also asks the question, What if things don't go back to normal? The author paints a grim picture but points out the importance of taking a long-term view of one's preparations,for example, the dangers of relying too heavily on stored foods that can't be replaced easily or grown locally. I also appreciated her view that those of us in the suburbs have many advantages over those in either urban or rural areas: we have backyards that are large enough to grow a substantial amount of food, but not so large that we would need lots of fuel-guzzling equipment; we have neighbors for a community with a variety of skills, but with room for privacy. Even if the apocalypse doesn't come, she presents ideas that are always good for short-term emergencies such as hurricane season, and that can be worked into our daily lives as part of a more sustainable lifestyle.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Aly

    I enjoyed this book until I got to the healthcare part. Her take on the vaccine issue was not needed and made me dislike the whole section. Saying that just rest and hydration can cure some very serious illnesses doesn’t seem right to me. This section makes me not want to finish the rest of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pat Mckay

    The book makes you think about the weak spots in our American lifestyle. Although I don't believe we'll be in full-blown apocalypse in the immediate future, Wendy Brown gives a thoughtful overview of many low-power alternatives. Some are readily substituted; others are not.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    With many authors predicting very hard economic times (H.S. Dent, George Friedman)I have been collecting ideas and insights for such events. Be prepared and all of that kind of thinking. I worry with all of the politicians who suddenly think they will not work towards the common good but rather "It is my way or the highway" we may well see depression era hard times yet. That has led me to search out ideas on how to survive the coming years if such conditions force us to engage in survival mode th With many authors predicting very hard economic times (H.S. Dent, George Friedman)I have been collecting ideas and insights for such events. Be prepared and all of that kind of thinking. I worry with all of the politicians who suddenly think they will not work towards the common good but rather "It is my way or the highway" we may well see depression era hard times yet. That has led me to search out ideas on how to survive the coming years if such conditions force us to engage in survival mode thinking and actions. If you don't have the enormous funds necessary to buy your way out of a total economic collapse then being prepared is the next best thing. I found this book at B&N and bought it without too much thought. I like the way the author organized the book, but not the underlying premise. It starts out from a blog collection of ideas and says to be ready in 21 days for a "low energy" lifestyle. This format leaves so much out of the possibilities! What topics are covered leave so many gaps that I was left feeling unfulfilled. The author speaks from experience on many topics such as home schooling, gardens, creating cloth toilet paper replacement and also ladies products from cloth. Tried and tested ideas are great. I did find worthy information here. I had just expected so much more. Perhaps someone will write a follow up book to fill in the gaps? I like the premise that one could try to survive in your own home in the suburbs, if you own it. Unfortunately that really applies to so few people. For instance when she lists the pros and cons of washing clothes in a bucket or tub she promotes line drying. Ok, but for those many Americans with allergies it is quite negative to do that. Wet clothes attract the pollen and make wearing the clothes contribute to the wearers discomfort. This type of omission is common for those survival types who push such ideas as straw bale houses to leave a low carbon footprint. To be honest the author skims the topic so this kind of thing never rises to discussion level. I really can't imagine how a family in the suburbs would get animals to feed and use either. This was so speculative that I skipped the whole chapter.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Heidebrecht

    I'd be careful inviting Wendy Brown to a party. She could be a real downer. She's quite sure we're in for more economic depression and plenty of natural disasters. She not only believes suburbanites need to find ways to live without the utilities working but she and her family are doing it in Maine. She calls it a lower-energy lifestyle. Most suburbanites I know will see it as a nightmare. We're talking garden plots in the backyard, plus chickens and rabbits, plus composting toilets, plus making I'd be careful inviting Wendy Brown to a party. She could be a real downer. She's quite sure we're in for more economic depression and plenty of natural disasters. She not only believes suburbanites need to find ways to live without the utilities working but she and her family are doing it in Maine. She calls it a lower-energy lifestyle. Most suburbanites I know will see it as a nightmare. We're talking garden plots in the backyard, plus chickens and rabbits, plus composting toilets, plus making your own soap, plus walking and biking since there won't be any cheap gas. As if that's not bad enough, she even gets into neighborhood survival to protect yourselves from desperate mobs. I'm not making fun of her. She offers plenty of good ideas for those times when there's no electricity or running water and when you can't get to a store and if you could, the store might be empty. It won't hurt to take her advice (shelter and water are more important than food, for example) and be better prepared for the next disaster coming your way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    William Gerke

    Wendy Brown tackles her own vision of what will be necessary to survive when peak oil concerns shift us into an "oil free" state. Clear, concise, and well organized, the book is more of a template than a guide. She gets you thinking about food, shelter, transport, etc. but then points you to other resources to fill in the gaps. Her position on where the future is headed feels a bit extreme at time, but probably only because there's still a part of me that doesn't want to believe that she's right Wendy Brown tackles her own vision of what will be necessary to survive when peak oil concerns shift us into an "oil free" state. Clear, concise, and well organized, the book is more of a template than a guide. She gets you thinking about food, shelter, transport, etc. but then points you to other resources to fill in the gaps. Her position on where the future is headed feels a bit extreme at time, but probably only because there's still a part of me that doesn't want to believe that she's right about where we're headed (that it's only a question of when, and the answer to that is "Sooner than you think."). The book definitely pushed my survivalist buttons and is, possibly, the single strongest argument for switching from renting to home ownership--so that I can implement some of her recommendations.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    This is a book that makes you think about how to survive during a disaster in which you are pretty much left to fend for yourself. The interesting thing is, this is not a "downer" book. It actually gives you lots of ideas on how to prepare yourself for such an event. I learned some new things that have given me a lot to think about. The book as a whole is presented in a format that helps you get ready in 21 days. It was a lot for me to digest and I have kept the book because it's a definite re-r This is a book that makes you think about how to survive during a disaster in which you are pretty much left to fend for yourself. The interesting thing is, this is not a "downer" book. It actually gives you lots of ideas on how to prepare yourself for such an event. I learned some new things that have given me a lot to think about. The book as a whole is presented in a format that helps you get ready in 21 days. It was a lot for me to digest and I have kept the book because it's a definite re-read for me. It's not just a "survive the apocalypse" book. It actually teaches you ways to change your life in order to simplify it and free yourself from the consumer lifestyle that is prevalent in America. It's definitely got me thinking...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Pool

    There are two strains of thought on survivalism: the first is the stock up on food and guns and barricade yourself in your home; and the second is more of a make your neighborhood a community, turn your yard into a garden and build a chicken coop. This book is along the lines of the 2nd strain which made for a fun, light read. Each chapter is broken down on a particular subject such as clean water or raising livestock (such as small goats, chickens and rabbits). The last chapter is an imagined f There are two strains of thought on survivalism: the first is the stock up on food and guns and barricade yourself in your home; and the second is more of a make your neighborhood a community, turn your yard into a garden and build a chicken coop. This book is along the lines of the 2nd strain which made for a fun, light read. Each chapter is broken down on a particular subject such as clean water or raising livestock (such as small goats, chickens and rabbits). The last chapter is an imagined future without oil where people survive through trade and the community literally has a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    This book would not be on my survival bookshelf (if I had one). I had a hard time finding information here, partly because of Brown's meandering conversational writing and partly due to the overall paragraph-monograph format of the text. It just doesn't work well for skimming, which is what I would do if I really needed to use a book in an emergency. The story here is that Brown (and I'm guessing her family, reluctantly) are survial-focused Maine residents. The chapters cover large topics about l This book would not be on my survival bookshelf (if I had one). I had a hard time finding information here, partly because of Brown's meandering conversational writing and partly due to the overall paragraph-monograph format of the text. It just doesn't work well for skimming, which is what I would do if I really needed to use a book in an emergency. The story here is that Brown (and I'm guessing her family, reluctantly) are survial-focused Maine residents. The chapters cover large topics about living simply in a homesteading/self-sufficient way. However, most of the book is just Brown saying "This is what I do, maybe you could do something similar!)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Wendy Brown is a little extreme to my way of thinking about the end of oil, like one day the tap will just turn off and we won't have seen it coming. I read this book to get some tips of living locally and more sustainably and I did get a few tips. I found the book fell short of being helpful... maybe because I care about this subject I have read and thought about it some and the book is for those who have not. For example the idea of potato towers was intriguing, but I couldn't understand from Wendy Brown is a little extreme to my way of thinking about the end of oil, like one day the tap will just turn off and we won't have seen it coming. I read this book to get some tips of living locally and more sustainably and I did get a few tips. I found the book fell short of being helpful... maybe because I care about this subject I have read and thought about it some and the book is for those who have not. For example the idea of potato towers was intriguing, but I couldn't understand from the book how to actually make them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cyndi

    I guess I didn't read the review of this book very well, because it was not what I expected. I read the first half or so and then skimmed most of the rest. It was basically a list of things to do if you want to be a survivalist with some thoughts on each thing. Most of the thoughts seemed quite basic and I'm not sure I feel more prepared for impending doom than I did before reading. I think it might be a book that doesn't translate well to from a blog...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Quinn

    I do love the idea of a thrivalist,that one can thrive in a world void of the comforts we have grown to depend on and completely taken for granted.To thrive in a life after, not just survive the event(s) that causes this change. It is a nice introduction, and if this is your first book on the topic than it bring up some ideas that would be useful to think about.(

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carmela

    I like the layout, that preparing yourself couldn't be done overnight, but if you do it in a systematic way(i.e. by "days"), you could get it done. , but most of the information was repetitive and her style of narration did not work for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alli

    Very good! It focuses on surviving without oil or electricity grid. And the count-down is a good way to organize priorities!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matt Joslin

    This book had an interesting twist on the subject. I found many of the "facts" to be simply wrong. It read like installments of a blog. My biggest question is, why did I finish it?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Phil

    Some of this I had heard before, other stuff not. Loved the practical nature and the recipes and the few, but worthwhile pictures. A must read for families!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Day

    Some great tips and information for living sustainably whether or not we live without oil.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Provides some good practical things to think about just in case. Gets a little preachy in places, but still enjoyed it enormously!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alison Hirt

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jill

  23. 4 out of 5

    Heidi Liscomb

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda Campbell

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

  27. 5 out of 5

    St.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sue

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