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Note: Text is available in pdf form at the bottom of this post.
From the Introduction
“For nearly every global problem, there are solutions we can implement in our backyard that also save us money and help us live more luxuriant lives. A few of us do these things and bask in the flow of the opulence and extra cash. Others observe and think, “I want extra luxury and money too! Not fair!” And then they emulate. And on and on it goes. Then the global problems sorta just dry up and blow away. That’s what this book is all about.
I think the reason we see so many people angry is because they authentically care; but they seem to get stuck at being angry. Some people spend a hundred hours a week for 20 years being angry and not much changes. But I think that if you spend a tiny fraction of that time doing the things mentioned in this book, your global positive impact will be a thousand times greater.”
~ From the Introduction to Building a Better World in Your Backyard by Paul Wheaton and Shawn Klassen-Koop
Building a Better World in Your Backyard takes a look at some of the things that the average person can do, right where they live, to help mitigate world problems, save money, and make their footprint on the planet virtually disappear.
If you would like to learn some really cool stuff about REALLY energy saving, growing gobs of food almost effortlessly, and a house design that solves nearly everything, then this is the book for you.
The book is illustrated with pen and ink drawings designed to explain some concepts, share important information, or amuse and entertain the reader.
Paul and Shawn have launched a Kickstarter campaign to take the book to the printer and get it out into the world. Their hope is that people will make their pledges for the levels of reward that get them a pile of books, and then share those books with people who need to see this information. Spreading the word is what it’s all about.
Before all of that, Paul created hundreds of podcasts, youtube videos, articles, and other bits and bobs about permaculture. That should have been the first sign, right there, that health professionals should have stopped all this. That, or his 26,000 forum posts at permies.com. And he has at least that many at his other site, CodeRanch.com. Oh, yeah, he used to be a software engineer before all this permaculture stuff.
Shawn Klassen-Koop’s passion for building a better world grew from many years of working at a summer camp. This time inspired awe and wonder for the natural world through many hours camping in the woods, paddling on a lake, or sleeping under the stars. Seeking to solve world problems with clever thinking, Shawn decided to pursue computer engineering as a career, where he learned the importance of good design and strong critical thinking. In time he felt like modern technology was causing more problems than it was solving and started looking for a better way. It was then that he stumbled upon and fell in love with permaculture as a way to use his design skills to work with nature rather than against nature. Shawn was preparing to start his own homestead when he was faced with serious health challenges that prevented him from doing any physical work. It was during this time that the opportunity to work on this book came up. Shawn jumped on it, wanting to do whatever he could to share these ideas with others.
Q: What is your book about? A: Recipes and philosophies for dramatically making a strong, personal, positive impact on the environment. So strong that if just ten percent of the population adopted half of the things in this book, that it would solve nearly all of our environmental problems. And all while making for a more luxuriant life and saving money. Without getting involved in politics or protesting. We thought about some really artsy titles, but, in the end, we decided that "Building a Better World in Your Backyard Instead of Being Angry at Bad Guys" is extremely direct.
Q: What does a better world look like to you? What problems does your book focus on solving? A: We would love to have focused on all of the problems. But we didn't have that much space in the book. So we decided to focus directly on three footprints: carbon footprint, petroleum footprint, and toxic footprint. It just so happens that by implementing the solutions we present for these three problems, we would also go a long way toward solving most of the world's other problems too.
Q: Who is your book for? A: We have discussed this a few times. It seems like each time, although it feels weird to say it, the answer is "everyone." But maybe it's especially for people who are passionate about solving world problems and feel like the usual "solutions" just don't cut it. Or maybe they just like saving money. And a lot of our solutions are focused on people living in a cold climate, so maybe someone from a tropical climate would get less out of the book, but there are still parts that would apply for them.
Q: Why the focus on personal change rather than political change? A: So often it feels like the solutions being presented for global problems are along the lines of "we need politicians to do so and so and if they don't we're going to be angry about it." At the end of the day there is often very little progress, if any. In this book we place a strong focus on things that you can do, at home, that are guaranteed to make a significant positive difference - without writing letters, attending protests, or being angry at bad guys.
Q: What do you think will motivate people to implement the solutions you present in your book? A: A lot of the time we hear about solutions that sound a lot like sacrifice: drive less, turn your heat down, take cold showers, etc. But in this book we place a strong emphasis on solutions that make a huge impact while also saving money and providing a more luxuriant life. The idea is that a lot of people might want to implement these solutions even if they aren't particularly passionate about solving world problems. Maybe they just want a little extra money in their pocket.
Q: So many books say "if everyone did this, it would solve the problem." What if only some people make these changes? A: We strongly believe that if only a fraction of the population implements the ideas in this book, we will have effectively solved the problem. The few DO have the ability to solve the problems of the many.
Q: Can anyone do the stuff mentioned in your book? A: A lot of books about solving world problems focus on the need for further innovation in order for their solutions to make an impact. While we both really appreciate and encourage further innovation, we also recognize that the average person might not fit under the label of "innovator." So in our book we focus on solutions that the average person can implement NOW that make a huge difference while we are waiting for the innovators to come up with further optimizations.
Q: Your book is called "Building a Better World in Your Backyard." What if people don't have a backyard? A: The book is broken down into six different parts: the introduction, the problems, general strategies, things you can do within the walls of your home, things you can do in a backyard, things you can do on a homestead, and the conclusion. The idea is that there is something in here for everyone. And maybe, in time, you will find a way to get access to more space to play with these ideas.
Q: Why now, vs 10 years ago or 10 years from now? Do you feel like change is attainable today? Is the population ready? A: We wish this book would have been available 10 years ago. But it's not. It's available now. So we make the best of it. We are intentional about trying to provide incentive for people to implement the solutions in our book, not guilt them into it. I think that this makes a huge difference in whether or not people will be interested in making change.
Q: Are there examples of people implementing the solutions presented in this book, or is it all just theoretical? A: This is a book about practical solutions. Some of these ideas are fairly new, but many of the ideas presented in this book have been implemented by thousands, maybe even millions, of people.
Q: What inspired you to write about building a better world? A: We both have had far too many conversations about solving world problems where the other person was providing solutions that were very weak. And when we tried to bring up our solutions, they would tell us that those solutions couldn't possibly solve the problems because otherwise they would already have heard about it everywhere. It would have "gone viral." The hope is that, by sharing this book with the world, these ideas will infect the brains of millions of people and we can have a lot more progress.
Q: What chapter of the book took the longest to write? Why? A: We have a chapter on growing double the food with one tenth of the effort. It wasn't that we had trouble figuring out what to say, it's that we had trouble figuring out what not to say. We spent many weeks trying to cram a massive amount of information into this one chapter. There's so much more that we would like to say, but we think it turned out pretty great.
Q: You started a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the costs of publishing your book and you have some unique strategies for getting your ideas out there. Can you tell us a bit more about your campaign? A: We are trying a few new things with this Kickstarter campaign. The first is that we are making it super cheap to buy a dozen copies of the book in an effort to effect mass change through substantial education. We are also setting things up so that by supporting the campaign, even at the $1 level, you get a huge gob of goodies. We really want to reward people who support us when we need support the most! For that reason we also have some more goodies for people who support the Kickstarter in the first 48 hours, even for $1. We started off with about 5 things on the earlybird bonus list and now we're looking at over 30 videos, book excerpts, ebooks, etc. that various authors and influencers have thrown in the pot! So now by supporting in the first 48 hours, people get over $100 worth of stuff for as little as $1!
(more pics and more bio-like stuff for paul can be found here)
I gotta know where the luxuriant environmentalism thing came from. Was there a discussion I missed, and if so, could I be directed to it?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein