Matthew Stein “When Technology Fails”

ISBN 1 57416 047 8. Published in 2000 by Clear Light Publishing of Santa Fe, New Mexico but available from Amazon online. Written by Matthew Stein the full title reads “When Technology Fails – A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival”. The title of this mammoth 403 opus is slightly misleading for this is a straight ‘survival techniques’ book in most respects. It isn’t clear what “Planetary Survival” means. Sure, this lump of rock will spin round the sun for a good few years to come. Are WE the “Planet” described? Guess so. From the description you might expect this book to provide guidance on what to do when you find something doesn’t work – but there is no guidance on fixing technology. Instead you largely get a survival guide on how to get by after your entire society and economy collapses. This is a glimpse of your future, localised, community in 100 years time. But that is not how the author intended it to read. There is no real information about how our next human century will evolve or how we get from A to B. It is just assumed that you will suddenly need to eat, or make a pot, or make soap, and so on, then reach for this book to show you how. Each survival skill is treated in isolation and the whole approach is largely as a big text book attempting to summarise hundreds of other books. As such you should let it wash over you. We doubt you would really have the patience to read the entire thing from cover to cover. We diligently read up to page 200 and started to skim through the remainder after we got to the First Aid section. It simply isn’t interesting enough for the average reader. So treat it as a text book and dip into it as you need. But therein lies the problem. When will you ‘need’ this exactly? Unless you spend a lifetime following the advice in this book, so that you are well practiced in all the tools and techniques described, then you simply won’t be ready when you need this advice. You need to ramp up slowly and gain a few core skills. The future society will have individuals with one of these skills each. Hence the community must come together and relocalise around these group skills. No one human could acquire all these abilities. No man is an island. Out of context this book is useless to a future you. To those of us in Europe or Asia you must also be aware that this book is completely North American-centric. We see a lot of this kind of parochial publishing out of the US. It goes with the territory. We simply don’t publish much like this in the rest of the world. If we do it isn’t making it on to Amazon. Best we focus on local specialist publishers such as Permanent Publications. American culture is built around the myth of the “back woods”. Inside every American is a mountain man trying to get out. If you live outside that culture you simply won’t have access to the resources that such a culture breeds. Maybe it is time we developed our own survivalist culture and resources. We will need them. Whilst the author is an Engineer be also aware that he is passionate about something called “alternative healing” and does waste a lot of the book peddling his personal faith in Shamanic healing and “healing with energy” (whatever that is). A mixed bag. Use it as a starting point and then seek out the resources and books pertinent to your culture and locality.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.

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