Solar Living Sourcebook
By John Schaeffer, New Society Publishers, 463 pages, $39.95
Book review by George Harvey
My first big engineering project was done with a little help from my Dad, who knew how to multiply and divide. In it I showed that it was flat-out impossible for a single Santa Claus to deliver all those presents in a single night. After that I was pretty sure older children were telling the truth about Santa Claus, but I still looked forward to Christmas, eagerly awaiting the new gifts I knew I would find under a tree our living room.
Now, sixty-odd years later, I have spent much of my lifetime as an engineer; little children in my neighborhood are convinced I am Santa Claus despite, my assurances that we are only distant cousins who happen to look similar; I still look for ward to Christmas; and I eagerly await the next edition of Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook.
The appearance of the Solar Living Sourcebook (SLS) is not annual, but this year we are fortunate enough to have a new edition. When I got my new copy in the mail to review, the first thing I did was to prance around my home, chuckling. My cat, who had seen me act irrationally in the past, was unimpressed. My landlady, who understood the deep significance of the event, appeared to be more understanding.
The 14th edition of the SLS is very like the earlier editions except for two things. One of these is very important; the information, which relates to a set of rapidly changing industries, has been brought up to date. “Industries” is in the plural here, because the SLS covers a very broad range of technical information, in addition to solar. In fact, it is a great manual for modern resilient living, covering solar power, shelter, water, urban homesteading, transportation, and more. This year, there is even a chapter on natural burial.
The other thing different about this edition of the SLS is that it is no longer a catalog of merchandise for sale. I have mixed feelings about this. The goods listed for sale in past editions stimulated my imagination with images of things I could wish for as much as the old Sears Catalog did when I was a kid. What has been lost, in that respect, has been made up for by the addition of new material. Very slightly different, it is new, improved, and good as ever
Nancy Rae Mallery, the editor of Green Energy Times, has her own story about the SLS, which I really should pass along. She was influenced by its early editions to investigate renewable solar power. They gave her not only the desire and understanding to power her home with sunshine, but the strong belief that it was important to do so.
When she built her current home and began living off-grid, she saw the immediate economic benefits of her solar installation, both economically and in terms of reliability, and became an advocate of green power and energy independence. She found she had to explain the whole thing over and over as she met new people, and so she brought Green Energy Times into being.