This is Home Ecology, a newsletter about preparing for climate change without losing our minds.
Climate change is upon us, and there’s no going back. Our focus has to be ADAPTATION, along with doing everything possible to reduce and mitigate. This means we all have to adapt, to make changes in the way we live and work and travel.
Why you should listen to me
First, a promise: no advertisements, no laundry lists, no doom and gloom.
Most worthy authors of environmental books don’t realize how much we have to think about: daycare, our company’s plans to relocate, finding a date, doing our taxes. They bombard us with statistics and indigestible lists of advice, and mix good practical suggestions with completely nutty ideas (“Write small so you use less paper”). They think we have endless time and money to devote to the cause.
But between trying to get our kids back into an in-person school routine and finding time to go to the gym, we need to know where our choices can have the most impact. And we want environmental thinking to contribute to a sense of well-being and balance in our lives - not to unhinge us altogether!
It bothers me that environmentalism is so often a hobby for rich people. “My carbon footprint is very low, I hardly buy anything,” boasted a friend who flew to China on business every 6 weeks. Or this: “I got really worried about climate change when I realized my kids might never get a chance to scuba dive in the Barrier Reef.” Or the smug “I don’t use saran wrap (cling-film), look at these beeswax cloth covers I just bought. They were only $15.”
I’m an exception, a writer and entrepreneur who has patched together a rather wonderful life in spite of having no family money or connections, never being supported by a man (though I’ve loved and lived with several of them), and never having a salaried job. This has meant independence but also scary times and sleepless nights. I know what it’s like to live on the edge and to feel that you can’t cope with just one more thing.
And when I write I’m not just thinking about American lifestyles. My frame of reference is international. I lived in England during my twenties (my first books were published there) and have done a lot of work in China (two of my books have been published in Chinese, too). My day job as a publisher puts me in touch with people throughout the world. One of the most heartwarming messages I ever received was from a volunteer with a rural village project in Hungary, saying that Eco Living was the only book she’d found on green living that she thought could be adapted for the communities she worked with.
As a publisher, I conceived and produced the 3-volume Encyclopedia of World Environmental History (Routledge) and the 10-volume Encyclopedia of Sustainability (Berkshire/Oxford UP), which meant working with over a thousand international experts, and learning a great deal in the process.
Finally, I don’t shy away from controversial topics. Pets, for one. And breastfeeding. These are issues that generate a lot of emotion so writers tend to avoid them. I’m not going to tell anyone how to live their life, but I do want all of us to think about the impact of our choices, and our privileges.
What people say about my writing on home ecology
“Karen Christensen’s The Armchair Environmentalist demonstrates how we can enrich our lives, have fun, and save money while dramatically reducing our ecological footprint.” —Denis Hayes, Bullitt Foundation, principal organizer of the first Earth Day
“This book is filled with wisdom for those who want to live an environmentally responsible life. For example, simply saying no to bottled water will save energy and measurably reduce carbon emissions. Christensen has incorporated more environmental advice in this crisp, tightly written volume than in anything Ive seen to date.” —Lester R. Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute
“We can make a difference - Home Ecology shows us how.” —Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
“Not only is this book extremely well researched, it is informed with rare common sense and has the ring of actual experience about it. If we all do what Karen Christensen advises, the world will become a better place.” —John Seymour, author of Self-Sufficiency
We rate Karen Christensen’s work highly - and hope that The Green Home will help even more people to make a difference in their own day-to-day lives.” —John Elkington & Julia Hailes, authors of the Green Consumer Guide
“Protecting our earthly home requires both vision and common sense. The sound advice in The Green Home is greatly enriched by Karen Christensen’s compassion and genuine inspiration.” —Jonathon Porritt
“Use The Green Home for inspiration and practical, personal ideas. It is readable and accessible and most important of all it has a clear philosophy which is profoundly, sustainably ecological.” —Chris Baines, BBC Wildlife
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Concern about climate change and other environmental issues is something we have in common with people across the world. Our circumstances are different, but all of us are wondering what the future holds. We can learn from one another.
I’m working on changing the way I live and finding ways to have more impact, and it’s not easy. I’ll share my successes and my frustrations, and answer questions about your specific situations and issues.
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It all began in London
Logo by Tracy Rich, from the cover of The Green Home (London: Piatkus Books 1995). Some background material comes from the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, a 10-volume reference work. Photos are by Karen Christensen unless otherwise indicated, and other illustrations are by Judy Strafford (in Home Ecology) and Fiona Hewitt (in The Armchair Environmentalist).