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on February 29, 2004
This is a great book about preparing for short-term societal or environmental crises - how to conserve water when the water's not running (after a hurricane, say), how to stay warm and safe when the ice-storm of the century wipes out your natural gas and electricity, or an earthquake shakes your house down around your ears in the middle of the night.
The true beauty of this book is the wealth of information for longer-term "doing without," or slow erosion of a situation of plenty we now take for granted. Here is information on dealing with medical problems when no doctor is forthcoming, growing food organically and with your own saved seed, how you might store food over the winter with no refrigerator.
If we lost the luxury of the machines that run our world, would we find ourselves back in the stone age, having lost the knowledge handed down for generations beyond count of how to shelter, clothe, feed and doctor ourselves? These skills are all touched on in this book, with voluminous resource lists so that the reader can learn more about any of these subjects.
Technology, too, is given its due - renewable energy sources like solar and wind are discussed and the best water filters on the market.
Change is coming. That's apparent. If you're worried, wary - this is a good book, a jumping-off place to learn skills you may some day be very thankful for, or at least gather a library of relevant information against the day when it is needed. Survivalist paranoia not required.
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on April 18, 2001
Most of this book is very good. It is a good survey of many issues related to self-sufficiency. It has great references that make it easier to find the materials needed for a more in-depth understanding of most of the topics.
However, I had the feeling while reading the book was that it was written by Abby (Dharma's mother from Dharma & Greg). Great, pragmatic information is tainted with pseudo-science nonsense and newage garbage. Most of which is harmless, but some of it may be downright dangerous.
For example, there is a half page editorial on the moral issues of hunting followed some pages later by a long discussion of tanning. There is a story of how blessing water turned undrinkable swill into sweet healing water. There's enough folk and eastern medical advice to make your head swim.
If you believe everything you read, this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you can discern the likely from the silly, you might find this book useful.
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on August 4, 2013
Gives the basics that a lot of people wouldn't know. More of an introduction to how to survive in case of an emergency. If you want to know more, you'll have to find a book with more. Not for the hard-core survivalist, but certainly helpful to the city dweller who doesn't know where to start when things switch off.
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on October 29, 2001
Matthew Stein has written a clear, concise book on the subject of survival that, while educating, also does what few others have managed to do - entertain and engage the reader.
Throughout the book you'll find personal stories accompanying the text to further illustrate or drive home a point. The use of these asides brings you into Matthew Stein's life, as he recounts personal stories of survival and tells the stories of others who have managed to overcome the odds to survive.
Not just a survival book, Matthew also covers topics like alternative therapies; how to create a survival mindset; survival strategies; renewable energy; companion gardening; prophecies etc. as well as all the regular topics found in such books - edible plants; first aid; making a survival kit; growing, hunting and foraging; making tools; creating shelters; spinning/weaving/tanning etc.
The book has some great illustrations that make plant identification and first aid that much easier to understand and each chapter finishes with a reference section listing books (along with a short review) and resources (with web addresses where available).
This book is supposed to have been 15 years in the making - and the time and effort taken by the author to research his topic really shows. When Technology Fails belongs in your survival library - as the publisher says, "it's a user-friendly manual for the 21st Century".
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on February 8, 2014
Look. There's good hippy and there is bad hippy. This is bad hippy stuff. The book lacks pragmatic advice, and instead reads as some kind of longing from the author to be able to live quietly and humbly in some dystopian future. This isn't when technology fails... This is "oh gosh I hope technology fails so that I can make pottery and gourds and sow my own clothes" REALLY?? Is this gonna help me?? Okay. It is a GOOD BOOK to have around 10 years after technology fails... But will not be very useful before that. For example. There is not-a ONE mention of how to treat sewage and get rid of garbage. That's pretty basic to me... (There is one meagre section called "protecting your water source") If water runs out where do people "go"? It is pretty much one of my first questions if technology fails... How to build a latrine and where. Oh veh. Also in the first aid section they widely cover accidents (good) but skip over illness and modern medicine to go straight to holistic medicine. No mention whatsoever of how to treat diarrhea, dysentery, no sanitation advice... No guidelines for medicines, only "solutions of metallic nano-particles" and even "the power of prayer". Geez. Yeah because knowing about "Electromagnetic fields", "hypnosis" and "visualization" will be really helpful when the whole tribe is suffering from some unknown disease. I don't want to know about how to make candles, knitting and crocheting... but....

There is some very useful stuff in this book nonetheless. I think if the author added a few topics (sanitation, sewage and basic health principles, like how to avoid getting sick) and tried to actually think of what would be useful in the immediate rather than in some distant future; if he focused on pragmatic advice rather than on utopic musings about communal living... THEN he would have the best book on the subject.

70% of what is in book is sound and useful advice, 30% is useless and (in my opinion on the subject) this book covers only 40% of what basics you need to know. Also, much of the content is actually dependant on technology (suggesting the use of electric incinerating toilets??). Finally it seems the author is blissfully unaware that there will be a lot of textiles, clothing and various other goods being traded; the need to make your own gourds seems utterly ridiculous. There will still be bowls lying around if technology fails, mr. Stein. No need to make your own from clay... Though it does sound like fun.
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on January 29, 2001
The content of this book is diverse and well researched. One of the strengths of this books is the vast amount of information it covers in an easily accessible way. It is like a tour through many alternatives to our traditional technological solutions. It gives you a view into such topics as low-tech healing, alternative shelters, power, heating, effective methods for growing food, tool making, and much, much more. If you need to know more about any particular topic you will find an abundance of references at the end of chapter.
The title "When Technology Fails" does not seem to fit the content well. The book does have a few sections on emergency preparation, procedures, and first-aid, but that is clearly not the heart of this book. It is also not an anti-technology book. It is full of technological solutions, however they are low-tech and earth friendly technologies. This book is much more about our future and how we can live using much more earth friendly and sustainable practices. Chapter 2, "Present Trends, Possible Futures," is a MUST read for everyone. Stein shows the reader, very clearly, how we can all still live in relative comfort AND dramatically reduce our impact on the environment.
The book is very well written with many examples and illustrations to highlight his teachings. Its is also a fun read, which is unusual for a "how to" manual. There are many beautiful and powerful quotes and several ideas that will challenge your thinking. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
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on January 9, 2001
I'm the kind of guy that wants to understand how things work- I'm not an engineer or anything like that- I'm just a regular guy. One of the things about our modern society that concerns me the most, is as new technology makes our lives simpler, we (the people not involved in implimenting the new technology) lose track of how things really work. This book is a handbook that describes the systems and techniques that our grandparents once knew and we (as members of modern society) have never learned.
There are a lot of books out there that focus on singular aspects of what this author undertakes. I have not ever seen a book as comprehensive as this on the subject. Although the author is an engineer, the book is written for the layperson- and he does a great job doing it. It shows; he has extensively researched all of his topics and offers a huge reference section at the end of each of his chapters.
This author has a keen understanding of where the modern world is going- if something isn't quickly done to change its course; but rather than just complaining about the problems the world faces, he offers time proven solutions that every one of us can utilize, on our own.
With the threat of higher utility bills on the horizon, the timing of this book is uncanny. I truely believe that this may be one of the best books to have in the reference section of your personal library!
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on March 12, 2001
In When Technology Fails: A Low Tech Guide To Self Reliance And Planetary Survival, Matthew Stein provides accessible, reader friendly, "user friendly", practical information on self-reliance, sustainability, present environmental trends, emergency survival techniques, disaster supplies/preparations, the basics of metalworking, first aid, low-tech medicine and healing, better living through low-tech chemistry, and a great deal more. A very highly recommended reference for the ecology-minded, the survivalist, and those of limited means seeking to enhance the quality of their lives, this concise, single-volume compendium of tips, tricks and techniques is an ideal directory or resources and instructional guide to a sustainable technology for living in an unstable world.
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on January 10, 2001
When Technology Fails
A good engineer understands technological theory and is able to apply it in the real world. A good teacher helps other people grasp an abstract idea and its concrete manifestations. A good writer can get an idea across to the reader.
In his new book "When Technology Fails", Matthew Stein succeeds as an engineer, teacher and writer. He demonstrates his broad knowledge of the field of self-reliance. He helped me better understand self-reliance concepts and, especially, their many applications. He writes clearly and concisely. It's a good how-to and why-to book. It does remind me of The Whole Earth Catalogue as the jacket suggests, but it covers many topics more deeply than its predecessor. The extensive bibliography makes it an excellent reference source if you want to explore a topic more, but one gets plenty of practical advice without going further. It also reminded me of my old scout handbook, loaded with self-reliance tips for everything from emergency survival to first aid to energy efficient, low-cost housing. I'm not wild about the book's title. Stein is an MIT-trained engineer, not a survivalist reactionary. The book also provides low-tech, not no-tech solutions.
When Technology Fails is a well-written, useful source of information and ideas for both the neophyte and old pro interested in becoming more self-reliant.
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on February 27, 2014
For when serious and scary things stir in the weeds. I found it to be almost as good as the old Firefox series just the readers digest condensed version. Needless to say it went right into my reference library the moment I was done reading through it, In hopes we will never need its contents but like my daddy used to tell me better to have and not need then to need and not have.
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