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Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy Paperback – May 1 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers (May 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086571603X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865716032
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #493,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


In an era when incomprehensibly complex issues like Peak Oil and Climate Change dominate headlines, practical solutions at a local level can seem somehow inadequate.

In response, Lyle Estill's Small is Possible introduces us to "hometown security," with this chronicle of a community-powered response to resource depletion in a fickle global economy. True stories, springing from the soils of Chatham County, North Carolina, offer a positive counter balance to the bleakness of our age.

This is the story of how one small southern US town found actual solutions to actual problems. Unwilling to rely on government and wary of large corporations, these residents discovered it is possible for a community to feed itself, fuel itself, heal itself and govern itself.

This book is filled with newspaper columns, blog entries, letters and essays that have appeared on the margins of small town economies. Tough subjects are handled with humor and finesse. Compelling stories of successful small businesses from the grocery co-op to the biodiesel co-op describe a town and its people on a genuine quest for sustainability.

Everyone interested in sustainability, local economy, small business, and whole foods will be inspired by the success stories in this book.


About the Author

Lyle Estill is VP of Stuff at Piedmont Biofuels, and has won numerous awards for his work in the biodiesel business. He is the author of Biodiesel Power and lives in Moncure, North Carolina.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A really good inspiration to those looking for examples of how the local economy is all around us, and how we can contribute as well. Mr Estill shows a unique insight into the philosophy behind the local economy in a down to earth and amusing way.
This book has my full recommendation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa5de78dc) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa588148c) out of 5 stars After reading "Collapse", read this! June 12 2008
By Michael Tiemann - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is easy to be overwhelmed with the doom and gloom consequences of American's thoroughly unsustainable lifestyle: climate change, pollution of air, water, and soil, declining ecosystems, and the very real risk that in 60 years, nobody will be living what we today consider to be a first-world lifestyle. What to do?

For starters, read Lyle Estill's Small Is Possible, a wonderful collection of writings that chronicles Lyle's own shift from get-setting deal-maker to homesteading community-builder.

Lyle's writing style is excellent: concrete, humorous, and often self-deprecating, Lyle's stories spring to life from the pages, and then linger in details which keeps the community and its members, not Lyle himself, in the foreground.

This book variously strikes me as: non-fiction Huckleberry Finn, a North Carolinian Omnivore's Dilemma, a contemporary Guns, Germs, and Steel, and The Tipping Point as played by actors in Chatham County.

Let me say again: the book is very well written, the material is extremely compelling and relevant to the 21st century, and, in the great tradition of open source software (which Lyle himself acknowledges), it is designed to be a resource for others who believe that small is possible.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa58816fc) out of 5 stars A "Wendell Berry of Chatham" May 26 2008
By Reviewer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Yesterday, I received a copy of Lyle Estill's newest book, Small Is Possible. I came home at 2:30, put on some easy-going clothes, lay down on the couch on the porch, read until 8, took a half hour off, then finished the book. I could not put it down. This is a wonderful reclaiming of the recent history of events in our county, Chatham.

The chapters are contained by writing on one subject in the true essay form, full of details about people we all know and some of whom we love. The writing is almost lyrical in some places. But what is exciting is to read is all that has made our county special. In a way I am scared that this excellent book will make it nationally as it is so well written, a Wendell Berry of Chatham, and that our special place will become a spotlight for people who want to see that change is possible in our dis...eased world. If that happens, however, I will hail to the chief who wrote it.

This is one of those books that comes along once and a great while, the kind of book that you want to send to EVERYONE, the kind of book we can take pleasure in reading to our children, as well as chuckling at various places while we read to ourselves. I absolutely love it and hope that all of you rush to buy it. I hope you buy a lot of copies and pass it around as birthday, wedding, graduation whatever kind of gift. It is that universal in its message.
-- Barbara Lorie
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa588193c) out of 5 stars Very interesting, well written... July 9 2008
By Westmore C. Willcox - Published on
Format: Paperback
I just finished the book and found it very interesting and well written. As a reporter for a small weekly newspaper that covers Pittsboro, NC, I was fascinated to learn more about the many personalities, businesses and organizations that make up this small town. I certainly see Pittsboro as a more dynamic and exciting place through Lyle Estill's eyes. I initially had low expectations of the book since I thought it would just be a compilation of essays, blog entries and newspaper columns, but it contained about 98 percent original writing. I have been telling many people around town about the book as a great way to learn more about Pittsboro. I think the book will be popular on a national scale since it talks about many ways that communities, and individuals, can be more self sustaining and this is an important issue nationally. On another level, it is interesting as the story of an entrepreneur who had the courage to renounce a very high-paying conventional job to pursue his dream.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5881b94) out of 5 stars Frantic and chaotic Feb. 27 2009
By Dave - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are some books that sound good and turn out otherwise; this was one. I had recently read and completely enjoyed New Society Publisher's "The New Village Green" and thought I would read another on their publication list. Unfortunately a common publisher does not ensure that one book's as good as the other.

The author's life seems to run at warp speed, and his book reflects this pace. Even the author's biography in the back reads like an ADHD trip through various careers and endeavors. Chapter One starts with the author's description of his therapist, which is hardly a good sign. In the span of a SINGLE PAGE later in the book, he discusses: Mother's Day, software sales, a train ride from Germany to Sweden, a technology trade show, Easter, his plans for divorce, a garden-sized wooden chess set, a decison to have children (controlled, he says, by his ability to possess such a life-size chess set), the continuation of his marriage, disillusionment with corporate life, and his wife's decision to become an art dealer. Tired yet?? I sure was!

This book is frenetic and confusing, chaotic and disappointing. If you feel like boarding a runaway train, be my guest. If not, I would urge you to avoid this book.

P.S.: You might also consider that several of the 5-star reviewers are local to the book's setting (North Carolina) or are friends / relatives of the author. I'm just sayin' .......
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5881a2c) out of 5 stars A Surprising Intersection of Informative and Enjoyable April 29 2010
By H. Messinger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a journalist that writes a blog about how and why to buy local. I came across this book as part of my research. When it arrived, it certainly was not what I had expected. After having read Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age by Michale H. Shuman, I was anticipating a book full of statistics and academic references. I was slightly disappointed, but decided to read on anyway. I completely forgot that I was doing work, research, or anything of the like. I simply enjoyed myself.

Small is Possible is an enchanting web of stories about how and why specific local businesses work. Estill gives faces and names to the statistics and studies of Shuman's work. Although he provides several helpful statistics, he always does it in reference to something concrete. For example, when discussing Chatham Marketplace, a grocery store that sells only local products, he notes that by comparison, Whole Foods only carries 6% local products. He takes the issue of localism and makes it personal and relatable.

When I came back down to earth and remembered that I was doing work, I tried to find the "multiplier" for Davidson County online ("The multiplier is a number than counts how many times a dollar travels through our local economy before heading for some place else," p.96). I was unsuccessful, so I employed the modern solution: I found Lyle Estill on Facebook and sent him a message. He replied to me that same evening and was very helpful.