Saturday, June 14, 2008

Farewell, My Subaru

"As I watched my Subaru Legacy slide backward toward my new ranch’s studio outbuilding, the thought crossed my mind that if it kept going— and I didn’t see why it wouldn’t—at least I would be using less gasoline. A few days after I moved into the sprawling, crumbling, forty-one acre New Mexico spread that I had named the Funky Butte Ranch (it had a funky limestone butte on its east side where two great horned owls with an active love life nested), I neglected to firmly apply that last click to the parking brake on my aged fossil fuel–powered hatchback, the LOVEsubee.

This was a good thing. Really. The imminent demise of my ride, I rationalized, would help me with one of my four big goals for the next year, which were:

1. Use a lot less oil

2. Power my life by renewable energy

3. Eat as locally as possible

4. Don’t starve, electrocute myself, get eaten by the local mountain lions, get shot by my UN-fearing neighbors, or otherwise die in a way that would cause embarrassment if the obituary writer did his or her research."

"I didn’t need the message hammered home so literally. The time was absolutely right for me personally to embark on this adventure in living green—other than having no electrical, plumbing, building, engine mechanical, horticultural, or animal husbandry skills at all, that is. After growing up on Dominoes Pizza in the New York suburbs, at age thirty-six I wanted to see if a regular guy who enjoyed his comforts could maintain them with a reduced-oil footprint. In concrete terms, this meant raising animals and crops for my food, figuring out some way besides unleaded to get anywhere, and making bank account–draining investments in solar power.

I’d lived and worked in extreme conditions on five continents since the beginning of my career as a journalist fifteen years ago, but time and again, after shivering in Alaska and dodging bullets in Tajikistan, I reaffirmed what I already knew: I like my Netflix, wireless e-mail, and booming subwoofers. In fact, I didn’t want to live without them. I just wanted to power them by the sun. If my ear- melting music could go solar, and still make my UN-fearing neighbors complain about bass lines interrupting their nightmares of Hillary Clinton, I’d consider this experiment a success. If I had reliable Internet and could download movies into my green world to boot, the feeling would be closer to “Eureka!” Especially if I was eating munchies I’d grown, raised, or at least bought locally.

Because as I saw things, global climate change, pollution, world wars, and human rights aside, the Oil Age has had a great run: fossil fuels turned the United States, for example, from a nation of farmers into the Jetsons. I largely welcome this. I know I sure dig my laptop. When else in history could I have listened to Malian drumming or Beatles outtakes (or some DJ mixing the two) all within three clicks? When else could I be that DJ? This really is the best time ever to be alive, if you’re fortunate enough to live in the West and not be in the armed forces. In short, I wanted to prove that green Digital Age living was possible, and I was psyched to get cracking."


Advance praise for Farewell, My Subaru

“Fine is Bryson Funny.” ——Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Fine is an amiable and self-deprecating storyteller in the mold of Douglas Adams. If you're a fan of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-style humor -- and also looking to find out how to raise your own livestock to feed your ice-cream fetish -- Farewell may prove a vital tool.” —— The Washington Post

“Fine is an eco-hero for our time..” —— Miami Herald

“An afterward offers solid advice and sources for learning more.” —— On Earth Magazine, Natural Resources Defense Fund

“This is Green Acres for the smart set—: a witty and educational look at sustainable living. Buy it, read it, compost it.”
–A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically

“The details of Doug Fine’s experiment in green living are great fun——but more important is the spirit, the dawning understanding that living in connection to something more tangible than a computer mouse is what we were built for. It’ll make you want to move!”
–Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

Like many Americans, Doug Fine enjoys his creature comforts, but he also knows full well they keep him addicted to oil. So he wonders: Is it possible to keep his Netflix and his car, his Wi-Fi and his subwoofers, and still reduce his carbon footprint?

In an attempt to find out, Fine up and moves to a remote ranch in New Mexico, where he brazenly vows to grow his own food, use sunlight to power his world, and drive on restaurant grease. Never mind that he’s never raised so much as a chicken or a bean. Or that he has no mechanical or electrical skills.

Whether installing Japanese solar panels, defending the goats he found on Craigslist against coyotes, or co-opting waste oil from the local Chinese restaurant to try and fill the new “veggie oil” tank in his ROAT (short for Ridiculously Oversized American Truck), Fine’s extraordinary undertaking makes one thing clear: It ain’t easy being green. In fact, his journey uncovers a slew of surprising facts about alternative energy, organic and locally grown food, and climate change.

Both a hilarious romp and an inspiring call to action, Farewell, My Subaru makes a profound statement about trading today’s instant gratifications for a deeper, more enduring kind of satisfaction.

2 comments:

Bustednuckles said...

Dude, you have a great site.
It is at the top of the list in a special Bookmark folder.
Keep up the great work.

Busted

Tracy said...

Thanks, man! You have some interesting blogs, too.