I was a Whore for the Mainstream Media

Sharon October 19th, 2008

So the book’s publicist was excited about the New York Times article.  The reporter was reassuring when I worried that she would trivialize the subject - she told me she was just trying to get a hook onto this deeply important subject.  Sure.

I was nervous, but now that the worst has happened - the article appears in a completely decontextualized article about crazy people, complete with quotes from therapists.

 Good things about the Times piece:

 There’s a cute picture of my husband scything.

 Bad things about the Times piece:

 Everything else, particularly that at no point did the writer mention the Riot for Austerity and the thousand other people around the world who are trying desperately to reduce their carbon impact in a world where increasingly few people seem to care. 

I’m assuming that the next step in the McCain campaign will be to take up the cause of my son’s baseball deprivation (which is actually because we are Jewish and don’t do Saturday little league - there’s a baseball field 5 miles from my house, but they have Saturday games) and the way Obama’s carbon plan will deprive all cute six year olds of baseball ;-P.

I particularly like the inclusion of the psychologists, and the acknowledgement that while there’ s no documented reason to believe that there’s a psychological disorder here, there could be.

 Sigh.

 I mostly find it funny - but I admit, I’m a little pissed off that an opportunity to draw attention to the work of the Riot for Austerity was totally missed because cheap and tawdry sells papers so well.  Still, I didn’t come off nearly as badly as poor Colin over at NoImpactman, whose toilet habits are yet again in the New York Times - although this time, in a level of journalistic accuracy that pervades the entire article, they say that Colin used “no toilets.”  Apparently, he endured a year of heroic constipation for the ecological cause.  Compared to that my low-level child abuse (cold house, no baseball) looks positively lazy. 

 Ah well, on to the next thing - might as well laugh about it.  Remind me of this, though, next time someone wants to do a photoshoot ;-).

 Sharon

158 Responses to “I was a Whore for the Mainstream Media”

  1. Anion 19 Oct 2008 at 7:44 am

    ok people- it’s on-line at the NYT website- “Completely Green, Totally Unplugged’.

    Well Sharon- the best I can say is at least they didn’t title it “Completely Green, Totally Unhinged” :).

    The thing is, to the NY Times and most of their readers, we ARE freaks, period. They obviously don’t get it- yet- but they will in time. But I am a bit worried that the child protective services folks might show up to check out how your 4 kids need to huddle in bed together for warmth…..sigh…..

    It’s ok really- we understand……

  2. Anion 19 Oct 2008 at 7:46 am

    oops- got it backwards- it’s “Completely Unplugged, Fully Green”

  3. Leila Abu-Sabaon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:04 am

    The New York Times never gets “it” until “it” is so completely mainstream and received wisdom that “it” is out of date. My rule of thumb about the NY Times - if they review it favorably then it’s old news.

    I was disappointed about not getting more info and pictures of you and your life. Didn’t think about the larger context of the article. Oh well.

    Remember the Ghandi saying that goes something like: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. The Times has moved to laughing at you. Stay tuned for fighting. Winning… whatever that means … will happen at a later date.

  4. Leila Abu-Sabaon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:06 am

    BTW thanks for alerting me to your hubby’s picture. I am sure I’ve seen his full name around but I hadn’t put it together. Nice photo! But why did they print pics of all the males in your family, and nothing of you? Harumph!

  5. Fernon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:36 am

    The ‘right’ says that the media is against them. The ‘left’ says that the media is against them. In fact, the ‘media’ is prejudiced against news and is pro mindless entertainment. On a GOOD day it might make it to infotainment.

    We pagans run into this every year at Halloween. Reporters want to talk to us, want to come to our rituals, etc - and still get the story wrong, and focus onn tangets rather than our ritual/beliefs central focus, etc.

    Newspaper articles exist to help sell the paper, not to help explain the world/other people/new ideas. That they do those things at all is just due to occassional serendipity that the editors can’t avoid.

    Fern

  6. Philon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:50 am

    No link to the offending/offensive piece? Here it is:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/fashion/19greenorexia.html

    Enough said that it’s in the “Fashion and Style” section.

    The Sunday papers exist to sell us all unattainable consumerist dream lifestyles. No wonder that they hit back at you and others who seek to pug the rug out from underneath all that middle-class smugness, Sharon

  7. Philon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:52 am

    “pug the rug”? Sounds cute, but I meant to type “pull the rug”

  8. Kiashuon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:03 am

    Wow, they really are morons.

    They call it “energy anorexia.” Anorexia is a condition where the person reduces their consumption to a degree that it harms their health, and at the same time they feel miserable.

    I have not heard tell that those in the 90% reduction group have had it affect their health, or that it’s made them feel miserable.

    On the contrary, whenever I see anyone saying they feel miserable about the environment, etc, I also see that they’re not doing anything. They just feel.

    They go on,

    “Not even Al Gore recommends such privations.”

    I don’t think we need to look very close to see that Al Gore recommends no privations at all… In Gore-world, we can keep pissing away energy, it’ll just come from windmills instead of coal. Go ahead and waste, boys and girls, plenty more where that came from!

  9. Renee Axtellon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:10 am

    I am so sorry they made you out to be such a freak, and so glad you have the self-esteem to know that what you are doing is right and good. I consider you a fountain of wisdom and a great role model. Many blessings on you and your family!

    Renee in Roeland Park, KS

  10. Greenpaon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:13 am

    Ah, Sharon. My sympathies. I gotta tell ya, I’ve had tons of press coverage- and almost never has it been a good experience. Almost always, you read it and say “What! Didn’t they listen, at ALL??”

    nope, they didn’t- they came to get pictures, and write a story they’d already finalized.

    Still- there’s something to the HollyWeird saying “no publicity is bad” - some of the folks who see the story will be able to pull good stuff out of it- and some of them will join up.

    Hang in there. :-)

  11. Florenceon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:14 am

    Well, at least you were all tidied up…LOL.

  12. Koshkaon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:38 am

    I am a new reader.

    When I saw you were getting ready for the NYT’s reporter to come to your house I thought you might regret it.

    The NYT’s exists for the advertising of consumer goods. You are an enemy of the model so of course you have to be presented as a fringe person and perhaps even nuts.

    It is not to be permitted that people stop going into debt to buy things they don’t need. If you do that you lack utility.

    Have you had any media coverage that you thought accomplished your goals?

    I am thinking of publications like Permaculture Activist or even Mother Earth.

  13. Rod Dreheron 19 Oct 2008 at 9:42 am

    Well, Sharon, I have mixed feelings about this, as someone who is a writer for the mainstream media, and as the author of a book advocating ideas that the MSM struggled to comprehend (conservatives who are pro-green, traditionalist and anti-consumerist). The Washington Post sent a reporter down to Dallas to do a Style section cover story on me and my family, tied to my book. The reporter was perfectly kind, and wrote a fairly generous story, especially considering that he very much did not share my politics, nor my religious convictions. But the story was pretty superficial (hey, it was a Style section story), and, I thought, largely missed the point of my book, which is not that “hey, this is an eccentric lifestyle choice,” but rather that this is a way of living that is more connected to reality, as well as to traditional conservative thinking (as opposed to whatever the Republicans are selling).

    Similarly, the New York Times gave a full-page review to the book in the Sunday Book Review. I didn’t think the reviewer could make heads or tails of the book, and his take seemed to be, “Hey, isn’t this interesting and eccentric.” I was surprised to find the next week that the Times put it on their “recommended” list at the back — so I guess they regarded “Crunchy Cons” as a good book.

    What I concluded from this and other interactions with the MSM over the course of publicizing “Crunchy Cons” was not that reporters were out to make me look weird or to be hostile, but rather that the kind of ideas and practices I advocate fall outside their framework of understanding. It helped that I am actually a writer who has worked most of his professional life in the MSM, and know their biases well. It’s true that there is definitely a liberal political and cultural bias in newsrooms, but the deeper bias is toward the conventional way of thinking and framing matters. My colleagues at the paper tease me (in a kind way) about my preoccupation with peak oil, civilizational decline, sustainability and the like, because, I believe, if I’m onto something, that means that the way they see the world is inaccurate, and that they’re wrong in a way that will have serious consequences for them and their families. This is a natural human instinct, as old as we are. Remember that everybody made fun of Noah for building the ark until they were up to their bellybuttons in rising water. ;-)

    I read the Times piece this morning and thought it was exactly what I would have expected from them — and that really, you came off fine. The people who are open to your ideas, even if not completely sold on them, will not think of you as a kook, but as someone who is onto something. They’ll want to know more. The people predisposed to think of you as a loon will continue to think so, and it’s doubtful that anything the Times might have written this morning would have changed their minds. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it really is true that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Many, many more people this morning know your name because the Times wrote about you than knew your name two days ago — and a lot of them are going to google you, and learn more. I first heard you on public radio here in Dallas two or three weeks back, and before I knew your name I thought, “Who is this woman making so much sense?”

    Because the Times sets the agenda for so much MSM coverage, do not be surprised if you get calls from other newspapers or TV stations. Just do be mindful of what you’re getting into. I wouldn’t assume that the reporters are out to be hostile, only that they really don’t understand what you’re all about, and it radically (= at the root) challenges the way they frame reality. Just be normal, just be yourself, and you’ll be fine. And have confidence that there are people in the media’s audience who really do have ears to hear what you’re saying, and that you will be reaching them, and giving them information that they need to know, and will be prepared to act upon.

  14. Shirleyon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:44 am

    Ugh, my sympathies Sharon. What could have been a very informative, enlightening and important article for “mainstream” citizens took on instead a “aren’t these strange people funny … and maybe unhinged” tone. The reporter did a disservice to everyone featured by the tone alone … and the add-on of a psychologist’s “analysis” of green behavior was unnecessary and insulting.

    As a longtime reporter/blogger myself, I consider that a type of “journalism” that doesn’t merit being called journalism without the quote-marks.

  15. Shauntaon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:10 am

    I agree that sometimes there is no such thing as bad press. Some people will read this and be swayed to at least get more information. Those who will say “see–they’re crazy” probably thought you were anyway and were deeply enough into that mindset that even a favorable article might not have swayed them.

    Your kids are gorgeous :)

    Shaunta
    http://www.shauntagrimes.com

  16. Jen H. in western MAon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:18 am

    Holy crap, I thought it might not go well, but I guess I was surprised that they are now proposing ridiculous terms like “energy anorexic” and “carborexic.” Sharon, all I can do is try to take comfort from your ability to laugh it off and your amazing good cheer. That ability adds immeasurably to your resilience and somehow, to mine, through witnessing it, because I am terribly thin-skinned and sensitive and feel very offended that you are being written about in this way. Also I am so upset that there were no pictures of you, even though it was nice to see pictures of your husband and children.

  17. Lauraon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:27 am

    My favorite line: “their four sons often sleep huddled together to pool body heat”

    The horror! :) Actually, the whole article is kind of laugh out loud funny until you realize that the NYTimes and mainstream American really do consider air-drying clothes “radical.” What’s disappointing to me is that there is no mention, really, of peak oil or the firm reality of economic crisis that we’re currently living.

    The other aspect of the article that annoyed me (aside from the psycho-babble) was that nowhere did anyone ask these “crazy” folks about their quality of life. I showed my husband the photo of your sons and he said exactly what I was thinking–”They look like they’re having a ball!” I guess, overall, the tone smacks of urban elitism and American entitlement and THAT is what really gets my goat.

    Here’s to the crazies!

  18. normalmiddleon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:30 am

    Just say no to media.

    When I was a former “power blogger” I did one or two media things, and quickly realized they were out to sensationalize more than educate and inform. So I stopped doing it.

    Kudos to you for not letting them get you down Sharon! I like your kind of crazy. :)

  19. Green Hill Farmon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:43 am

    Wew at least you buy new books, popcicles, and store cereal :). Saved from the couch :).

    I wash out plastic bags and aluminum foil doesn’t everyone? Alot of my green comes from being chea… er thrifty :).

    Beth in Massachusetts (on Long Island Maine at the moment)

  20. Evaon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:45 am

    If this is how MSM portrays something we are familiar with, consider the implications. All those other articles that we read without knowing the background- are they just as skewed?

  21. Greenpaon 19 Oct 2008 at 11:16 am

    Somehow I missed the photo of the boys the first time around. Nice kids. My question is, though- how in the WORLD is it possible for “the boys’ room” to be so CLEAN?? And totally devoid of toys, underwear, socks, frogs, and all kids of stuff stuck to or drawn on the wall?? How is it possible to have a bare wall in the kids’ room? Heck, I’m still cleaning stuff off the wall from when my boys were here…

  22. Veganon 19 Oct 2008 at 11:29 am

    When covering dissenters, the mainstream media normally distorts the story and mocks those mentioned. This has been my experience for the most part. Nevertheless, realize that you are getting some publicity and many might be inspired by your simple lifestyle. :)

    Good photo of your husband scything. Your sons are cute.

  23. Bart Andersonon 19 Oct 2008 at 11:36 am

    Congratulations, Sharon, on making it into the NY Times. That’s a very important article.

    I wouldn’t be too upset that it doesn’t present the exact views that you want included. These things take time, and the pioneers always appear odd to the mainstream. Women’s rights, anti-slavery, organic food, worker’s rights - these took decades and centuries to become accepted.

    Besides if the NY TImes were to get it right, there would be no need for people to buy your books!

    BTW, see Amanda Kovattana’s review of “Depletion and Abundance”
    http://energybulletin.net/node/46908

    best,
    Bart
    Energy Bulletin

  24. Stephen B.on 19 Oct 2008 at 11:45 am

    I too wasn’t very surprised at the article, but I think Rod D’s comments in particular really illuminated the question of why the piece ended up this way. When Rod says that the subject we’ve all been dealing with (the Riot, Peak Oil, and so on) is simply beyond the MSM’s framework of understanding, he’s spot on. But that really isn’t a surprise either because isn’t that exactly what most of us have been running into in our daily lives the last few years? Extended family, coworkers, friends…they’ve all struggled to get a grip on the gospel we’ve been preaching. It takes time. It took time for me too, back when.

    I too was struck by the photo of your boys. It’s amazing, with just one snapshot, I can see in their faces, so much of the fun, learning, and energy that they have received, and in turn certainly must offer back, in the adventure you all (and all of the rest of us really) are living.

    “…Everybody made fun of Noah for building the ark until they were up to their bellybuttons in rising water.” Ron, you ought to put that on a T-shirt.

    Stephen B.
    suburban MA

  25. Ellen Andersonon 19 Oct 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I didn’t think the article was so bad. Of course, I have kicked the SUV out of my suburban-style attached garage and installed stalls for goats and horses. What they don’t eat of the front yard I cut with a scythe. That probably makes me obsessive compulsive or crazy as well.
    I haven’t paid for the NY Times in years and I will pay for your book. I love your blog. Money is life’s report card in a capitalist economy. The Times loses - D- for that article but it shouldn’t bother you. Do you remember the New Yorker article about peak oilers that made them sound like a weird cult? People who question the assumptions of their culture are always likely to be called crazy.
    On a religious note: I am an Episcopalian so I of course know all four verses of many hymns by heart. When they rewrote the 1940 hymnal many years ago they expunged one of my favorites that was called “Once to Every Man and Nation.” Perhaps they considered it sexist or jingoist or theologically incorrect, but it had several wonderful lines. Here is one for you:
    “New occasions teach new duties. Time makes ancient good uncouth. He must upward still and onward who would keep abreast of truth.”
    So… labor on Sharon, stay warm and have fun with your lovely family.

  26. Shambaon 19 Oct 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Sharon, you’re intentions were great and that counts for a lot in the figuring of karma in this world. :)

    In a few months when more people don’t have enough to keep warm in the cold regions, and/or someother kinds of problems face enough people, some who saw this article may remember what it said and apply your principles–like turning thermostats down, bundling into bed together or well, who knows what ….

    We’re going to have hard times and people need to know what other possibilities there are for practical living in a world that won’t be familiar to them. that’s what you do and what people who read your blog and many other similar blogs are here for.

    I love the NYTIMES Book Review still, though.

    Namaste to All,
    shamba

  27. Dianeon 19 Oct 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I didn’t have my own bed till I was 15 and my brother was away in the Air Force (I took over his!). We didn’t have central heat or air, so heat was turned off at night as we used gas space heaters. We did a lot of things that are now being considered green, just because that’s all we could afford. There were a few houses we lived in that didn’t have plumbing. I can remember my Mom drawing water from a well to take care of us kids, and this was when my youngest sister was a baby. It’s amazing how quickly what was once “normal” becomes eccentric. :-)
    Diane

  28. Karenon 19 Oct 2008 at 1:20 pm

    wow - I can’t decide which my favorite part is:
    “huddle together” might be it.
    Although, just it being located in the Fashion & Style Section is really quite a statement.

  29. katrienon 19 Oct 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Amanda Kovattana’s review of the book is spot-on. That’s what we should be reading about you and what you stand for. Not MSM, but no loss there…
    Congratulations on a clean house!
    Katrien

  30. Ginaon 19 Oct 2008 at 1:50 pm

    I have never liked the NY Times…

    But my favorite part of the article was the implication that striving to reduce one’s impact on the Earth to reasonable levels might be a mental disorder. I laughed out loud. The simplier and more “green” we make our life, the happier and more satisfied I have become. I am happier on a personal level than I have ever been. If this is a sickness, I don’t want to be well.

    By the way, your children look beautiful and happy. I have one son, am pregnant with baby number two, and I can’t think of anything cuter than seeing my kids all curled up together sleeping someday in the future.

  31. Gracieon 19 Oct 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Sharon,

    I also agree with Rod. Although the piece wasn’t anything close to what it should have been about (sustainability), you got a message out there. And those people who will listen, will see this piece and wonder, and then ponder, and then hopefully take some action. Those that won’t, simply won’t. BUT (and here’s the good part)….when TSRHTF, GUESS what they will remember? That there are people out there who were preparing for this, getting ready for it, and then they will say to themselves….now what can we do to try to survive this.

    So, you got a message out, regardless of a crappy piece of psuedo journalism. And your message was good.

    Hang in there, Sharon. You are doing a great job, and making a better future for your children.

    Gracie in Kansas

  32. Shell (in NZ)on 19 Oct 2008 at 2:29 pm

    ***Some people may view Ms. Astyk and her family as role models, pioneers who will lead us to a cleaner earth.***

    Yes!

    I love your blog, it is now my homepage.

    Don’t be discouraged…I usually presume these things will not go as planned- however, if only one person decides to make a difference- then you helped, right?

    I, too, *love* that your boys huddle together for warmth- that is beautiful :0)

  33. Erikaon 19 Oct 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I certainly don’t feel like I *know* you and your family, but I have been reading your blog for more than a year, and I’ve just finished Depletion and Abundance… so I have *some* idea… I certainly don’t think you’re the child-abusing, obsessive-compulsive, “greenorexic” folks this piece made you out to be. Granted, like others have said, this sort of lifestyle is as odd to most people as someone declining something for free.

    I’m sure there are many people who haven’t made any lifestyle changes, or who aren’t sure about what this whole “green movement,” “peak oil,” or “climate change” thing is, that will read this article, go to google and type in your name. :-) Maybe then, they’ll get the full story.

    Keep up the fantastic work that you do, both the work in the real word, and the work to inform us of what you actually do!

    –Erika

  34. Melindaon 19 Oct 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Because I work in media, as soon as you told us that “The photographer wants to take pictures of all the cute, funky things we do, including seeing me cook on a woodstove”, I knew the article wasn’t going to be shedding you in the best of light. Though I wasn’t quite prepared for how bad it ended up.

    Since we all are trying really hard to get the word out there and make our lifestyles more mainstream, I hope you will spend some more time letting us all know where you made mistakes with these people and how you would do it differently next time. Because it’s more than just having a laugh about it later - this means a lot to many of us. This reflects badly on all of us. And I think it’s important to use this as a learning experience so that it doesn’t happen again.

    I agree with what Rod said: it is beyond the framework of their understanding. But, it is our job to learn how to make them understand. Since this wasn’t the way to do it, now we know - and we can learn from this and do it some other way next time.

    It’s a terribly written article with very little of interest in it, so hopefully it won’t be read by too many people. Though I do agree with Greenpa that there will probably be some people who see through the article and will want to know more. I do hope so.

    But please, Sharon, make this a learning experience for all of us by sharing your experience. Please.

  35. Leila Abu-Sabaon 19 Oct 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Re: four boys huddled in bed together….

    Several years ago I viewed a documentary about the family homes of Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower. Julie Nixon Eisenhower was the host. What struck me is that in both homes, half a continent apart, the four sons of each house shared one bedroom with two beds. So both Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower grew up sharing a bed with a brother and a tiny bedroom with three brothers. One of the rooms (can’t remember which, Nixon or Eisenhower) was in an attic dormer and only had enough space for the two double beds and a tiny desk with chair.

    My two boys slept on a shared double futon on the floor until they were kindergarten age. They outgrew cribs very early and we put the first one on the futon so he wouldn’t roll out of bed. Then the second one, 18 months younger, wanted to join him.

  36. yooperon 19 Oct 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Good Luck on the new book, Sharon! yooper

  37. RCon 19 Oct 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Well, the article was unintentionally hilarious, but now we know that your husband and your boys are very very good looking guys. I still await encountering a photo of you somewhere.
    The important goal you set, not being caught out being a mess collector, was met.
    Can we write in somewhere and tell the “journalist” that she is the joke? The good thing about having so many kids so close in age is that they can be their own sports club. Now for the baseball, you need to make five more. I’m the oldest of seven, we had the basketball thing covered and backups on the bench, too.
    At least you were not accused of being orthorexic, but that may occur in the next publicity windfall.
    Myself, I avoid committing crimes where the press will snap my photo entering or leaving court or custody, and the rest of the time I do not allow any publicity, ever.
    Controlling your image completely by expanding the blog and book readership is the better way.
    Meanwhile, we really would like to see a photo of the boys’ mom.

  38. Auntiegravon 19 Oct 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Hey! Yooper’s Here!

    I was writing to say that the NYT is the mouthpiece of Empire.
    If the CIA or the White House needs people to believe something, they have a phone that calls directly to the NYT and it becomes ‘fact’ for all of the rest of the media.
    If they want frugality to look crazy in a world that is falling apart from overconsumption…..welll..

    Sure, I sound crazy, but you know that’s how it works.

  39. RCon 19 Oct 2008 at 4:44 pm

    I should add, yes, I grew up in the crowded bedroom too until I was 12 and the family started to have a few extra bucks in 1964 and we got a bigger house. But we always kept the heat down and sweaters on.

  40. Verdeon 19 Oct 2008 at 5:51 pm

    When I saw the article earlier this a.m. I was excited to read it but disappointed, hoping for a better read and cringing at the psychological temperature taking. So many people who have found each other through blogs come thinking that they have a strong calling this way but don’t know anyone else doing it and it’s such a relief to find each other. Perhaps there will be a reader out there who finds out there are others doing this and be relieved that they aren’t alone.

    I think the solution is to have take pictures of your homestead and write the article that you wished would have been written and put it on hen and harvest! Then we get to see pictures of your stove and farm…maybe you too? :-)

    I too have been covered badly once and even when I was asked to submit an article once, the editor changed the wording of what I wrote to say something unintended by me. The next time they asked me to write I asked to see any editorial changes they made before publishing, they declined and I declined to write. (Then my ideas didn’t get out at all….)

  41. sealanderon 19 Oct 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I line dry my laundry and keep chickens so maybe I have a mental illness? At last! It all makes sense now :)
    Greenorexic? Almost as bad as vegesexual in an attempt to come up with a new word for something. I’m sure we can find a funkier term than that……

  42. Crunchy Chickenon 19 Oct 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Hey ho! I actually didn’t think it was too bad, but then again, it wasn’t me being covered in the article.

    Here’s the semi-amusing thing…. if the New York Times were writing a Style article covering a very poor midwestern American family that:

    1. hung their laundry to dry
    2. kept their energy usage low
    3. only bought used items
    4. grew their own food
    5. limited their driving to save gas
    6. shared a room

    etc.

    Do you honestly think they would be making fun of them? Or, worse yet, said they had some sort of mental illness? Of course not, that would be preposterous. Now, if you do this voluntarily, then you must have something wrong with you. It’s a cultural double standard.

    And this lifestyle wouldn’t even have caused anyone to blink back within our parent’s lifetime.

    It’s tough trying to buck the trend without being accused of something else. So, if you’re suffering from carborexia, then I think the author is suffering from perplexia.

  43. Lisa Mathiason 19 Oct 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Thank you Sharon for your real work and your clear articulation. You are indeed an inspiration.

    I found two things especially telling about this article. First, the tone of the other comments here reminds me heartily of my sympathy for those poor people who just don’t get it. The ones who are going to hurt so much worse than they needed to because they just couldn’t, wouldn’t see the simple solutions to our man-made crisis. I know my own attitude to the MSM is very much like what the article implied about your family - that they really should seek professional psychological help. It’s ironic to be defending you against that same sentiment.

    The second was the sentence ““The critical factor in determining whether something has reached the level of a disorder is if dysfunction is involved,” he said. “Is it getting in the way of your ability to do a good job at work?” I think the powers that be are becoming terrified that if enough people were to live as directly and consciously as Sharon’s family, the fragile web of derivative wealth would completely disintegrate. The most frightening thing about that for them must be that those who had brought down the illusion by living outside of it would be relatively safe, continuing about their real jobs of living well.

    Thanks again! Lisa

  44. Ailsa Ekon 19 Oct 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Vegesexual makes me think of cucumbers.

    I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at how the article came out. I volunteered for science fiction conventions for a number of years, and the press never gets them anything like right.

    I’m still pointing at Sharon as my role model, if anyone ever asks.

  45. Robyn M.on 19 Oct 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Hey Sharon, I can totally sympathize with your unhappiness with this article. Navigating the media can be a bitch. There’s a liberal bias at the journalist level, a conservative bias at the editorial level, but overall there’s a FOLLOW THE MONEY bias shot throughout, and you represent the anti-money to them. And as Rod D. above says, you just fall outside their framework. They don’t have a clean category to fit you into.

    Having said that, I actually didn’t find the piece too bad. As others have pointed out, people who read that and think you’re kooks would’ve thought that no matter what article was published, so there’s no loss. But far more importantly, there are going to be One. Hell. Of. A. Lot. Of. People. who read that and go “OMG, someone is really *doing* this stuff!” and be inspired to start. The NYT has huge exposure, after all. I will bet there was a sizable portion of the population that read that and thought, “Wait a minute, the NYT is saying they’re nuts because they line dry their laundry and their kids sleep together? Am I missing something?”

    Chin up, eh?

  46. graceon 19 Oct 2008 at 7:31 pm

    re: Lisa Mathias’ comment just above, YES.
    third paragraph….
    “…your ability to do a good job at work”

    What if we don’t want to. ?

    “the disintegration of the fragile web of
    derivative wealth”
    “that living outside of it”
    IS safe

    and herein lies the power.

    Bummer about all the cleaning, but nonetheless,
    is good that someone will google you and
    someone will read your book and begin to
    question. And begin to talk to other people.

    In deep Gratitude and Respect,
    grace in New Mexico

  47. Don 19 Oct 2008 at 7:49 pm

    I think the solution is to have take pictures of your homestead and write the article that you wished would have been written and put it on hen and harvest! Then we get to see pictures of your stove and farm…maybe you too?

    This is a *great* idea - it would give those whose interested was peaked by the article (such as it was ;) an alternative take that might be inspiring to them. Plus, putting a face to your words might help personalize it for people who just don’t get it. It’s a lot harder to believe someone’s wackadoo when you’re confronted with the fact that they have two eyes and a nose and such, just like yourself. Then again, maybe I’m giving people too much credit. ;)

    I too found the article amusing; it’s as if they were accidentally proving your point by reacting the way they did (c’mon, since when is reusing a plastic bag pathological? And egads - WILL SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?? ;) ). However, the psychological profiling struck me as pernicious and condescending. Anyone who’s ever worked with or known people with anxiety disorders and OCD knows those folks are *not* happy - it’s torture for them. They’re compelled by something they can’t control, and this is not even remotely the case with you, or Colin, or anyone else I know of in peak oil and related communities. Of course, if you were working 80+ hours a week as a stock broker, making ungodly amounts of money with which to finance multimillion dollar apartments and vacations and wardrobes and the like (well, okay, up until a few weeks ago!), no one would even think to diagnose you with anything except maybe good ol’ American stick-to-itiveness. The moral: If what you’re doing makes you rich, it’s all good, no matter how much you or your family or the earth suffers as a result. If what you’re doing looks like poverty, though, you’re mentally ill, even if you and your loved ones feel happy and healthy. Yep, sounds sane to me!

  48. P.Priceon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:26 pm

    I don’t post here much…mostly lurk…but am disappointed. Your work in general (haven’t read the book) merits more thoughtful discussion, especially given the current situation

    And what’s with “greenorexia” being in the URL and energy anorexia in the text? Isn’t that a tacky, insensitive phrase?

    Are you doing a blog book tour? I don’t visit here enough (blush! but I have a two year old!)

    You’ve always got some space at my blog, small though it may be, to promote your book as you see fit.

    Just sayin’.

  49. Dianaon 19 Oct 2008 at 8:53 pm

    I think the journalist did not focus enough on how balanced you actually are in your approach to life. It seems that you do not freak out around non-organic food or not-green-enough people and that you are no purist either. The book excerpt you posted in regard to world hunger clearly highlights this balance - no moral ideal, just as best we can do.

    It’s hard to express nuance with soundbites, unfortunately. And in this day and age, we seem only to have attention for the soundbites.

  50. Kate in CTon 19 Oct 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Some sheeple, when confronted with someone who is doing something different and good, feel threatened and then procede to passive aggressively mock and disparage. It would seem that the Times article author, JOANNE KAUFMAN, falls into this sad catagory. Too bad. Fortunately, alot of individuals are seeing more clearly and appreciate what it means to look “seven generations” ahead and to actually do what it takes to leave a world our decendants can live in.

    RC, there is a charming photo of Sharon at the end of Depletion and Abundance.
    warm wishes

  51. Rosaon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Hey, at least you got the house clean, right?

    That’s what we say after every grandparent visit. “Well, if they didn’t visit we’d never get this place clean.”

  52. gwbon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Sharon,
    I have been a regular reader of your blog for about a year, and I really appreciate what you have been advocating. The NYT does not realize that this is how most people in the US may be living within the next 10-20 years. Only a few people, such as yourself, are raising the question of how we will feed 300 million people when the oil starts to run low. This country will have to be very careful that it does not revert to an antebellum plantation society in the process, and jettison all the advances in civil rights and equal rights in the process.
    George

  53. Rosaon 19 Oct 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Okay, I finally went and read the article.

    That author is crazy. First, yeah, P.Price called it out, “greenorexic” is intensely wrong. I mean, really, there aren’t enough ways for people with eating disorders to be trivialized, that they had to add this one? Gasoline isn’t like food, you don’t need it to survive.

    Then: washing and reusing plastic baggies? Seriously? I got that tip out of one of those “10 ways to save the earth” articles in Marie Claire in 1991.

    And of course the air drying thing - it’s normal for Brits, but if Americans air-dry they are Just Wrong.
    Yeah.

  54. Theresaon 19 Oct 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Wow. I knew that reporters can get things wrong, but wow. Ending on the note that it is all a “party game” was quite telling. They obviously missed the point entirely.

    Thanks for keeping up the good work despite it all, Sharon.

  55. clewon 19 Oct 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Their readers don’t have to be in the Midwest to be surprised by what’s abnormal to the NYT — these things

    “1. hung their laundry to dry
    2. kept their energy usage low
    3. only bought used items
    4. grew their own food
    5. limited their driving to save gas
    6. shared a room”

    are, except for 4, completely normal in large parts of New York itself , and also San Francisco, and probably other cities. Laundry on the fire-escape, shared walls holding in heat, anything from flea markets to Craigslist to getting up early on curb recycling day — the thrifty thing about cities is how well they recycle manufactured goods and use energy. How could the NYT not know this? Yeesh.

  56. Erikaon 20 Oct 2008 at 1:45 am

    Just an FYI for those who are reading here… the following link will take you to the NYT’s letter to the editor guidelines for submission page… Each letter must refer to an article written and published in the last seven days………….

    http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/lettertoeditor.html

    –Erika

  57. knutty knitteron 20 Oct 2008 at 4:21 am

    Just one thing - everyone else seems to have covered the rest already - go Sharon!!!!

    viv in nz

  58. Leila Abu-Sabaon 20 Oct 2008 at 6:30 am

    “how could the NY Times not know this” i.e. what’s going on in its own yard. I lived in NYC in marginal neighborhoods for a dozen years; I worked at the Times as a secretary for two years of that period. I read three newspapers a day then - the Times, the daily News, and Newsday. The Times never, ever had a clue about what was going on in New York if it was happening to working class people, if it was happening in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx (forget Staten Island).

    The Times was always out of touch about the real nature of New York City. It is written by the rich and the sheltered, often suburbanites who have moved to the city.

    Its owners, the ones I came to know as an employee, are very nice people you would want in your family. They have pretty decent values. (I’m speaking of the Sulzberger/Golden/Ochs clan). But the owners have been affluent and sheltered for over a hundred years; and the company likes to hire “the best of the best”, only folk with approved Ivy League pedigrees. This naturally means that the world of the immigrants, the working class, the poor is closed to the writers, editors and managers at the paper.

  59. Anion 20 Oct 2008 at 6:41 am

    I was also thinking that after I viewed the Al Gore movie- an Inconvenient Truth- which was good,and I am grateful to Al for making a movie which did reach out to the masses and explain this stuff to them in a way in which they could start to “get it”- what absolutely floored me- and not in a good way- was the ending during the Melissa Etheridge tune- when the suggestions of what to do came onto the screen. Now I liked the way they did that graphically- very clever, but the suggestions were so lame. They were so tame-change a light bulb- yeah duh….. I mean here was this relatively heavy-hitting film that was showing what our future would look like if we didn’t act quickly and the suggestions were so weak and ineffectual in terms of what we ought to be doing.

    I realized that there is a huge disconect between what the crises are- both climate change and peak oil/gas- and the real action needed to deal with it.The actions that need to be taken both as a society and as individuals are huge and won’t always be easy or comfortable. It does seem that the folks “in charge” don’t want to have to tell people that they may have to give up some of their comforts and make real substantial changes in their lifestyle, exert themselves, live like others in the world do, etc. They are tiptoing around that issue.

    So goes the NY Times and others of the MSM- they are quite dependent on ad money- and encouraging people to spend, spend, spend- so what is in it for them to encourage thrift and frugality? I mean the MSM is ok with encouraging people to go out and “buy green” so long as that includes brand new stuff- fleece made from recylced soda bottles, and tiles from recycled glass and all sorts of other stuff-even a newly built “green home” with “green” appliances and furniture. But this isn’t what Sharon is advocating with her frugality and home-made stuff- no ad money there….. So we shouldn’t at all be suprised at the reaction of the MSM to what we are advocating as if enough folks get on board, the face of retail and such will change significantly.

    I am still floored by the notion though that really truly caring about our planet and our children’s futures and the lives of others could in any way be construed to be “mental”. If this is so, may this sickness spread….. :-) .

  60. Sharonon 20 Oct 2008 at 7:48 am

    Thanks everyone. Thanks especially to Rod, Bart, Leila and the others with real MSM experience for putting this in context.

    It was funny - in the morning, I was upset, partly because I was a little worried CPS would show up at my door and try and take my kids away because they have to huddle together for warmth ;-) (actually, the picture doesn’t show it, but there are four beds in the room - two queen sized futons and two bunk beds - the boys sleep together from preference, which I told the reported, but mentioned that it was also warmer that way ;-)), and partly because I was *really* hoping that the R4A would get a bump in attention.

    But yesterday was Sukkot, and while I did discuss it, we had a big crowd of friends from our synagogue coming for dinner - a crowd that quite literally ranged in age from 2-90. So I was busy getting ready for our guests - too busy to worry about it. Then they came, and we sat outside in our Sukkah, shivering a little (it was no more than 50), but talking and laughing and eating. We thanked G-d for the wonderful meal of almost all local foods, and then everyone took a turn milking, and we watched the stars come out, and the milky way expand above our eyes. It was a really good day, and I didn’t think much about the article. Most of the people at our table don’t agree with my view of events - but that didn’t matter much, either.

    Maybe it was good, or maybe it was bad - I don’t care that much, in the great scheme of things. And it is wonderful to come back here - almost as wonderful as having friends I can have over in person. I’ve decided not to worry about it much - I’ve got all this great stuff in my life, who cares what the Times says?

    And I will put up a picture show of our place fairly soon.

    Thank you everyone

    Sharon

  61. Kateon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:02 am

    “Huddled together” makes them sound freezing and deprived. Now if she had just switched a letter and said “cuddled together”, it would have sounded warm and cozy, which is probably closer to the truth!!

  62. Sara: cultured in rural Alabamaon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:17 am

    getting up in the am and reading Sharon Astyk with my cup of tea gets me ready for the day!

  63. P.Priceon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:22 am

    And that’s the takeaway, isn’t it? That if you live with intention and do whatever is appropriate for your family and circumstances, you’ll find physical and emotional comfort and security when you need it. As for the rest of the world’s opinion, pfffftttt.

    Happy to hear you’re feeling better. Came over today hoping to hear that was the case…

    (I’m still bugged by the NYT “greenorexia” bit, ftr.)

  64. Rioon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:26 am

    If simply trying to live within the planet’s means is green anorexia, what do they call the disorder that makes people use vastly more than they need to the detriment of all life?

  65. MEAon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:39 am

    Well, Sharon, you are now a nationally known nutbar. Congratulations!

    The indicators of the disease are a laugh. So, does one suffer from a mental disorder if you refuse food for religous reasons, moral reasons that have nothing to do with ecology, that sort of thing?

    Is a relationship that causes one to, say, consume more than one is confortable with in order to preserve it healthy?

    Can’t wait to show this to be PO aware therapit.

    Hang in there, sadly vinication is coming.

    MEA

    P.S. Of all the things to open the article with — a child can’t play baseball. Same you don’t deprive them of apple pie, too.

  66. Greenpaon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:59 am

    Just a word to Leila- hope you’re doing ok. Not sure if I’ve ever said this here, or on my blog- but your perspectives and experiences really add a lot to these conversations; every time. Take care.

  67. Traverse Davieson 20 Oct 2008 at 9:11 am

    I grew up mostly as an only child, but when I was 14 I went to live with my dad and my step mother in the Solomon Islands. My step mother had 4 girls, and had a boy shortly before I moved back in with my mother in Canada (it was always planned that I would move back to Canada). My step sisters shared a bedroom their entire childhood, before moving into a dorm in high school (in the Solomons all high schools are boarding schools). My half brother got my old room, and had I still lived there we would have shared a room.
    Most of the world, kids share rooms. It is simply the way of it. Cuddling up together is also very common, and I can’t help but think it might be a very good thing. I think that here in North America we have far too many issues around personal space.
    Also, I think that for all the article did a disservice to preppers and green types, it was far more insulting to people having to deal with the reality of anorexia… comparing what they are going through to someone who is slightly outside of the mainstream and who chooses to live a lower energy lifestyle is downright trivializing. For shame NYT, for shame.

  68. deweyon 20 Oct 2008 at 9:56 am

    They certainly did try to portray Sharon’s obviously happy kids as neglected. In America, there’s a huge class divide: white-collar middle-class people (the class this reporter probably came from) think babies should sleep alone from birth and that each child must have a separate bed if not bedroom, no matter what costs this imposes. It seems to arise from the Anglo-Saxon phobia about sexuality, or maybe sensuality in general (as in our taboo on feeding young children flavorful food). The fact that 90% of the world behaves differently doesn’t matter.

    Other than that, I don’t think they were wrong to point out that some “carborexic” types are pretty OCD about it. There ARE people who cannot visit a “normal” relative’s or colleague’s home without snarling about every “consumptive” behavior or use of energy, or who refuse to eat their supermarket food even to be polite. There are people for whom you are never good enough, and even if you are trying to conserve you will always get bashed for whatever things you are not doing. (Not to pick on Kate, but above she wrote: “Some sheeple, when confronted with someone who is doing something different and good, feel threatened and then procede to passive aggressively mock and disparage.” I hope she is more tactful and respectful when introducing the subject to individuals she knows.) Such people may also engage in constant self-criticism, which is not emotionally healthy.

  69. Rosaon 20 Oct 2008 at 10:17 am

    Dewey, some people are rigid in their choices, regardless of the reasoning behind them.

    We don’t generally label them mentally ill, whether they only wear name brand clothing, refuse to deal with people of other races, have religious injunctions against certain foods or clothing, choose to pretend that their transgender children are the parents’ preferred gender, or willfully throw recyclable materials into trash cans even if it means bypassing recycling containers.

    We may not *like* them, or think they’re very smart, but we don’t generally imply that white yuppies who are afraid to take the bus in Harlem (wait, Harlem’s getting gentrified…maybe darkest Brooklyn?) are harming themselves or their relationships.

  70. Birdwellon 20 Oct 2008 at 10:42 am

    <>

    The article was in the Sunday Style Section of the Times. The target audience for this section is mid-twenties/thirty-something/upper westside/ high income style makers. (The people who can afford the expensive watches that pay the ad income that keeps the paper going financially— especially when newspapers going under.) The placement of the article might pave the way to introduce new ideas to their world.

    However, stereotyping NYTimes readers isn’t productive. As flawed as the Times is, it is the closest we’ll ever get to a national in-depth paper; and a place that we can used as a jumping off point for productive discussions. I think youu’ll find that most readers/subscribers (including myself) are ordinary middle class folks looking for a more coherent source of civic discussion than the shouting 10 second talking points of the television, or the calories-light version on the news in USA Today.

    This is not about city versus rural… etc. If this country and world is ever going to move on to a more enlightened place, we have to stop making assumptions about one another.

    As for the article, what can you expect from a “color” style piece.

    Sharon, I think that the article writer should have been more upfront with you when initiating the first contact about where and how the piece was going to be used. Would you have declined had you known more details?

    It’s too bad that that the tone was one of sightseeing in a strange and curious land. But then again… ten years ago the article would never have been written.
    Small steps… maybe a serious indepth piece next time.

  71. Evelynon 20 Oct 2008 at 11:07 am

    I am very sad. When the world economy is in this state the call them crazy (the people that try to save some money and live a simple live). I know a lot of people that which they can maintain their life style and hate other people that are getting ready for the future. Do they think that our life style will bring their life style down? When we all know that our simple life style is being hurt by their actions. I really do not care about the mainstream media. I take their good with their bad. We know that they do not have to tell us the truth. It has become entertainment instead of a way of learning about the world.

  72. Traverse Davieson 20 Oct 2008 at 11:24 am

    The interesting thing Evelyn, is that with a finite pie if you are taking a smaller piece then there might just be a little larger one for those who think you are nuts… they should really be thanking people who live a simpler life. Also, pie is delicious.

  73. Green Assassin Brigadeon 20 Oct 2008 at 11:42 am

    I just recieved my copy Depletion and Abundance from Amazon.ca and I’m well pleased with the purchase 2 chapters in. I will spend the rest of the week telling those few people who don’t think I’m nuts that they must go out and get a copy or loan them mine (sorry if you lose a sale or two)

    If that does not work I’ll do what I did last year.
    When they ask me what I want for my Birthday I gave them the opportunity to buy something I actually wanted, silver coins, seeds, grain mill, or read 3 books of my choosing. Funny thing is (so far) people were more willing to spend money they probably could not afford buying something I did not ask for (nothing on my list got bought) than spend 10-15 hours reading something of value, so they could understand the ideas and realities I see.

    This hatchet job comes down to fear. Fear you may be right, fear that the writers world, job, city may come tumbling down.

    I openly admit I’m not living at your level of responsible living yet I’m constantly hounded by people wondering why I don’t buy a bigger house, more toys, a second car, take foreign vacations. If I give them the real reasons they slowly start backing towards the door, it gets very annoying. For those I don’t know enough to waste the effort on I just say bad nerves and debt anxienty keeps me from buying new things. Not truthfull but so easier to sell.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the read!

  74. Maeveon 20 Oct 2008 at 12:32 pm

    I want my kids to be as grateful for what they have, as Laura Ingalls and her sister were for getting their *very own* tin cups for Christmas.

    This “culture of simplicity” is an uphill battle.

    It’s only in recent times that we’ve really had a significant-sized Middle Class that could afford to try to live an Upper Class life.

    And wow has that ever decimated the values of our society.

    The absurdity of forbidding people to line-dry their clothes outdoors in some subdivisions is just one of many examples that people can make of how wasteful our culture has become.

    And for a newspaper to compare such things as line-drying clothes with very serious, very deadly illnesses is a shining example of just how debased our societal values have become.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, Sharon. Even if snarky style writers don’t “get it”, your voice is inspiring to so many of us.

  75. deweyon 20 Oct 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Rosa - with the exception of religious finickiness, the examples of rigidity not labeled mental illness that you give are all attitudes that you and most others here oppose. You would probably not term the opposite viewpoints “rigidity” at all, but “wisdom” or “common sense.” Thus, bias always creeps in. However, avoiding people of other races can indeed be a diagnosable mental illness. I have an OCD relative who is irrationally afraid of people of other races, and will not even drive in certain urban neighborhoods. This does prevent her from having a normal life in our society, and it does harm her relationships (i.e., it makes me lose my temper and yell in her face).

    I often see hardcore greens (to say nothing of the various waves of dieoff-lusters) moan about how wasteful and consumerist their own relatives are; one I recall in particular was fussing about whether he should let family visit his little woodland retreat because they were accustomed to such wasteful habits as daily showers and turning a light on. One suspects that the loved ones of such people are capable of perceiving the thinly disguised contempt with which they are regarded (much as “meat eaters” can usually tell when they’re on the receiving end of hostility from a devout vegan) and that it does not make the green lifestyle seem more attractive.

  76. Frostwolf in Troyon 20 Oct 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Hi, Sharon!

    I’m sure that was quite the ordeal to deal with the NYT. It’s hard to gauge what “the everyday reader” of the paper would be thinking about the article. The antagonistic slant reeks of a Project Runway mentality though, which is what I was afraid of when I read that it was in the Style section of the paper. Guh!

    (Btw, I used to be a fan of Project Runway (go Christian!) but tried to watch 2 episodes back to back recently, and found it had affected my mood just as if I had noshed on Ben & Jerry’s or something. I can’t watch a lot of t.v. these days, and now limit it to the occasional SNL.)

    I haven’t liked the New York Times much for years. I only skim the Sunday edition b/c my partner likes to sit and digest it, being the journalist that he is. I missed the story entirely, having only looked at the Sunday Styles section to see how many gay couples (4) got married this week. I pretty much stopped reading the NYT on a daily basis on March 19, 2002, when they declared war on Iraq. Funny that I know the date. After that, I realized it’s just a cheerleader for econo-carnage.

    That being said, it’s at least a positive that someone is trying to put attention to these matters, even if for the moment they’re trivializing them. Feh! Like what you’re doing is as relevant as whether to wear white after labor day, or if black is really the new pink. Puh-leeeeeez!

  77. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Hi, Sharon.

    I think you blew it with the 52 degree average house temperature, since that does read like a case of child neglect. No one with experience of being abused by parents (or landlords) while living in a home is going to accept that your word on the happiness of your family represents other’s opinions, so then what matters is if anyone else will speak up against you. Even your kid’s word on it wouldn’t apply - they’ll say whatever you want them to, no doubt, so that leaves you.

    Growing your own food, limiting your energy use, these are not bad things, per se. But a house with 52 degrees average temperature? That’s bad.

    That your kids huddle together, *possibly* because it’s warmer (something you think is cute!?), is not a missing fact.

    In some circumstances, you have to open your own eyes to what you’re doing. You sound like a power lady, who took over your family’s opinions some time ago, but your choices here are a shame to you, and painful to who you control.

    You see the same sort of things with vegan parents who have malnourished kids. You’re quite the enorexic, but you’re dragging your family with you. And you change your story, too. You’re the source for the 52 degree number, the “party game” atmosphere, and the objection to the carbon footprint of a long drive, that was yours.

    Wake up.

    -Noah

  78. Sharonon 20 Oct 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Noah, what I said to the reporter was that we heat with wood. So that means that there are parts of my house that are 80 degrees (ie, near the stove) and parts of my house that are much cooler, (and that we typically close off for winter and don’t use) and I made the mistake (because I suppose I should have known that the reporter would choose the sensational bit) of observing that if you averaged them together,you’d get about 52 degrees. Heating with wood is quite a bit different than having central heating - more than a hundred thousand households in the US do it, however. But, of course, the reporter thought it was more fun this way.

    That said, however, I don’t think that keeping your house cool constitutes child abuse - and given the number of children worldwide who will die from global warming and its consequences in the coming year, (more than one million people, half of them children), I don’t think that the fact that my kids have to wear sweaters indoors is that great a tragedy. But they wear sweaters, not parkas.

    BTW, “huddle together” was the reporter’s language, and the photo doesn’t depict anything of the sort - the day that he came to do the shot was 74 degrees, the photographer was sweating, and my kids wanted to know how soon they could go back to shooting each other with squirt guns.

    Sharon

  79. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Well, Sharon, thank you for your cool response, and explanation.

    A cool house is 65 degrees. I’ve kept a thermometer on my wall in some places I’ve lived, and 65 is when I need a sweater. 52, though? Thanks, but then it’s either dress like an Eskimo or move out of the igloo.

    –Noah

  80. Ailsa Ekon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Everyone has their own opinion on house temperature. I never have my house as hot as 65 degrees in the winter.

  81. Rosaon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:27 pm

    dewey, you’re right, those are all people I disagree with - and who have been guests in my home, some of them repeatedly.

    My point was to show that the rigidity of attitude doesn’t come from your convictions, it is a way of expressing them that comes from the person, regardless of his or her convictions. For instance, most of the vegans I know are great friends and guests. But like everyone else I’ve run into a few strict, judgemental vegans. You could substitute in pretty much any group (”evangelicals” “car-drivers” “feminists”) into that sentence.

  82. Anion 20 Oct 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Noah-

    Sharon’s explanation is quite correct- I heat with wood as well and while the central part of the house-dining room/kitchen- where the main wood-stove is can be quite toasty even- the peripheral parts of the house have far less heat. I have no clue what the bedrooms are but they are definitely on the cool side. There is no way to “average” out the temps for my house. I’ve raised my son here and the only result of that is he hates sleeping in warm rooms! So do I as a matter of fact. Central heating, whereby we heat all the rooms of the house to some set level is relatively new to the world- and is only the case in some countries. Much of humanity has never heated their homes this way and most still don’t.

  83. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Ailsa, the problem here remains the same, and my statement of my “opinions” on house temperature were for an adult. For small children, I imagine huddling near the woodstove is a salve for a parent’s guilt, and an accepted reality for the kids, but is that right, or is it abuse? On a blog filled with admirers, just about any lifestyle choice gets cheers of fellowship, or compliments for its sensational extremism, but no admirer has responsibility for the blogger’s family. In the end, usually, it’s bread and circus for everyone except the kids, because the abuser doesn’t change, and kids are the circus.

    Cold is cold. It’s one thing if you’re a farmer in a cow-dung insulated mud hut, and it’s another if you’re an American family who ALREADY live frugally on private land and do take in 40K a year.

    Sharon says she closes off the cold rooms. Hm, but a reporter just says 52 degrees on average in the house. There are some other facts here that get revised explanations from Sharon after the fact. The changed stories raise suspicion, particularly, in my experience, because they could be the self-serving rationale’s of an abuser.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse and its rationales, and it’s a load of pathetic caca, as is a detailed discussion of Sharon’s rationalizations, regardless.

    So either Sharon blew it by letting a reporter completely misportray her treatment of her kids, or she blew it by giving an outsider a chance to have a point of view about it.

    Her decision to either change or let it go.

    -Noah

  84. Ailsa Ekon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Heating your home with a woodstove is child abuse? Am I hearing this right?

  85. Steveon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Aargh. Totall off topic, but can someone help me out? I’ve been looking for ages for the list of books that Sharon posted a while ago - loads of them, in different categories, like general info about peak oil, or specific info on country living, food etc. I think it was split into two spearate posts. Anyway, I’ve been googling all the names of the books that I thought were on the list for the best part of an hour now, and I can’t find it anywhere! thanks..

  86. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Ani, I get it. Woodstoves heat unevenly. So do regular plug-in heaters, actually, particularly in a larger space. That’s not the point. The point is when you have the resources to heat a house containing 4 kids, you either use them or you don’t.

    Earlier, Sharon wrote about how her husband is likely to lose her job, and a great depression is coming, and all is doom and gloom, but thanks for the gin and the wood. Well, that’s not acceptable, and any outsider could tell you so. In America, if you’re employed, you stay employed, no matter what, if you have kids to support. Also, keeping your house warm is an essential, and 52 degrees (and colder) is TOO COLD.

    Heat costs money. Don’t neglect your kids. Pay for the heat, pay for the insulation, do something, but keep it warmer. That is acceptable.

    -Noah

  87. Ailsa Ekon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:00 pm

    One wonders who died and made Noah G-d, such that he can dictate from on high what temperatures are required in places with children in them. I don’t think he’d have liked my summer camp. The cabins there got to around 50 degrees many nights, and parents paid a good chunk of money to send us there to experience it. Or perhaps the entire Diocese of Maine is an abuser.

  88. Greenpaon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Sharon- just on the off chance Noah is planting any doubts in your head- my two sons, now 31 and 29- grew up in much rougher circumstances than you have at the moment- (remember our composting toilet is OUTSIDE, in Minnesota) - and if you ever suggested to them that they’d been raised in an abusive fashion- they’d be utterly astonished.

    They grew up rich to the gills in everything that mattered- and the know it, and appreciate it. They also grew up tougher than most- because of being exposed to more of the real world- and they appreciate that, too.

  89. Lisa Zon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Sharon, sorry to see the article was so dumb. I’m glad your name is out there, though, because the curious will check out your blog and get sucked into your excellent writing like so many of us here and then, who knows how they will change their lives?!

    To commenter Rod Dreher: I heard your interview with Krista Tippett on “Speaking of Faith” last Sunday on public radio. It was a wonderful interview. Anything Krista does is wonderful–and that’s an example of some excellent, thoughtful publicity there. I would like to read your book, even though I’m much more of a “crunchy lib”. Still, for those of us concerned about the earth and the people on it, wherever we fall on the political spectrum we have a lot more in common than not!

  90. Lisa Zon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:09 pm

    To Noah: actually, keeping a house cooler is quite possibly better for our health. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers it to be so, along with some Traditional Western Herbalists. Read my article at http://www.henandharvest.com for more info. It’s called: Immune Health and the Low Energy Lifestyle.

    And realize, no one, I repeat NO ONE had the resources to heat their homes to a 70 degree ambient temperature until the last century–even the last 50 years in many places of the Western World. And no, I don’t heating our homes to 70 degrees is helping us to live longer in modern times.

  91. Stephen B.on 20 Oct 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I’ve gone camping with kids in Maine in the fall and have gotten up in the morning where the little thermometer on my coat’s zipper is lucky to read 40.

    Somehow, however, the kids just never thought of camping as “abuse.”

    Anyhow, we’ll see who’s kids are abused when Sharon is still heating her house to 80, 65, 50, depending on which room we are talking about and feeding here kids locally produced chicken and broccoli while kids Downstate are watching Dad burn the furniture to cook the pooch.

    Like somebody said yesterday, people laughed at Noah (the *other* Noah :) building his ark until they were up to their bellybuttons in rising waters.

    I wish you the best in your preparations.

    Stephen B.

  92. Bart Andersonon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:22 pm

    The suggestion in the article that this way of life might be a mental disorder was particularly rich. Let’s see, green living is healthy, ecologically responsible and financially prudent. It promotes family and community values.

    If this be madness, let’s have more of it!

    PS I’m glad to see that Rod Dreher (”Crunchy Con”) has discovered Sharon. I’ve been following both for several years now.

    Bart
    EB

  93. Nettleon 20 Oct 2008 at 3:50 pm

    When I was a little kid growing up in northern NH, the day it got above 55 degrees outside meant it was finally t-shirt weather. You get acclimated to the temperature if you’re not constantly exposed to a climate-controlled existence. It’s not a bad thing - if anything, I’m stonger and healthier for not having been constantly protected from the reality that temperatures change through the season.

    Yes, we wore sweaters, wool socks, and occasionally hats indoors. (Actually, I still do that in the winter even though my house now has central heat and I live in a much warmer climate. I keep the thermostat around 55 if I’m the only one home, and we always turn it down lower at night.) We used thick blankets and flannel pj’s in the winter. This were never a source of suffering. I’m trying to wrap my head around the concept of this as “abuse” and it’s not even beginning to make sense to me.

  94. Wendyon 20 Oct 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I thought the article was great until they pulled out the “psychologists say …” bit. As my daughter would say, “Oh, My Self!”

    Sorry they turned it into something weird and fringe-like rather than what it should be - a good example of what could be, if we were all a little more conscientious.

  95. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 5:23 pm

    52 is too cold. Whatever other information was presented is there to stay. I don’t know much about Sharon except what she’s written here, and that’s fine. I’m not a social worker, by any means. –Noah

  96. Veganon 20 Oct 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Hey, Noah, get your paws off of vegan parents and children. Being abusive with children does not have to do with veganism or with keeping your home at a cool temperature.

    My children have been vegan since childhood and now are quite healthy adults.

  97. Texicalion 20 Oct 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I had a slightly different experience growing up in south texas, us kids slept in the travel trailer that was attached to the house. The air conditioner would get stuck “on” at night and we would wake “freezing” if nobody woke up to smack it in the middle of the night. Once I recall frost on the window, not withstanding it was probably in the mid-eighties outside. Not entirely sure if that is why I slept with my older sister until I was around six and she was ten. Actually, I am not all that interested in the temperature question. What I take issue with is the bit about:

    “Earlier, Sharon wrote about how her husband is likely to lose her job, and a great depression is coming, and all is doom and gloom, but thanks for the gin and the wood. Well, that’s not acceptable, and any outsider could tell you so. In America, if you’re employed, you stay employed, no matter what, if you have kids to support.”

    I am not familiar with this magic employment setup that always keeps those who are currently employed in work. If having looked at all the information within your frame of reference, and likely a bit outside; I would be ridiculous to plan for the future as if all the information did not exist. That would be denial. While it is fine to dismiss the “doom and gloom” on its merits, I have not seen anything that leads me to do so. In addition, while Sharon believes that her husband could lose his job, he is not quitting it pre-emptively. It would seem to me that making extensive plans for the downside risk is the opposite of abuse. I guess what is being missed is that a lot of what Sharon describes, or Dimitry Orlov, is an employment of sorts. It is just not recognized as such in the current environment.

  98. MEAon 20 Oct 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Noah,

    I was born in (and lived several years) in house without central heating and no fires in the bedrooms. A few nights a year, the water in the basin would freeze. Net result, I’m confortable in a house at 55 (which the point in jeans, a tee shirt and bare feet. My younger daughter is also fine. My older daughter (poor abused child) is only comfortable if she wears socks and a long sleeved shirt and sometimes a sweater.

    Of course, they both find school “hot” (where most children I see roaming the halls in winter wear a sweatshirt or fleece or some such becuase it’s kept at 68) and I feel as if I am about to keel over if the inside temp is over 65.

    Why is 52 too cold? What is cold enough? What is too hot?

    Of all the strange things to pick on, the idea that a temperature that people have managed just fine in for generations is suddenly too cold.

  99. […] mentioning of the children (Sharon’s, Colin Beavan’s , the Lavines’) suggesting, as Sharon comments, her “low-level child abuse (cold house, no baseball)” are a clear grab for […]

  100. katrienon 20 Oct 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Sharon
    I’ve written a reaction to the article here:
    http://blog.bolandbol.com/2008/10/20/in-sharons-defense-reaction-to-the-new-york-times-article/
    Just my penny-for-a-thought.

  101. Gracieon 20 Oct 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Hey, Sharon, someone above mentioned that you could use room on their blog for promoting your book. I would like to include my blog in that also, and in fact, have seen alot of blogs that have book covers shown with a small blurb about the book and a connection to buy it. Do you have any idea how that is done? Because I would certainly be willing do to that for your book. Once you’ve sold a million, I would bet the NYT will write something different, ya think?

    Gracie

  102. ctdaffodilon 20 Oct 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Sharon - I don’t think that you are ‘guilty’ of child abuse…..you are providing your kids with a valuable education on the stewardship of the earth and consumer economics.
    As for little league - you are sticking to your religious beliefs…..whats the harm in that?
    TO Heck with the NYT……

  103. tasterspoonon 20 Oct 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Oh, I don’t think it’s that bad. Maybe it’s in the eye of the beholder, but I detected a note of envy at your passion. The article in general was just kind of random in harping on selected “privations.” My mom washes out her Ziploc baggies…what does that say? Not much; she’s one of the biggest shoppers I know.

    I was disappointed that it let off the hook those who can’t be bothered to do anything beyond sort their recycling. And I thought that if it insulted anyone, it was their readers - presupposes them to be weak-willed shopaholics.

    At least they mentioned that your rationale included a social conscience, it isn’t just deprivation for its own sake.

    Also: I love your commenters. “Vegesexual” made me crack up. I also liked “sheeple.”

  104. Kate in CTon 20 Oct 2008 at 7:12 pm

    Sorry to keep “harping” on Sharon’s book:-) but…
    Steve, the list of books is also at the end of
    Depletion and Abundance if you aren’t able to find it here.
    warm wishes

  105. Lisaon 20 Oct 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Wow….I read Crunchy Con.
    Rod Dreher, I enjoyed your book.

    Yes, a “victim” of child abuse.
    Having to wake before school and start up the fire in the woodstove.

    Actually a very good memory.

    Wouldn’t it be much worse not to teach the kids how to do these things?

    Thank you, Sharon.
    Looking forward to receiving your book.

    I’d have been rather excited to do an “interview”.

    Really, is this anything new? My Grandmother taught me by example. I wish she were still here, because as I grow older there are so many questions I’d like to ask, so many things I would like to learn from her.

    We live in a hurricane zone.
    Others live in areas that can lose power.

    Isn’t it best we be prepared?
    and prepare our children?
    Make that “the children”
    the elderly?

    Those are the ones who need us to take care of them.

    Lisa

  106. Consumeron 20 Oct 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Sharon,

    I didn’t really think it was that bad. You came off OK in my eyes, but maybe I’m biased since I just read your book. They were a bit harsh in portraying some of the ways that you raise your kids, but it didn’t seem over the top to me.

    I think the important thing is to get the ideas out there, and have people see what others are doing. Thanks for what you do, and for your wonderful book.

    52 isn’t that cold, my house was always 55 at night.

  107. Grandma Nancyon 20 Oct 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I think the most important sentence in Noah’s posts is “I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse and its rationales…”. That does make his reaction easier to understand.

    Noah, my heart goes out to you (I’m allowed to say that kind of thing at my age) if you suffered any kind of abuse or neglect as a child. That’s a tough load to carry, and I hope you find much peace and love in your lifetime.

    I don’t think anything I say will reassure you about Sharon’s kids, especially when I say that those gorgeous boys are my much-adored grandsons and their dad Eric is my son. But for anyone else who may be harboring even the slightest doubt, I can tell you that I live in a too-warm apartment in New York City, and the boys cuddle in an adorable heap when they sleep here also. They sleep that way because they like it, and of course if the room is cool it works to their advantage.

    AND–I sleep up at their house also, in all seasons. In the winter I wear a warm nightgown and socks, and I sleep beautifully. The boys wear a double layer of warm pajamas and they sleep beautifully also. My son tells me that the temperature is usually around 58, and never as low as 52, and he’s the “numbers guy” in the house (forgive me, Sharon ;-)), but whatever it is, it’s just fine.

    I am proud of Sharon and Eric for so many reasons, but most of all for how they’re raising their boys. These kids are healthy, happy, unspoiled, and unjaded (I live in NYC, remember?) and they learn what’s important in life every single day just from the way their parents live. They are blessed, and so am I.

    Sharon, I hope you’ll forgive your schmaltzy mother-in-law for going on like this, but I couldn’t help myself!

  108. Just Duckyon 20 Oct 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Well…while the comment in the article about your children “huddling together for warmth” in bed at night was clearly out of context…I liked how the author did give you credit for allowing your children popsicles! ;)

    And may I take the liberty of saying “Rock on Grandma Nancy!” You go ahead and take all the pride in Sharon and Eric’s family that you want. You are the Grandma and you earned it! That’s what grandmothers/mothers are for.

    I, too, found it especially interesting how the whole potential psychological illness aspect got drug into the article. I think it is important to point out to the author—the theory of psychological illness can be applied to any topic and any person at any point in history or in the future for that matter. When any person is so consumed with a topic that it interferes with the normal flow of their life and stunts their personal growth—it can essentially be thought a psychological illness. But thanks to the author for going to such an unfounded and silly extreme!

    Sharon–keep doing what you feel is right, keep living with moral integrity…that goes for Colin Beavan and everyone else mentioned in the article. I might not make the choices you all have made, but I sure as heck would fight for your right to make those choices and know that your families are all the better for it.

  109. Noahon 20 Oct 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Hello.

    Grandma Nancy, my comments stand on their own merits. It is true that, as an adult, I have been abused by frugal (or is it cheap?) people who deprived me of heat and access to physical comfort in my home, particularly during the day, and in the wintertime, but they were fine people otherwise.

    Sharon, the reasons raised here to subject kids to the same treatment are ridiculous, from living like those less fortunate, to toughening up one’s children, to families living as generations earlier did (what realism!), to reducing one’s carbon footprint.

    If you want to live like those less fortunate, don’t impose your misfortune on your children, but live on your own. If you want to toughen up your family, ditch the TV, internet, and sugary snacks, and stop drinking. If you want to live like earlier generations, stop driving. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, oh, but you already do that. And if that’s what you’re doing, then keep your children warm as always. Thanks so much!

    MEA, 52 is too cold. Colder is too cold, too, in the winter, during the day, in a poorly insulated house, which is what is under discussion. Hopefully, the cold rooms are sealed off at Sharon’s, her kids are always warm, and there’s no real cause for complaint otherwise. Otherwise, too bad for her kids.

    -Noah

  110. MN_MDon 20 Oct 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Ugh. The article was a hit piece, but it said more to me about the psychology of the NYT’s reporter than about the people she highlighted. Back when I was a vegetarian, it was interesting (living in midwestern farm country) how people reacted as though my personal decision to not eat meat somehow was an accusatory act reflecting on their dietary choices, despite my never even hinting anything to suggest that. I think the response was telling - revealing their inner fears (’it’s an attack on my livelihood as a beef farmer’) or guilt (’I should be eating a healthier diet’). Similar with the NYT’s piece. The reporter’s use of the quote from the Huntington psychologist: ‘if you’re criticizing friends because they’re not living up to your standards of green, that’s a problem,’ revealed the reporter’s inner fears. What is so threatening to people if Sharon and others decide to live an environmentally sustainable lifestyle? I suppose you could turn to the NYT’s business section for the answer….

    My partner’s response to the Times article was to compare it to other attempts at medicalizing members of political and social movements. If you don’t like the dissidents, just diagnose them with a mental illness. There you go, they’re crazy - isn’t that tidy!

    I have enjoyed reading your blogs and have been unable to pry my spouse’s hands away from Depletion and Abundance. You deserved better from the Times.

    - A MN MD

  111. Erikaon 20 Oct 2008 at 11:47 pm

    Grandma Nancy,

    What an eloquent comment, Sharon and Eric’s boys obviously have a wonderful grandmother!

    Noah,

    I completely understand why you stand by your statement that 52 degrees in a home is too cold. If it weren’t for a widespread, ice-storm-induced power-outage during the winter of my senior year of high school, I would agree with you 100%. However, after spending 32 days without electricity (we lived “far out” and were one of the last pockets of homes