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When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance and Planetary Survival Paperback – May 16, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 195 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Stein's excellent guide to simplifying your life, reducing your environmental impact, and pulling yourself out of a jam is sure to gather no dust on your bookshelf... This book is a personal and planetary empowerment tool." -Richard Heede, Ph.D., author, Homemade Money: How to Save Energy and Dollars in Your Home

"A marvelous guidebook for helping us through the worst of times, and even improving on the best of times" -Thorn Hartmann, author, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

"When Technology Fails is a massive project done well. First the book gives a superb presentation of WHY one should be more aware and prepared--and then HOW one should go about this. The scope of this book... is thorough. Not only is the information presented well, but a solid bibliography can carry the student as far as he desires in any particular area of interest."--John McPherson, author, Primitive Wilderness Living and Survival Skills

"We may all need a survival reference when technology fails. Matthew provides one -- fact-filled, with useful tips on all aspects of survival, clothing, food, shelter, water, etc., including such vital subjects as grazing and the green pharmacy."--James A. Duke, economic botanist, USDA (ret.) and author of The Green Pharmacy

"The depth of this book, covering everything from building materials to spiritual healing, is astounding. It is a one-stop source... to create a self-sufficient, earth-friendly lifestyle. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in preserving the health of themselves and the planet--and moving toward a sustainable, sane way of living."-Robyn Griggs Lawrence, editor-in-chief, Natural Home magazine

"Whether you are seeking self-reliance and a simpler life or fear the collapse of social services, this compendium of practical information for sustainable living belongs on your bookshelf..."-Fred C. Walters, editor, Acres U.S.A. magazine

From the Publisher

Dear Editor:

We are pleased to submit WHEN TECHNOLOGY FAILS: A Manual for Self Reliance & Planetary Survival, by Matthew Stein, for your review.

No home is complete without this essential resource. M.I.T. graduate Matthew Stein spent 15 years compiling the information for When Technology Fails. This easy-to-use manual is designed for self-reliant living in today's changing world.

As we begin the 21st Century, the rapidly expanding world population is quickly depleting the available natural resources and fossil fuel supply while increasing the demand for basic human needs-food, shelter, clothing and energy. This combined with the current worldwide infrastructure dependent on instant global communication and next-day distribution grids means that any disruption of the norm due to technology breakdowns, weather patterns, solar spots, techno-terrorism or natural upheavals can create massive disruptions to daily life.

When Technology Fails is the first book to offer basic instructions and recommended resources for the wide range of skills and technologies necessary for self-reliant living, achieving mastery of all kinds of emergency conditions, and treading lighter on Mother Earth. When Technology Fails is a user-friendly manual for the 2lst Century in the tradition of the Whole Earth Catalog.

We hope you enjoy reading this important book and can recommend it to your readers.

Thank you

Harmon Houghton
Publisher --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 405 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing (May 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933392835
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933392837
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Author, engineer, designer, and green builder, Mat Stein was born and raised in Burlington Vermont. His parents started him walking on skis at age three, hiking at age 5, backpacking at age seven, hunting at age 10, rock climbing and extreme skiing at age 11. The Green mountains of Vermont, White mountains of New Hampshire, and the Adirondack's of upstate New York were his four-season childhood play grounds. After graduating from MIT in 1978, the lure of the "real mountains" of the west drew Mat across the country to California.

Always enjoying work with his hands, and being outside in the wilderness, Mat found it stifling to go to work as a design engineer in Silicon Valley, pushing pencils day after day. So, he took breaks from engineering off-and-on for several years to be a carpenter, climb the vertical walls of Yosemite, and teach skiing and High School math. In the mid eighties, after lots of stress and lost hair, he bailed from designing disc drives in Silicon Valley to a ten-acre homestead in the foothills of the Sierras. Mat has built hurricane and earthquake resistant, energy efficient, environmentally friendly homes. He has also designed, among other things, consumer water filtration devices, solar PV roofing panels, medical bacteriological filters, emergency chemical drench systems, computer disk drives, and portable fiberglass buildings.

A thirty year interest in alternative healing got its start while Mat was still a freshman at MIT, after he witnessed the miraculous remote healing of a crippled friend (big shake up to his scientific "Billiard Ball Theory of the Universe" way of thinking). Over the years, this interest expanded to the use of herbs, homeopathy, and other alternatives to heal medical conditions that weren't responding to western style medicine.

Eventually he and his wife Josie wandered farther into the mountains to Truckee, where have their current home in the High Sierra Mountains of California (Truckee is where the Donner Party had their infamous barbecue about 150 years ago). About a decade back, they took a three year break from the deep Sierra snows to build energy efficient and environmentally friendly homes on Maui. The engineer, carpenter, and backwoodsman sides of Mat found peace, harmony, and synergy through renewable energy, green building, and self-reliance. Today, Mat owns and operates Stein Design and Construction, providing product design services, engineering analysis, and green building.

It was a true epiphany that started Mat firmly on the path of self-reliance, emergency prep, and sustainability. Around Thanksgiving of 1997, during his morning session of prayer and meditation, in answer to a simple request for "guidance and inspiration", Mat received a fully developed "story board" type of pictorial outline that popped into his head instantaneously. It was the outline for a massive handbook to help people be more self-reliant, live more sustainably, and prepare to weather the coming storms as we pass through this age of uncertainty and change. After three years of work, this "cosmic download" crystallized into his first book, When Technology Fails.

Mat still enjoys playing around in the vertical world of rock walls, though since suffering (and recovering from) a serious injury in a 50 foot ground fall (gravity sucks!) he no longer "pushes the envelope" quite like he used to. Wintertime finds Mat volunteering as a guide and cross country ski instructor for the blind with the Sierra Regional Ski for Light program.

For more information, see www.whentechfails.com and www.matstein.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a great book about preparing for short-term societal or environmental crises - how to conserve water when the water's not running (after a hurricane, say), how to stay warm and safe when the ice-storm of the century wipes out your natural gas and electricity, or an earthquake shakes your house down around your ears in the middle of the night.
The true beauty of this book is the wealth of information for longer-term "doing without," or slow erosion of a situation of plenty we now take for granted. Here is information on dealing with medical problems when no doctor is forthcoming, growing food organically and with your own saved seed, how you might store food over the winter with no refrigerator.
If we lost the luxury of the machines that run our world, would we find ourselves back in the stone age, having lost the knowledge handed down for generations beyond count of how to shelter, clothe, feed and doctor ourselves? These skills are all touched on in this book, with voluminous resource lists so that the reader can learn more about any of these subjects.
Technology, too, is given its due - renewable energy sources like solar and wind are discussed and the best water filters on the market.
Change is coming. That's apparent. If you're worried, wary - this is a good book, a jumping-off place to learn skills you may some day be very thankful for, or at least gather a library of relevant information against the day when it is needed. Survivalist paranoia not required.
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Format: Paperback
Matthew Stein has written a clear, concise book on the subject of survival that, while educating, also does what few others have managed to do - entertain and engage the reader.
Throughout the book you'll find personal stories accompanying the text to further illustrate or drive home a point. The use of these asides brings you into Matthew Stein's life, as he recounts personal stories of survival and tells the stories of others who have managed to overcome the odds to survive.
Not just a survival book, Matthew also covers topics like alternative therapies; how to create a survival mindset; survival strategies; renewable energy; companion gardening; prophecies etc. as well as all the regular topics found in such books - edible plants; first aid; making a survival kit; growing, hunting and foraging; making tools; creating shelters; spinning/weaving/tanning etc.
The book has some great illustrations that make plant identification and first aid that much easier to understand and each chapter finishes with a reference section listing books (along with a short review) and resources (with web addresses where available).
This book is supposed to have been 15 years in the making - and the time and effort taken by the author to research his topic really shows. When Technology Fails belongs in your survival library - as the publisher says, "it's a user-friendly manual for the 21st Century".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most of this book is very good. It is a good survey of many issues related to self-sufficiency. It has great references that make it easier to find the materials needed for a more in-depth understanding of most of the topics.
However, I had the feeling while reading the book was that it was written by Abby (Dharma's mother from Dharma & Greg). Great, pragmatic information is tainted with pseudo-science nonsense and newage garbage. Most of which is harmless, but some of it may be downright dangerous.
For example, there is a half page editorial on the moral issues of hunting followed some pages later by a long discussion of tanning. There is a story of how blessing water turned undrinkable swill into sweet healing water. There's enough folk and eastern medical advice to make your head swim.
If you believe everything you read, this probably isn't the book for you. However, if you can discern the likely from the silly, you might find this book useful.
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Format: Paperback
The content of this book is diverse and well researched. One of the strengths of this books is the vast amount of information it covers in an easily accessible way. It is like a tour through many alternatives to our traditional technological solutions. It gives you a view into such topics as low-tech healing, alternative shelters, power, heating, effective methods for growing food, tool making, and much, much more. If you need to know more about any particular topic you will find an abundance of references at the end of chapter.
The title "When Technology Fails" does not seem to fit the content well. The book does have a few sections on emergency preparation, procedures, and first-aid, but that is clearly not the heart of this book. It is also not an anti-technology book. It is full of technological solutions, however they are low-tech and earth friendly technologies. This book is much more about our future and how we can live using much more earth friendly and sustainable practices. Chapter 2, "Present Trends, Possible Futures," is a MUST read for everyone. Stein shows the reader, very clearly, how we can all still live in relative comfort AND dramatically reduce our impact on the environment.
The book is very well written with many examples and illustrations to highlight his teachings. Its is also a fun read, which is unusual for a "how to" manual. There are many beautiful and powerful quotes and several ideas that will challenge your thinking. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
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