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Whole Earth Catalogues - good advice from the 70s


I suppose its true that there is nothing new under the sun, but now I have proof. Its in the form of a series of large books, A2 size actually, called Whole Earth Catalogues. My parents gave them to me recently to show me that they were once “hippies” too, back in the 70s. I am now the proud owner of “The last Whole Earth Catalog” (from the US) and the first and third editions of the New Zealand version “The New Zealand Whole Earth Catalogue”. The US catalogues were designed to list all sorts of products for sale (clothing, books, tools, machines, seeds – things useful for a creative or self-sustainable lifestyle). They were not sold by the catalogue and the information wasn’t advertising, more just a list of things that might be useful to other people, with the suppliers listed. It was a source of information for people wanted to live differently, pre-internet connections. The NZ catalogues are a little different again, with more articles and cartoons, containing information about self-sufficiency and social issues, and fewer “products” described.



I haven’t read all of them in detail yet, but having flicked through and read a few articles from each, I was amazed at the content and how similar it is to all the blogs that I’m reading today. The issues that were discussed include, growing veges, making beer, butchering meat, as well as social issues like recycling/reusing resources, and protesting against big industry and manufacturers, even articles about starting your own printing press (the equivalent to a blog these days?). Reading these catalogues - the language, the illustrations and the subject-matter - really gave me an insight into life in the 70s, it seemed to be a time of hope for these “hippies” that their alternative life-style might one day become mainstream and that they might be able to change the world.

Then I started to think how sad it was that we’ve clearly made no progress in the last 40 years! If these issues were recognised in the 70s and written about then, why are we still working on the same things now? In fact, things seem to have gotten worse, industries are bigger and have more control over our lives, resources are wasted to an even greater extent, and society is even more disconnected from food production that ever.

While looking for more information on the books, I found a few for sale on the net, one was only $25! Considering that they were $10 when new, they should be worth up to $100 now. If you’re interested, have a look for them. I can’t find an Australian equivalent, but maybe Grass Roots has been around for so long, there was no need, can someone who was around at the time confirm that for me please?

I'll write more about the articles in these catalogues as I get time to read more, I think there's some great old ideas in them that we could benefit from revisiting now.......

Comments

  1. Things were going great in the 70s and then cheap petrol or gas as the Americans say came around and the western world went crazy indulging in everything cheap petroleum could provide. Nothing cheap to fall back on in the future. Enjoying your blog and have subscribed. I'm an ex Brisbanite living in Tasmania now. Still in the burbs but growing and changing and teaching the kids along the way.

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