by Paul and Sarah Edwards
(Thomas Nelson; 2008; 576 pages)

Almost everyone we talked to was working harder and feeling stressed about how to find a better balance between personal desires and daily economic pressures.
– Paul and Sarah Edwards

The timing on this book is perfect.  Just when more and more Americans are barely hanging onto their fragile middle-class lifestyles and beginning to realize that (oops!) the economy is slipping into chaos, best-selling authors Paul and Sarah Edwards offer a lifeline in the form of an affordable and reader-friendly guidebook to our collective future. Ecotherapists may want to recommend this book to clients who are searching for a path out of a way of life that is no longer working for them.

The Edwards understand the post-carbon economic era we’ve entered. They have looked unflinchingly at the pricetag for the middle class of the global economy and the three-trillion-dollar, endless war.  But they don’t just bemoan the situation; they offer up a menu of options: alternative careers and lifestyle choices that could help readers stay afloat whether the economy is up or down.

The careers are presented in a balanced way, with pros and cons.  Some may not sound glamorous, but they’re put forward as sustainable and realistic ways of making a dependable living suitable for the new economic realities. A few examples: basic local (non-outsourceable) services like small-town newspaper publishing, personal paralegal services, non-toxic pest control, massage, bodywork and hauling/recycling; “nichable” virtual careers like editorial services, grant writing, private investigation, building performance auditing and virtual administration; alternative energy installing, elder services, small manufacturing, green burials, architectural salvage and microfarming.

The authors also explore quality of life issues in our rapidly changing world.  They favor downshifting, simple living, clearing out clutter, nature-connection, eliminating excess “stuff” and escaping from consumerism.  They weigh the pros and cons of moving to a small city or town, a rural area or even another country.  Tips are offered on how to get room and board in inviting locales, live in campers or on boats or become an “urban Thoreau.”  More options: living off the grid, powering down, cohousing, and cashless economies.

The Edwards’ goal is to help readers prepare effectively to ride “the waves of a sea change.” More like a tsunami, it seems to me!  Their book is designed to assist middle-class folk in meeting the multiple challenges “as we transition (away) from a job-based corporate economy…”  They warn us that “The way things have been done begins to crumble in the wake of a sea change, but the new structures and economic safeguards for how things will be are not in place yet.”

This book is a practical guide to get us safely through that treacherous gap.

Linda Buzzell