I found a free Whole Earth catalog

I found a free Whole Earth catalog

I made a great find this week on the free table outside Daedalus Bookshop (the table itself being a great example of local recycling): my very own copy of the Whole Earth Catalog!

I’ve never had one of these in the house, though I’ve browsed them once or twice. You may know that the catalog first came out in 1968, the brainchild of Stewart Brand; this one was published in 1994 (using PageMaker 5.0, according to the afterword!). It’s a large, heavy object.

And it’s stuffed with info and images. One could order a book about biodiversity, squint at a map of the Northern Rockies bioregion, view an image of a fractal, read about women’s health, or bone up on the seven deadly delusions according to Dolores LaChapelle. ("The false dichotomy of spirit vs. nature" is number two). It’s a wild panoply of books, videos, and places to look stuff up, all geared toward the kind of person who most likely wouldn’t mind being called a treehugger. Straw bale construction! Amnesty International! Sustainable forestry! (And also, starting a business, martial arts, virtual reality, and sex.)

I like the rigor of what the Whole Earth catalog represents, even if this particular version is outdated. I like that it suggests that environmentalists—that is, those who value the planet and recognize their own responsibility as stewards—are serious, hardworking types who crave information and are as likely to do as to talk.

And there are some great books on offer, too. If they’re not still available through the current WEC, I might keep my eye on the Daedalus table and see if they turn up.

Anyone else keep this tome around? What have you learned from it?

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