A candid chronicle of letting go of and living without the seemingly ubiquitous technological connections of modern society.
For more than a decade, Boyle (Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi, 2015, etc.), aka the Moneyless Man, has been disconnecting from the virtual world of money and banks. At the end of 2016, he took the next step, abandoning “industrial-scale, complex technologies”—i.e., anything dependent on or derived from fossil-fuels (cars, plastics, etc.), powered by electricity (water pump, refrigerator, TV, etc.), that facilitates seamless connections (internet, phone, laptop, etc.), or that requires any of the above (solar panels, windmills, etc.). In his latest book, the author takes readers along on his experiences during his first year, from one winter solstice to the next, living in a cabin he and his partner built by hand on three acres in rural Ireland. “To me,” he writes, “the most beautiful place on earth is this unsophisticated half-wild three acre smallholding in the middle of somewhere unimportant.” What Boyle’s writing lacks in comparison to Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentalism or Aldo Leopold’s lyricism is made up for by his consistently earnest self-reflection. A visit to Ireland’s Great Blasket Island, evacuated in 1953 and now a global tourist attraction, revealed to Boyle that nature was recovering and doing better without permanent residents than if it were still tended by the 19th-century hand-plow or axe. For the author, the main question is whether nature is better off with us living in it hand-to-mouth like our tech-free ancestors or apart from it in our urban cocoons. Unfortunately, neither is sustainable with our current population of more than 7 billion, an inconvenient truth that the author refers to only obliquely.
There’s not enough space on Earth for everyone to move off the grid and back to the land, but Boyle’s pleasant book allows us to at least imagine the dream.