Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream

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Overview


Why would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot cabin without running water or electricity? To find out, writer and activist William Powers visited Dr. Jackie Benton in rural North Carolina. No Name Creek gurgled through Benton’s permaculture farm, and she stroked honeybees’ wings as she shared her wildcrafter philosophy of living on a planet in crisis. Powers, just back from a decade of international aid work, then accepted Benton’s offer to stay at the cabin for a ...
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Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin off the Grid & Beyond The American Dream

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Overview


Why would a successful American physician choose to live in a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot cabin without running water or electricity? To find out, writer and activist William Powers visited Dr. Jackie Benton in rural North Carolina. No Name Creek gurgled through Benton’s permaculture farm, and she stroked honeybees’ wings as she shared her wildcrafter philosophy of living on a planet in crisis. Powers, just back from a decade of international aid work, then accepted Benton’s offer to stay at the cabin for a season while she traveled. There, he befriended her eclectic neighbors — organic farmers, biofuel brewers, eco-developers — and discovered a sustainable but imperiled way of life.

In these pages, Powers not only explores this small patch of community but draws on his international experiences with other pockets of resistance. This engrossing tale of Powers’s struggle for a meaningful life with a smaller footprint proposes a paradigm shift to an elusive “Soft World” with clues to personal happiness and global healing.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Powers (Blue Clay People) refers to “wildcrafters,” people who shape their inner and outer worlds to the flow of nature, as heroes. Among these wildcrafters is Dr. Jackie Benton, a physician who lives in a 12'×12' dwelling in the midst of 30 acres on No Name Creek in rural North Carolina. Benton lives a sustainable life off the grid by raising honeybees, growing her own vegetables and preserving them, and harvesting what she might need from the woods around her. As Powers points out, Benton seems to have achieved self-mastery in these confusing times, and his initial meeting with her is a search for clues to this self-mastery. After the two meet, Benton's sobering and often hilarious (taking showers in rain water warmed by the sun, learning that in order to eat chicken for dinner, he himself would have to kill a chicken given to him by his neighbors) narrative of his life in the 12'×12' offers precious insights into the ways that all individuals living in a fast-paced consumer culture might incorporate different ways of thinking about the natural world into their lives. (May)
From the Publisher

“A penetrating account of what it’s like to move to the margins in our particular time and place. It will make you think, hard.”
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and founder of 350.org

“An honest, courageous, and authentic tale of one gifted writer’s attempt to find balance in a world in crisis. Reading this deeply human book has helped me to find a more genuine peace in the midst of the craziness.”
John Robbins, author of The New Good Life and Diet for a New America

“In this quiet, startling adventure, William Powers brings two worlds into focus simultaneously. He helps us see with fresh eyes the stultifying ugliness, homogeneity, and bankruptcy of a growth-addicted culture. And, at the same time, he helps us rediscover the beauty and liberation that radical simplicity can bring. In his engaging company, we look into the lives of sly, unobtrusive heroes who are building the new in the shell of the old.”
Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

“How much is enough? And what is really important? These are questions that William Powers runs into again and again in his time off the grid in the U.S. and overseas, but his humble and contemplative memoir handles them with freshness and honesty, recognizing that sometimes asking the questions is more important than finding the ‘right’ answers.”
Lester R. Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

“A true story of rediscovery of and reconnection with fundamental truths and values. Enchanting and heartwarming, Twelve by Twelve is a modern-day Walden.”
Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

“Powers combines environmental writing in the vein of Thoreau with Zen, economics, warrior presence, and even a touch of dramas of the heart to present a holistic view of contemporary deliberate living. Readers interested in a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle will enjoy the flowing prose and concrete thoughts as they reflect on their own American dream.”
Library Journal

“For anyone who has considered that there must be an alternative to our busy, speedy, hungry, consuming world, this book shows us the way. William Powers’s deeply personal journey reminds us that a return to basics and a simple life may help us to rediscover ourselves, our communities, and the natural world we live in.”
Michael Ableman, farmer and author of Fields of Plenty

“Powers speaks with the authority of one who has seen the ramifications of the flattening world....Students of environmental and globalization ethics will be just as interested in Mr. Powers’ journey as the activist or layperson exploring how to motivate self and the world to move towards sustainability.”
ForeWord

From the Publisher
“A penetrating account of what it’s like to move to the margins in our particular time and place. It will make you think, hard.”
Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy and founder of 350.org

“An honest, courageous, and authentic tale of one gifted writer’s attempt to find balance in a world in crisis. Reading this deeply human book has helped me to find a more genuine peace in the midst of the craziness.”
John Robbins, author of The New Good Life and Diet for a New America

“In this quiet, startling adventure, William Powers brings two worlds into focus simultaneously. He helps us see with fresh eyes the stultifying ugliness, homogeneity, and bankruptcy of a growth-addicted culture. And, at the same time, he helps us rediscover the beauty and liberation that radical simplicity can bring. In his engaging company, we look into the lives of sly, unobtrusive heroes who are building the new in the shell of the old.”
Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

“How much is enough? And what is really important? These are questions that William Powers runs into again and again in his time off the grid in the U.S. and overseas, but his humble and contemplative memoir handles them with freshness and honesty, recognizing that sometimes asking the questions is more important than finding the ‘right’ answers.”
Lester R. Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization

“A true story of rediscovery of and reconnection with fundamental truths and values. Enchanting and heartwarming, Twelve by Twelve is a modern-day Walden.”
Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, president of the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment

“Powers combines environmental writing in the vein of Thoreau with Zen, economics, warrior presence, and even a touch of dramas of the heart to present a holistic view of contemporary deliberate living. Readers interested in a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle will enjoy the flowing prose and concrete thoughts as they reflect on their own American dream.”
Library Journal

“For anyone who has considered that there must be an alternative to our busy, speedy, hungry, consuming world, this book shows us the way. William Powers’s deeply personal journey reminds us that a return to basics and a simple life may help us to rediscover ourselves, our communities, and the natural world we live in.”
Michael Ableman, farmer and author of Fields of Plenty

“Powers speaks with the authority of one who has seen the ramifications of the flattening world....Students of environmental and globalization ethics will be just as interested in Mr. Powers’ journey as the activist or layperson exploring how to motivate self and the world to move towards sustainability.”
ForeWord

Library Journal
The American dream has entered a period of potential transformation brought about by the economic crisis. What was once the assumed goal—nice house, fancy (gas-guzzling) car, pantry overflowing with packaged food—has been shaken by Americans who now wonder, "Do I really need all this?" In this modern-day Walden, Powers (Blue Clay People: Seasons on Africa's Fragile Edge) enters his own cabin in the North Carolina woods to live deliberately. Residing in a 12' × 12' shed without electricity or running water, Powers spends a spring reflecting on idleness, development, land use, and his own work in developing countries. Throughout this process, Powers narrates his path from repulsion to acceptance of a life with a small footprint. VERDICT Powers combines environmental writing in the vein of Thoreau with Zen, economics, warrior presence, and even a touch of dramas of the heart to present a holistic view of contemporary deliberate living. Readers interested in a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle will enjoy the flowing prose and concrete thoughts as they reflect on their own American dream.—Jaime Hammond, Naugatuck Valley Community Coll. Lib., Waterbury, CT
Nora Krug
[Powers's] account of this experience offers an enlightening and eloquent (if at times pious) look at the challenges of living off the grid.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577318972
  • Publisher: New World Library
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 657,906
  • Product dimensions: 8.56 (w) x 5.66 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author


For over a decade William Powers has led development aid and conservation initiatives in Latin America, Africa, and Washington, DC. He is the author of two critically acclaimed memoirs about his time in Africa and South America, Blue Clay People and Whispering in the Giant’s Ear. His writings on global issues have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Sun. A popular speaker and senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, he lives part-time in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2014

    Author William Powers leaves the macrocosm of international deve

    Author William Powers leaves the macrocosm of international development to examine the implications of living in a the 12' by 12' house of an environmental activist, off the grid. Ultimately it comes to mean more than all his development work. Elegantly written, and broad in scope. What a great read.

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