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Book & Film Reviews

The Simple Life by Rhonda Hetzel (2014, Penguin)

Review By Paul Goodsell


Part memoir, part manifesto, The Simple Life arose from Hetzel’s passion for sharing and storytelling. Central to her simple life is the role of the home, and how it can have a profound effect on the way we view the world outside it: spending more time at home – cooking, cleaning, growing produce, knitting, mending, creating – made her ‘kinder, calmer, and more patient’. No longer did she need the money-sapping thrills of outside of the home – such as shops and cafés – to feel happy. She realised that happiness can exist in the simple things, and that producing is much more rewarding than consuming. And that the home should not be relegated to the status of ‘that place you spend time in at the beginning and end of the day’.

The Simple Life is Hetzel’s second book, following on from the inspiring Down to Earth (2012, Penguin), a manual for simple living, for which she has a blog of the same name. If there is one useful and timely nugget to take out of this book it’s that by simplifying one’s life – avoiding the temptations of spending money as a hobby – and viewing the home as a centre for creation, new pleasures will arise and you’ll save money.

Getting Our Act Together: How To Harness the Power of Groups by Glen Ochre (2013, Groupwork Press)

Review by Richard Telford


This is a useful resource for anyone interested in working effectively with groups, or honing their own facilitation skills; it could make working with others a fun and enlightening experience.

Glen Ochre was a respected facilitator and educator who died earlier this year. In Getting Our Act Together Ochre shared her life’s passion for collaboration, and skills that she honed at Commonground, the intentional community and social change venue that she co-founded in 1984.

Identifying the need to work on ourselves before we can become effective collaborators, Ochre developed the ‘community of selves’ model as a way to understand our own actions and reactions. An extensive array of micro-skills provides the communication tools for engaging with others. With that foundation, she outlines how to form a group, from making agreements in the beginning, to planning and facilitation, and on to running meetings that finish on time. With the acknowledgment that trouble will strike, there are tips on minimising and dealing with conflict, as well as taking care of ourselves so that we don’t burn out.

Voices of Transition, a documentary film by Nils Aguilar (2012, Milpa Films)

Review by Robyn Rosenfeldt


This inspiring documentary looks at ways in which we can work towards a future that is less dependent on oil. The film takes you on a journey from France to Cuba, and then to the UK.

France is a leader in agroforestry research, and is moving towards a more diverse farming model that builds soil rather than degrades it. In Cuba, out of necessity, urban farming has become the means of supplying the people with food, without the use of chemicals. In the UK, Rob Hopkins has begun the Transition movement in the town of Totnes, and community-led initiatives are building a more skilled, more resilient community. If we are going to survive an energy descent future we need to learn the skills, and build the communities, that will enable us to live without the convenience of oil.

This film will inspire you to join the movement towards a more sustainable future.


Herbert Peabody and His Extraordinary Vegetable Patch by Bianca C. Ross (2014, Farinet Pty Ltd)

Review by Ruby Woodger Rosenfeldt, aged seven


This is a story about a skin-coloured pea-shaped person, and his niece and nephew – Clementine and Digby – who come to stay. They just want to sit around, and play on the phone and watch TV, but Herbert wants to teach them about gardening. In the end he teaches them – and the whole school – about gardening, and they save the bakery in town. I liked it because they didn’t just stay on the phone and TV, they learnt about gardening and how things grew.


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