Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, May 9, 2002

Matthew Stein shares a few words of caution about planetary and human survival.

Stein’s language

A celebrated prophet of low-tech
self-reliance and renewable energy
finds sanctuary on Maui

By Gary C.W. Chun

Engineer Matthew Stein denies that he is a survivalist, but, instead, a practical, down-to-earth realist.

The Haiku, Maui, resident, who has made a name for himself with his independently published book "When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival," moved from California with his environmentally friendly business EarthWorks International Design & Construction.

"I don't feel great making money off of the misery in the world, but I was guided to this for a reason," he said.

Stein said by phone from Maui on Tuesday that he just registered a new name for that business, now called Aloha Aina Builders. His firm uses innovative building methods and materials with low toxicity compared with the commonly used copper-arsenic treated lumber that, while termite resistant, is carcinogenic.

But it's the manual that has made Stein's reputation as a "cautionary planner." The seed for the book came to him after a meditation period just before Thanksgiving, 1997. In his foreword, Stein writes "(the) book is about our future. On the one hand, it is about preparing for possible future instabilities and failures in technology and the central services that we have come to rely on for our daily sustenance and commerce.

"On the other hand, it is about awakening to the fact that we are all occupants of a fragile planetary ecosystem that is showing severe signs of strain from expanding global population and the business-as-usual ideal of continuously increasing consumption."

"It was like a huge download from above," Stein remembers. "An inner voice told me that nobody knows all of this that needs to be done in such an event. While survivalists tend to be more narrow in focus, my book is broader in scope. And remember, the idea for the book came at a time when there was no concern over Y2K, dot-com businesses were booming and things in Israel were relatively quiet."

Since the book's publication in late 2000 by Clear Light Publishers in Santa Fe, N.M., it has gone on to make the Quality Paperback and Book-of-the-Month clubs, with additional distribution through

Stein is happy that he's poised for these global changes from the sanctuary of Haiku.

"Hawaii is such a special place, and I'm glad I made the transition from living on the mainland to here. When I visited here last November, I felt such a drastic difference here compared to the mainland. I saw a factor of 10-to-1 less American flags on cars, which I took as less of a fear factor than not being patriotic. Even though disruptions elsewhere will affect the local economy, such as an Arab oil embargo that results in increased costs for fuel, and the degradation of the global economy, there is still a positive side for living here. Because of the geographical isolation, Hawaii will still appeal to others as a true getaway."

ALONG WITH references to earth-friendly building, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture and emergency preparedness and survival in case of a short- or long-term disruption, in the area of health, Stein offers a solution to the bout of flesh-eating bacteria that came up recently on Maui.

Drinking colloidal silver solutions is the answer he offers. "Silver-based medicine has been with us for thousands of years. The conqueror Alexander the Great kept water in silver urns so his men wouldn't get sick. Through the 1800s and 1900s, silver was the basis for most patent medicines, until modern medicine and antibiotics put it out of common use. But still, those who suffer third-degree burns are kept alive with silver-based ointments that have proven the best to prevent infection.

"The downside to further research in the use of colloidal silver is that there is no money to be made and it can't be patented. The FDA has come down on doing exhaustive studies. But a medical researcher, Robert O. Becker, M.D., who was a surgeon in the '40s, wrote a book called 'The Body Electric,' and found through his thorough research that electrically charged silver ions are effective against 600-plus kinds of bacteria."

Stein said that such colloidal silver interferes with the bacteria's ability to take in oxygen. "I strongly suggest that people get their own (colloidal silver) generator. Even though you can buy colloidal silver in health food stores, it costs $10 for 2 ounces worth, and we're talking about consuming a quart a day.

"Instead, you can make your own colloidal silver for pennies a day, and also it's more effective because it maintains its electric charge and doesn't fade because of a long shelf life.

"I speak from personal experience, as my wife suffered from urinary infections two years ago. Regular drug prescriptions weren't working, even though she upgraded to the biggest gun of the antibiotics, Cipro (used to battle anthrax).

"After $600 worth of doctor visits and prescriptions, we decided to try a homemade colloidal silver treatment combined with grapefruit seed extract as a backup. At that point we didn't care if the doctor didn't believe in what we were doing. But within two weeks' time her infection was gone."

STEIN'S RELOCATION to Hawaii, he believes, is the right move for him and his Dutch-Indonesian wife. "I used to live on Oahu in the '80s, but I always felt an inner pull to return to Hawaii. This is where we wanted to be in light of coming changes, even though I don't believe, like I said before, that anywhere will be unaffected.

"The writing's on the wall: Developing technology and its supporting infrastructure is slowing, and half of the world's oil has been consumed over the last 40 years because of an exponential growth rate in population. Alternate energies like wind, solar and the hydrogen-based fuel cell technology are on the verge of being cost-effective, even though a wide-based economy is still a ways off.

"Do I believe we can change the world? I believe we can if we wake up to the fact that we have to make a sustainable future No. 1 on our priority list. We have the technology, the tools and the awareness to do it. The question is, Are we going to choose it, or will our generation let apathy and business as usual take the planet down?"

A sure sign


Author Matthew Stein will sign copies of his book "When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival" and speak on the topics of "Living More Sustainably in the World" and "Emergency Preparedness for Peace of Mind" at the following locations. Admission is free:

Today: At Borders Books in Kahului, Maui, 7 p.m.
Saturday: At Barnes & Noble in Kahala Mall, 1 p.m.
Sunday: At Border Books in Ward Centre, noon; and at Borders Books in Waikele, 4 p.m.

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