The Further Adventures of a Guilty Liberal


Writing in yesterday's New York Times, Alexandra Jacobs reviews the new book No Impact Man, a companion volume to the documentary film of the same name, which follows New Yorker Colin Beavan and his family as they give up electricity, motorized vehicles, elevators, toilet paper, and other such horrors of the modern world. It's not exactly a flattering review, though Jacobs is obviously sympathetic to the book's politics, asserting that "Beavan's project is imbued with undeniable virtue."

For a more critical review, check out's Dan Hayes on the film version:

One expects to find a movie full of challenging moments and reflection about all the conveniences we take for granted in our modern world. But instead, the filmmakers focus on how people perceive the project and whether or not the Beavans should have a second child. The challenges they face, though, are minor and inconsequential: They have a fly infestation in their compost bin, Beavan has some internal questions when he first turns off the electricity, and Michelle decides that it's simply too hard to use a planter pot as a refrigerator. But for the most part, the difficulties created by their lifestyle changes are romanticized away.

NEXT: Are You Exercising Your "Collective Responsibility" for Journalism, Comrade?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Beavan’s project is imbued with undeniable virtue.”

    No it is not. The project at best is a complete waste of time. And at worst it is a net negative in that perpetuates the rediculous idea that man is somehow separeate from nature and capable of living outside of it.

    There is nothing noble about it all. Beavan is a fucking ignorant douschbag who ought to be shunning and laughed at at every opportunity.

    1. You’re not allowed to take issue with Jacobs’ example of virtue. Does she bother to define the word? She does not. It is stated as fact that Beavans is virtuous. To deny or question it exposes you as an ignorant hick, not worthy of the Times’ book review.

      1. But the article is about the 5th Avenue Hillbillies. How could you call John a hick in light of that?

        1. I didn’t, but his spelling…well…

    2. Amen. Since when did making your family wipe their asses with leaves, or whatever the fuck they are using become virtuous?

      Being a luddite does not make one a saint.

  2. The American tradition of puritanism lives on, now in secular garb….

  3. Why do some people find “Starnesville” an attractive living situation?

    1. Because why be sad that your parents are dead when you’ve got ice cream to eat?

  4. “Beavan’s project is imbued with undeniable virtue economic illiteracy.”


  5. There’s no shortage of scornful commentary to make on this, but… I’m struck by the fact he managed scored a rich chick who already owned a pad on 5th Avenue and then proceeded to live like a dirty hippy. This would all be more amusing if he didn’t subject the rest of the rest of his family to this crap, too.

    1. That is a really good point. The idea of living as “zero impact man” on fifth avenue is absurd. Honestly, it would have worked better as some kind of surrealist art project. The fact that people take this nut seriously is a really bad statement about our times.

      1. Not just absurd, but informative: who else would do this other than someone who can ‘afford’ to?

        And homeless people dont count!

  6. Y’know, I can’t help but think that somewhere, in whatever afterlife there is, our ancestors, who died of starvation or exposure to the elements or easily cured but fatal diseases, are looking down at us today and muttering “You ungrateful bastards”.

  7. “Beavan’s project is imbued with undeniable virtue pretension, as he is parasitically freeloading off the government-built infrastructure and the abundant products of free enterprise, all the while pretending he is ‘living off the grid.’ Without those things freely available to him, Beaven, and his family, would have been dead within a week.”


  8. For every kilowatt he doesn’t use, I’m using three.

  9. This douche is no different from the Colorado Balloon Dad.

    “It’s all about me! It’s all about me!!!”

    1. Except that this guy’s only causing inconvenience to his own wife and kids, not to dozens of emergency services personnel.


  10. I might have agreed with the undeniable virtue point, if this ungrateful NY hippie decided to take his family into the wilds of the Australian outback, and tried to scrape out an existence eating bugs and lizards, and living in a hut made of scraps of deadwood, and crapped in a hole. I am not even the slightest bit impressed with what is presented here.

    1. Exactly. There are people who really do drop out and live off the grid. Of couse many of them are self described moutain men who do icky things like hunt and fish. I think those people are a bit nuts. But, I have to admire the intelligence and bravery it takes to actually survive in the wilderness. Turning the power off to your 5th Avenue appartment, not so much. Like I said above, it would have worked as a surrealist art project but not as much else other than a exploration in douschdom.

      1. Turning the power off to your 5th Avenue appartment, not so much.

        For one thing, apartments enjoy thermal leakage from adjacent apartments.

        1. Yeah, I pretty much don’t run my heat in the winter, it’s so damn warm already. Unfortunately I have to pay as it’s included in the rent anyway. Sigh. Damn radiator heat.

    2. I took a shit in a hole once.

    3. He still gets his mail delivered, right?

      1. You can’t stop that. Especially in Manhattan, as Kramer discovered.

      2. Not only that… But he’s been busy leeching off of internet & electricity provided by nearby coffee shops and such while doing the blogs.

  11. The fact that he did this in NY city makes the whole project a complete joke, even without knowing what kind of twerp this guy is.

  12. For some people, ‘environmentalism’ has become such a religion, they have to self flagellate.

    1. I think that’s “self-fellate.” There’s a very fine distinction.

      1. Ha, I meant what I said, but I guess we’re seeing a little bit of both here.

    2. For some people, ‘environmentalism’ has become such a religion, they have to self flagellate.

      If the thieving hypocritical scumbag Al Gore is the Judas Iscariot of environmentalism, this guy is St. Augustine.

  13. I hope his kid grows up to be a lumber company executive.

  14. I guess cavemen also went about their lives “imbued with undeniable virtue” until they got an infected cut from a flint-knapping mishap and died.

  15. They have a fly infestation in their compost bin,

    ..and a maggot for a dad, but other than that, everything’s peachy.


  16. I guess cavemen also went about their lives “imbued with undeniable virtue” until they got an infected cut from a flint-knapping mishap and died.

    Or got eaten by a cave bear, or just starved to death, or so on. Technological advancement kicks ass.

    On the plus side, our Cro-Magnon ancestors only had a 1 in 12 chance of being raped to death by Steve Smith. In some national parks, i hear it’s now as high as 1 in 4.

  17. There is tremendous virtue in just dying like a caveman. There are a lot of people who I wish would be virtuous in this way.

  18. He did this in a 5th Ave apartment?!? Are you fucking kidding me? I do not have the words to express the idiocy displayed by this douchelord. It takes a lot to flabbergast me (just try!), but man, that does it.

    1. Apparently a a 5th Ave apartment paid for by his well to do wife (as noted above and in TFA).

      Apparently “undeniable virute” is expensive. Have you checked the price of a top of the line composting toilet lately.

      It’s funny, if these jerks think the poor have a hard time getting what they need to stay alive now, just wait till they have to live the way this jerk thinks they should.

      1. Obligatory Shatner link. on playing impoverished.

        And yes, it’s better than the Pulp original.

        1. Much, much better.

          1. Silly me. The Lego version is even better.

        2. I’m going to guess “Common People”? Brilliant.

  19. Go buy some CFL light bulbs and a Prius like every other yuppy, dbag. Or live in a box, like a lot of veterans. If this is virtuous, then everyone who can’t afford a 5th Ave apartment in the first place must look like mother Theresa. I kinda wish they’d fall off the grid.

  20. Hey, I say to each his own. I hope he feels the same way towards me if I want to smoke in bars, own a full arsenal of guns, or even (gasp!) eat foods containing trans-fats.

    1. I hope he feels the same way towards me…

      I wouldn’t count on that. Just a hunch.

  21. Every year we get a new surge of Chris McCandless wannabes up here. Nothing will bitch slap romantics into reality like Alaska. C’mon up, Beavan. I know where you can find a bus to call home.

    1. Damn right man… I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Alaska just in the Spring & Fall and there’s nothing but several million dollars and a job next to a furnace that could get me to move to Anchorage.

  22. This is obviously a hoax to drum up support for a reality show.

  23. funny that every commenter here mocks the individual choice to conserve energy. bet if he decided to go galt you’d all be singing his praises.

    1. Welcome to H&R. You must be new here.

      If you crank up the ol’ comprehendo’meter, you will easily see that we are mocking the farce that this man’s plan is, not his motives. If I can have a net positive cash flow and not a significant impact on my standard of living by “saving” energy (Newton!), that’s fine by me.

      It’s easy to go native when you’re standing on the backs of a few million other people propping your silly experiment in 19th century living.

      I wonder why people abanodoned that way of life and instead embraced technology to aid them in their daily lives?

  24. I find it so strange all of the hatred that comes up over this guy.

    True he lives in NYC, true there’s no such thing as having no impact, and the title is mis-leading. But this guy is making an individual choice to conserve energy and reduce waste.

    He’s not preaching that anyone should be like him, or do what he does. He;s not asking for government subsidies, or rejecting modern society.

    I wonder where all the anger is coming from. What are you threatened by?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.