Academic, Culture & Community

EarthxReads: Energy & Renewables

Here are five books about our world’s energy crisis and some alternative and renewable sources and solutions:

Buying Time: Environmental Collapse and the Future of Energy by Kaz Makabe

“We know, from repeated failures to predict and prevent catastrophes ranging from the Great Tohoku Earthquake to the global financial crisis of 2008, that complex adaptive systems, such as those found in nature or in economies, are actually very hard to predict, much less alter. Today, we face environmental degradation caused in large part by the use of fossil fuels, ever-declining efficiencies in extracting them, a pace of development for renewable energy insufficient for replacement of the fossil fuels we are burning through, and population growth that is likely to add two billion people globally by 2040. Despite partial recovery since the financial crisis of 2008, growth remains sluggish, and large budget deficits persist across much of the developed world. Meanwhile, developing states face their own challenges, stemming from unbalanced growth. Against this backdrop, and in light of the urgent need to pay closer heed to our environment, the last thing the world needs is an energy crisis triggered not merely by recurrent scares over supply but by more lasting structural changes in fossil fuel supplies. Buying Time applies lessons learned the hard way from the global economic crisis of the past decade, to offer an overview of the state of the environment and our energy future.”


The Grid by Gretchen Bakke

“America’s electrical grid, an engineering triumph of the twentieth century, is turning out to be a poor fit for the present. It’s not just that the grid has grown old and is now in dire need of basic repair. Today, as we invest great hope in new energy sources–solar, wind, and other alternatives–the grid is what stands most firmly in the way of a brighter energy future. If we hope to realize this future, we need to reimagine the grid according to twenty-first-century values. It’s a project which forces visionaries to work with bureaucrats, legislators with storm-flattened communities, moneymen with hippies, and the left with the right. And though it might not yet be obvious, this revolution is already well under way. Cultural anthropologist Gretchen Bakke unveils the many facets of America’s energy infrastructure, its most dynamic moments and its most stable ones, and its essential role in personal and national life. The Grid tells–entertainingly, perceptively–the story of what has been called “the largest machine in the world”: its fascinating history, its problematic present, and its potential role in a brighter, cleaner future.”


Sun Power by Neville Williams

“America is on the brink of a green energy revolution that can save the planet and increase peace and prosperity by harnessing the unlimited solar power. After decades of promise, the technology for alternative energy solutions now exists to replace our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels with cheap, clean solar energy. If millions of poor families in the Third World can get their power from the sun, why can’t Americans concerned with their rising power bills, dependence on foreign oil, and carbon footprints do the same? The answer is that sun power is here, it works, and can light up a new era of economic and environmental security―if we have the will to seize this historic opportunity. This book is not about predictions or promises. It’s about what’s happening now, all over the world, and what still needs to done.”


Renewable by Jeremy Shere

“Where does the energy we use come from? It’s absolutely vital to every single thing we do every day, but for most people, it is utterly invisible. Flick a switch and the lights go on. It might as well be magic. Science writer Jeremy Shere shows us in Renewable: The World-Changing Power of Alternative Energy that energy is anything but magical. Producing it in fossil fuel form is a dirty, expensive―but also hugely profitable― enterprise, with enormous but largely hidden costs to the entire planet. The cold, hard fact is that at some point we will have wrung the planet dry of easily accessible sources of fossil fuel. And when that time comes, humankind will have no choice but to turn―or, more accurately, return―to other, cleaner, renewable energy sources. Arranged in five parts―Green Gas, Sun, Wind, Earth, and Water―Renewable tells the stories of the most interesting and promising types of renewable energy. We are at an important crossroads in the history of renewable technologies. The possibilities are endless and enticing, and it has become increasingly clear that renewable energy is the way of the future. In Renewable, Jeremy Shere’s natural curiosity and serious research come together in an entertaining and informative guide to where renewable energy has been, where it is today, and where it’s heading.”


Winning our Energy Independence by S. David Freeman

“War. Terrorism. Global Warming. Leaking nuclear waste dumps. High oil prices. We are facing an international energy crisis of unprecedented proportion. The foreign policy of the United States is uncomfortably associated with our dependency on foreign oil. Carbon-based fuels are creating a greenhouse effect that is wreaking havoc around the world. Nuclear power is not only dangerous, but it is also not an economically feasible solution. The earth needs an answer and it needs one fast—and it lies in renewable resources. Solar and wind power, ethanol and other biofuels, geothermal energy, hydrogen, and other renewable resources will preserve life as we know it. Long-time energy insider S. David Freeman challenges the United States and the world to create a high-energy global civilization where each nation has its own homegrown, carbon-free renewable source of energy. It is not a hope or a dream. Freeman explains how the combined action and voice of ordinary people can make a difference and can save the world from destruction.”