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How to Think About Environmental Issues

I recently read Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air.  When I saw this book, I knew I found a gold-mine.  The author attempts to determine the viability of renewable energy by calculating and comparing possible production with current consumption.  The book centers on the U.K., but is easy to extend worldwide.

The approach is empirical, well researched, yet accessible enough.  In the process, the book becomes a reference for approaching energy issues.  The numbers and calculations alone are invaluable – too many great discussions reach stalemates because finding and synthesithing the data is so hard.

The book is a great example of how to think about complex issues.  Save for a few paragraphs of personal opinion, everything in the book comes down to numbers.  Actual numbers, not “huge” or “large” or “tiny”.  Instead of saying, “electric cars and biodiesel will save us” the author calculates energy impact and then determines the magnitude of savings (or loses).

Taking a comprehensive and rational look at things is so much harder than simply rallying behind a cause or simply saying ‘no’.  Even getting the numbers is hard, much less making sense of them.  Yet simple approaches are much more appealing and sadly much more influential in driving our decisions.

This book is a reference manual for numbers and processes, a guide to solving environmental issues, and an example of how to properly think about complex issues.  In the end, it makes discussing environmental and energy issues much simpler.  I hope people will actually use it.  The author does too – the electronic version of the book is available for FREE.

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