Energy Literacy, Part I: Green Power's Dark Side and Eco Ruin Porn

GW_windfarmDown on the wind farm. Photo: George Wuerthner

Every therm and watt of energy we consume comes from somewhere, and those sources are finite, even if they're generally well removed from our daily lives. Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth is a new coffee table book by the Post Carbon Institute and the Foundation for Deep Ecology that shows and tells us, in graphic detail, the backstories that make up our current energy economy.

Adventure Ethics spoke with the book's co-editor, Tom Butler, about the value of beauty, the potential of energy ruin porn, the population problem, and the importance of energy literacy. In Part II of this series, we'll offer an excerpt from the book.

ENERGY_cover

How did this large format art book come about?
The germination was in an earlier project that the Foundation for Deep Ecology's publishing group had produced and that was about mountaintop removal coal mining, called Plundering Appalachia, which George [Wuerthner] and I co-edited. We had immersed ourselves in that particular and specific part of energy economy, this horrific act of blowing up mountaintops to get at coal in the most ancient mountains and biologically rich forest type in North America. So that book we produced with a coalition of environmental groups that are fighting that practice. After that, we started talking about a similar project about tar sands.

George was up there in the tar sands, taking aerial photos and researching that problem, and when we started talking about it we realized it's just another very small part of an energy economy that is fundamentally toxic to nature and to people. It diminishes biological diversity, it diminishes beauty. Pulling out a single narrow slice of the bigger subject, by just talking about tar sands, didn't make sense to us. So we decided to open it up and try to do a project that makes the invisible visible to people—and that is, the systemic impacts of the current energy economy. Let's explore what is behind the light switch when you flip it on, what's behind the gas pump when you fuel up, and make it visible to people in an art book—a large photo format book.

If people are going to be engaged in reorienting our currently toxic energy economy and transferring to an energy economy that is more friendly to nature, to people, to beauty, to human health, biodiversity and all these things we care about ... [that] is only going to be possible if people are thinking about it and understand these key principals of energy. So energy literacy is really the focus of the project. The introductory section on energy literacy we spent quite a bit of time on. We want it to be very accessible and very easily understood because we think it's so important for people to understand net energy, and embodied energy, and how energy props up the entire scaffolding of civilization and in the converse how the entire scaffolding of civilization is required to produce the energy that supports it, so it's sort of a feedback loop.

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