Monday, February 25, 2008

"Earth: The Sequel," a positive view of the environmental future

“Earth: The Sequel,” a new book coming out in March 2008 from Environmental Defense Fund, provides one of the most hopeful views yet of the possible future of the planet.

And while Hawai'i isn't specifically in the book, most of the technologies it reviews have Hawaiian analogues.

Its subtitle is “The race to reinvent energy and stop global warning,” and unlike virtually every other environmental book you will read, it is unfailingly positive in its outlook.

The message: human ingenuity and technology can save us, if only we let them.

“Earth: The Sequel,” written by Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp and Miriam Horn, is at its core is a compilation of the some of the most forward-looking energy initiatives that are either under design or being built.

Scientists modifying microorganisms to make fuels that can be used in existing cars—does this sound like the recently announced program to make biofuels out of algae on the Big Island? .

Wave energy technologies—nothing new to Hawaii, which has one in place already off O'ahu and a different one scheduled to be installed off Maui.

There's the Alaskan inventor using subterranean heat to keep his ice hotel frozen in summer—a technology that won't be new to those familiar with the geothermal plant on the Big Island.

But the book goes beyond technologies familiar to the Islands as well, to new battery systems, improved and cheaper photovoltaics, kite wind systems, carbon sequestration research and much more.

The book's message is that the great inventors and their great ideas are out there. All they need is a fair playing field. As long as tax subsidies and government policies favor petroleum and coal, inventiveness will be inhibited and climate change will roll over us.

It is, authors Krupp and Horn say, a “near certainty that unless the United States acts as a nation to give these innovators the chance to compete fairly in the worlds biggest business, they will fail to avert the crisis in time.”

Their proposal is to recognize the cost of carbon emissions.

“Policymakers are only just beginning to confront the huge hidden subsidy for fossil fuels: that no financial account is taken of the use of the atmosphere as a dumping ground for the pollutants that cause global warming,” they write.

Read more about the book at

© 2007 Jan W. TenBruggencate