Book Review: The Infinite Resource

3/19/2013 11:47:40 AM

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“Our challenge isn’t that we’re running out of energy. It’s that we’re tapped into the wrong source—the small, finite one that we’re depleting,” writes computer scientist, Ramez Naam in his book The Infinite Resource, a refreshingly thorough roadmap of solutions to our energy and climate crisis.

“We live on a planet that is a mostly closed system for raw materials… But the earth is not a closed system for energy. We have a huge and continual influx of energy,” Naam explains. At the current rate, the world uses seventeen terawatts of power a day; the sun strikes the earth with as much power in only nine seconds.

While media saturates us with the doom and gloom of our unsustainable raw material-powered society, Naam is geared toward the action phase, outlining a solid, supercharged course. The Infinite Resource comprehensively offers the facts of our crisis, emphasizes its criticality, and moves along toward crafty innovation ideas, encouraging the employment of our most powerful resource: our minds. “We can, as it turns out, make choices about the structure of our societies that affect the pace of innovation,” he writes, citing examples throughout human history of overcoming crisis with brainpower.

The Infinite Resource illustrates how the cost per kilowatt of alternative energies deterred tapping into the methods in the past, but shows how wind is now competitive with the wholesale prices of coal and natural gas. Solar is experiencing the rapid learning curve in manufacturing efficiency necessary in making it a competitively affordable alternative.

Further alternatives include mining the air and using genes found in the gut flora of termites to break down cellulose. He tackles ideas of carbon taxes, fixing our markets to properly account for the value of the commons, investing to fund long-range innovation, embracing technologies that improve our lives and the planet, and empowering all humans educationally to turn them into assets to produce ideas for the betterment of society.

Naam closes with a picture of the world circa 2100 on the track that he proposes, not a world struggling toward survival, but a world with abundance to meet the needs of its inhabitants. A world still visibly healing its wounds, but a world with lessons learned.

 

 



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CynthiaPosovich
6/22/2013 5:16:54 PM
Your presentation is eloquent. I hope to show it to secondary school students as a way of introducing our Environmental Studies unit. Bravo Thank you and all the best in your endeavors for our beloved planet. Cynthia Posovich p.s. Is it possible to make contact with you through Singularity University as I could have some curriculum questions that could be well answered from your knowledge base.

Ronnie Wright
3/26/2013 12:03:56 AM
The full length video was great right up to about half way through it. After that the author started injecting a bunch of magical thinking into the video. I’m sure his book will appeal to all of those that are looking for someone that will tell them (what they want to hear) that they can go on living their lives business as usual. The flaws in the author’s argument are so vast that it is difficult to take him seriously.

Ramez Naam
3/25/2013 6:52:56 PM
Emily, the full hour long talk is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkM9YQKVgsI

Ramez Naam
3/25/2013 6:51:49 PM
The full hour long video of my talk is now up at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkM9YQKVgsI

JWT Meakin
3/23/2013 5:42:15 AM
A terawatt is a unit of power, not energy. So the statement "the sun strikes the Earth with 17 terawatts every nine seconds" is meaningless. Do you mean "Terawatt-hour", perchance?

EMILY DALE
3/23/2013 1:49:58 AM
I have been following Singularity University's newsletters, but this is the first lecture I have seen that was presented there. I am very impressed by it , but found it stopped short of producing suggestions. Is there e a Part 2 to this lecture? the speaker is extremely knowledgeable, and presents facts to support his declarations, but I am left hanging.



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