How to Become a Green Wizard in an Energy Crisis

To be a green wizard you have to understand energy flow and do away with the concept that energy is infinite.

| November 2013

  • It’s crucial to recognize that useful energy is always limited; learn to think in these terms and you’re well on your way to becoming a green wizard.
    Photo By Fotolia/Štěpán Kápl
  • Author John Michael Greer proposes a modern mage for uncertain times in “Green Wizardry.”
    Cover Courtesy New Society Publishers

Green Wizardry (New Society Publishers, 2013) is a comprehensive manual for today’s green wizard-in-training. From basic concepts of ecology to a plethora of practical techniques, author John Michael Greer offers a solid tech toolkit for anyone concerned about decreasing our dependence on energy. This excerpt is from part one, “Principles.”

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It’s not accidental that the appropriate tech movement of the 1970s was brought into being by the experience of energy crisis, or that tools and insights having to do with energy played a central role in that movement. In the most pragmatic of senses, understand energy and you understand the whole art of appropriate technology. In the broadest of senses, understand energy and you understand the predicament that is looming up like a wave in front of the world’s industrial societies, and you also understand what we can and cannot expect to get done in the relatively short time we have left before the pressures unleashed by that predicament crest, break, and wash most of the modern world’s certainties away.

Important as it is, though, energy doesn’t stand alone. Two other concepts join the concept of energy to provide the central triad of principles that undergird this book and the perspectives and practices it explores. The first of these additional concepts is matter; the second is information. These three—energy, matter, and information—flow constantly through every whole system, in nature or in human society. Understand these flows and you understand the system. Each of the three, though, follows its own rules, so we’ll explore them one at a time.

We can start with some basic definitions. Energy is the capacity to do work. It cannot be created or destroyed, but the amount and kind of work it can do can change. The more concentrated it is, compared to its surroundings, the more work it can do; the less the difference in its concentration and the background level of energy around it, the less work it can do. Left to itself, it moves from more concentrated to more diffuse forms over time, so everything you do with energy has a price tag, measured in a loss of concentration. These are the groundrules of thermodynamics, and everything a green wizard does comes back to them in one way or another.

Some examples will help show how these rules work. In energy terms, for instance, a garden bed is a device for collecting solar energy by way of the biochemical dance of photosynthesis. Follow a ray of sunlight from the seething thermonuclear cauldron of the sun, across 93 million miles of hard vacuum and a few dozen miles of atmosphere, until it falls on the garden bed. About half the sunlight reflects off the plants, which is why the leaves look bright green to you instead of flat black; most of the rest is used by the plants to draw water up from the ground and expel it as water vapor into the air; a few percent is caught by chloroplasts—tiny green disks inside the cells of every green plant—and used to turn water and carbon dioxide into sugars, which are rich in chemical energy and power the complex cascade of processes we call life.

4/25/2014 6:47:14 AM

As technology has become so advanced over the last two decades, so has the energy consumption that came with it. So we have since been working to reduce footprint and become more green. I have changed my central heating system to an and this has helped to reduce my energy bill by half, and does a great job of keeping my feet warm at the same time!

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