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After covering the environment and energy beat for more than a decade, columnist Amanda Little decided that the only way to fully understand America’s energy crisis was to travel into the heart of it. So she embarked on a daring, cross-country power trip to the most extreme and exciting frontiers of our energy landscape.
In Power Trip, we accompany her to a deep-sea oil rig, the cornfields of Kansas, the catacombs of the Pentagon, the Talladega Superspeedway, and inside New York City’s electrical grid. We visit laboratories creating the innovations that will carry us into a clean-energy future. Little also travels back through history to investigate how America developed its unrivaled appetite for fossil fuels. In vivid, fast-paced prose, she illustrates how the same American ingenuity that got us into this mess can get us out of it too.
Author: Amanda Little
In Powering the Future, Nobel laureate Robert B. Laughlin transports us two centuries into the future, when we've ceased to use carbon from the ground-either because humans have banned carbon burning or because fuel has simply run out. Boldly, Laughlin predicts no earth-shattering transformations will have taken place. Six generations from now, there will still be soccer moms, shopping malls, and business trips. Firesides will still be snug and warm.
How will we do it? Not by discovering a magic bullet to slay our energy problems, but through a slew of fascinating technologies, drawing on wind, water and fire. Powering the Future is an objective yet optimistic tour through alternative fuel sources, set in a world where we've burned every last drop of petroleum and every last shovelful of coal.
Author: Robert B. Laughlin
Science writer Jeremy Shere shows us in Renewable: The World-Changing Power of Alternative Energy that energy is anything but magical. Producing it in fossil fuel form is a dirty, expensive-but also hugely profitable- enterprise, with enormous but largely hidden costs to the entire planet. The cold, hard fact is that at some point we will have wrung the planet dry of easily accessible sources of fossil fuel. And when that time comes, humankind will have no choice but to turn-or, more accurately, return-to cleaner, renewable energy sources. What will those sources be? How far have we come to realizing the technologies that will make these sources available?
To find the answers to these questions, Shere began his journey with a tour of a traditional coal-fueled power plant in his home state of Indiana. He then continued on, traveling from coast to coast as he spoke to scientists, scholars and innovators. He immersed himself in the green energy world: visiting a solar farm at Denver's airport, attending the Wind Power Expo and a wind farm tour in Texas, investigating turbines deep in New York City's East River, and much more.
Arranged in five parts-Green Gas, Sun, Wind, Earth, and Water-Renewable tells the stories of the most interesting and promising types of renewable energy: namely, biofuel, solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower. But unlike many books about alternative energy, Renewable is not obsessed with megawatts and tips for building home solar panels. Instead, Shere digs into the rich, surprisingly long histories of these technologies, bringing to life the pioneering scientists, inventors and visionaries who blazed the way for solar, wind, hydro and other forms of renewable power. He unearths the curious involvement of great thinkers like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
We are at an important crossroads in the history of renewable technologies. The possibilities are endless and enticing, and it has become increasingly clear that renewable energy is the way of the future. In Renewable, Jeremy Shere's natural curiosity and serious research come together in an entertaining and informative guide to where renewable energy has been, where it is today, and where it's heading.
Author: Jeremy Shere
America's once-vibrant small-to-midsize cities-Syracuse, N.Y.; Worcester, Mass.; Akron, Ohio; Flint, Mich.; Rockford, Ill.; and others-increasingly resemble urban wastelands. Gutted by deindustrialization, outsourcing and middle-class flight, disproportionately devastated by metro freeway systems that laid waste to the urban fabric and displaced the working poor, and struggling with pockets of poverty reminiscent of postcolonial squalor, small industrial cities have become invisible to a public distracted by the Wall Street (big city) versus Main Street (small town) matchup. These cities would seem to be part of America's past, not its future. And yet, journalist and historian Catherine Tumber argues in this provocative book, America's gritty Rust Belt cities could play a central role in a greener, low-carbon, relocalized future.
As we wean ourselves from fossil fuels and realize the environmental costs of suburban sprawl, we will see that small cities offer many assets for sustainable living not shared by their big city or small town counterparts: population density (and the capacity for more); fertile, nearby farmland available for local agriculture, windmills and solar farms; and manufacturing infrastructure and workforce skill that can be repurposed for the production of renewable-energy technology.
Tumber, who has spent much of her life in Rust Belt cities, traveled to 25 cities in the Northeast and Midwest-from Buffalo, N.Y., to Peoria, Ill., to Detroit to Rochester, N.Y.-interviewing planners, city officials and activists, and weaving their stories into this exploration of small-scale urbanism. Smaller cities can be a critical part of a sustainable future and a productive green economy. Small, Gritty, and Green will help us develop the moral and political imagination we need to realize this.
Author: Catherine Tumber
Taras Grescoe rides the rails all over the world and makes an elegant and impassioned case for the imminent end of car culture and the coming transportation revolution.
"I am proud to call myself a straphanger," writes Taras Grescoe. The perception of public transportation in America is often unflattering—a squalid last resort for those with one too many drunk-driving charges, too poor to afford insurance, or too decrepit to get behind the wheel of a car. Indeed, a century of auto-centric culture and city planning has left most of the country with public transportation that is underfunded, ill maintained, and ill conceived. But as the demand for petroleum is fast outpacing the world's supply, a revolution in transportation is under way.
Grescoe explores the ascendance of the straphangers—the growing number of people who rely on public transportation to go about the business of their daily lives. On a journey that takes him around the world—from New York to Moscow, Paris, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Bogotá, Phoenix, Portland, Vancouver, and Philadelphia—Grescoe profiles public transportation here and abroad, highlighting the people and ideas that may help undo the damage that car-centric planning has done to our cities and create convenient, affordable, and sustainable urban transportation—and better city living—for all.
Author: Tara Grescoe
Thousands of years of poor farming and ranching practices-and, especially, modern industrial agriculture-have led to the loss of up to 80 percent of carbon from the world's soils. That carbon is now floating in the atmosphere, and even if we stopped using fossil fuels today, it would continue warming the planet. In The Soil Will Save Us, journalist and best-selling author Kristin Ohlson makes an elegantly argued, passionate case for "our great green hope"-a way in which we can not only heal the land but also turn atmospheric carbon into beneficial soil carbon-and potentially reverse global warming.
As the granddaughter of farmers and the daughter of avid gardeners, Ohlson has long had an appreciation for the soil. A chance conversation with a local chef led her to the crossroads of science, farming, food and environmentalism, and the discovery of the only significant way to remove carbon dioxide from the air-an ecological approach that tends not only to plants and animals but also to the vast population of underground microorganisms that fix carbon in the soil. Ohlson introduces the visionaries-scientists, farmers, ranchers and landscapers-who are figuring out in the lab and on the ground how to build healthy soil, which solves myriad problems: drought, erosion, air and water pollution, and food quality, as well as climate change. Her discoveries and vivid storytelling will revolutionize the way we think about our food, our landscapes, our plants and our relationship to Earth.
Author: Kristin Ohlson
The Upcycle is the eagerly awaited follow-up to Cradle to Cradle, one of the most consequential ecological manifestos of our time. Now, drawing on the lessons gained from 10 years of putting the Cradle to Cradle concept into practice with businesses, governments and ordinary people, William McDonough and Michael Braungart envision the next step in the solution to our ecological crisis: We don't just use or reuse resources with greater effectiveness, we actually improve the world as we live, create and build.
For McDonough and Braungart, the questions of resource scarcity and sustainability are questions of design. They are practical-minded visionaries: They envision beneficial designs of products, buildings and business practices-and they show us these ideas being put to use around the world as everyday objects like chairs, cars and factories are being reimagined not just to sustain life on the planet but to grow it. It is an eye-opening, inspiring tour of our green future as it unfolds in front of us.
McDonough and Braungart want to turn on its head our understanding of the human role on earth: Instead of protecting the planet from human impact, why not redesign our activity to improve the environment? We can have a beneficial footprint. Abundance for all. The goal is within our reach.
Author: W. McDonough, M. Braungart
In our power-hungry world, all the talk about energy-what's safe and what's risky, what's clean and what's dirty, what's cheap and what's easy-tends to generate more heat than light. What, Julianne Couch wanted to know, is the real story on power production in this country? Approaching the question as a curious consumer, Couch takes us along as she visits nine sites where electrical power is developed from different fuel sources. From a geothermal plant in the Mojave Desert to a nuclear plant in Nebraska, from a Wyoming coal-fired power plant to a Maine tidal-power project, Couch gives us an insider's look at how power is generated, how it affects neighboring landscapes and the people who live and work there, and how each source comes with its own unique complications.
The result is an informed, evenhanded discussion of energy production and consumption on the global, national, regional, local and-most important-personal level. Knowledge is the real power this book imparts, allowing each of us to think beyond the flip of a switch to the real consequences of our energy use.
Author: Julianne Couch
In Two Percent Solutions for the Planet, Courtney White profiles 50 innovative practices that soak up carbon dioxide in soils, reduce energy use, sustainably intensify food production and increase water quality. The “two percent” refers to: the amount of new carbon in the soil needed to reap a wide variety of ecological and economic benefits; the percentage of the nation’s population who are farmers and ranchers; and the low financial cost (in terms of gross domestic product) needed to get this work done.
Author: COURTNEY WHITE
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In this urgent time, World on the Edge calls out the pivotal environmental issues and how to solve them now. We are in a race between political and natural tipping points. Can we close coal-fired power plants fast enough to save the Greenland ice sheet and avoid catastrophic sea level rise? Can we raise water productivity fast enough to halt the depletion of aquifers and avoid water-driven food shortages? Can we cope with peak water and peak oil at the same time? These are some of the issues Lester R. Brown skillfully distils in World on the Edge. Bringing decades of research and analysis into play, he provides the responses needed to reclaim our future.
Author: Lester Brown