The beginning of Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth starts off like an apocalyptic flip-book. My heart couldn’t help but race when I saw the jumbo-sized high-definition color pictures of battered landscapes, cut-off mountaintops, sinking oil rigs, and the remnants of Fukushima Nuclear Power plant post-tsunami.

If pictures are generally worth a thousand words, the ones in this book are worth probably closer to 5,000.


Pelican covered in oil
BP Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico
Resource Conflict Escalation
Oil Fields, Kuwait


But this book isn’t all just imagery that captivates your emotions (although it certainly accomplishes that goal from the start).

Energy gives us a solid picture of where we stand, where we are currently headed, and most importantly what we can do to change the destructive path we are on and move towards a sustainable energy future that can support a thriving planet for all its inhabitants. Oh and you don’t need to be an environmental engineer or have a Ph.D. to understand the concepts in this book :)

The book is broken down into distinct sections:

Part I: A Deeper Look at the Energy Picture
Part II: The Predicament
Part III: The Landscape of Energy
Part IV: False Solutions
Part V: Wilderness Under Attack
Part VI: Depowering Destruction
Part VII: What We’re For

Part III: The Landscape of Energy was especially fascinating to me. It presents a “tour of the energy terrain” for every common and not-so-common energy source, from coal and oil, to hydroelectric, to solar, wind, and geothermal energy. It breaks down the pros and cons of each energy source, its history of use, key limiting factors, and net energy ratio.

Rooftop Solar PV UC San Diego
Rooftop Solar PV at UC San Diego. Image credit:

Parts VI and VII also struck a resonant chord with me because all-too-often in activism we find ourselves fighting against something so often that we can forget to give proper to acknowledgment to the world we want to see and creating a road-map to get there.

I found it really cool that this book doesn’t have one single author. Different sections are written by a mix of contributors who bring their own interesting perspective and expertise to the table.

A common thread throughout the book is the abundance of easy-to-digest infographs, charts, scientific research, and insights into what’s killing our planet and what we need to do to save it (hint: the authors present a pretty good case for conservation and a distributed renewable energy system overhaul).

One of the most profound impacts this book has is its ability to start a conversation about energy consumption. I live in a cooperative housing arrangement, and during the course of reading this book and having it out on the coffee table in our living room, there were more conversations about energy consumption and conservation in our house than had taken place in several months prior.

This book belongs on the desk of every elected official, business owner, student organization, and community member willing to take a critical look at the energy crisis we find ourselves in and how we can transition into a world of true energy abundance and sustainability that can be cherished by future generations.

Click here if you’re interested in purchasing the book from the Post Carbon Institute or want to learn more.

Book review by David Abramson, member of Cool Davis’ Communications Working Group