ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth – Book Review

Energy ignorance is not bliss.

If you have ever flipped a light switch, consider reading ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, an energy primer with dramatic photos.

Without energy, our lives would come to a screeching standstill so it seems to me that at a minimum we should have a basic understanding of what energy is, where it comes from, and how producing it affects people and the planet.

I discovered ENERGY during my own quest to learn more about how our society generates power and its impact on us and the environment. This book covers energy in an easy to read and understandable manner.

Book Review

As you turn the pages between the foreword and the introduction in ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, you will get a preview of what you are about to read. Twenty-five photos, each taking up two pages, show energy in a myriad of ways including a uranium prospecting site near the Grand Canyon, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, a wind farm in California, a concentrated solar plant in Spain, and a tar sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada.

The remaining pages of the book will enlighten you about all forms of energy, provide you with a historical framework of how we got to where we are, examine economics and environmental impacts, uncover myths, and give you hope that there is a better way to power our world.

Accompanied by photos illustrating the subject matter, ENERGY is comprised of informational pieces and short essays written by energy experts, conservationists, authors, researchers, scientists, analysts, environmentalists, engineers, philosophers, and activists. The book’s content is organized into seven sections.

  • ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Illusion of Endless Growth Book CoverPart I: A Deeper Look at the Energy Picture
  • Part II: The Predicament
  • Part III: The Landscape of Energy
  • Part IV: False Solutions
  • Part V: Wildness Under Attack
  • Part VI: Depowering Destruction
  • Part VII: What We’re For

The dedication for ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth sums up what is at stake.

“For the wild creatures whose habitat is being destroyed by a rapacious energy economy, and for the children whose breathing is labored due to pollution from fossil fuels. May a future energy economy that mirrors nature’s elegance arrive soon enough to relieve their suffering.”

The Bottom Line

The Foundation for Deep Ecology published ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth in collaboration with the Post Carbon Institute and Watershed Media. These three organizations are involved in educating, promoting, and advocating for a transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world.

ENERGY editors Tom Butler and George Wuerthner are both authors and activists with the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Their other books include Wildlands Philanthropy, Plundering Appalachia: The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy and Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation.

I believe a wide range of people will find this book informative and I like the fact that you do not need to be a scientist or a technical person to understand the contents.

ENERGY is a large and hefty tome weighing in at 5.8 pounds with 336 pages and 152 color photographs. Due to its size, I found that it was more comfortable to read the book sitting open on my dining room table. A smaller book might be easier to handle, but I think the large photographs make an impact that could not be achieved with less page real estate. The information items and essays are short, which make this an ideal book for people with busy schedules. You can easily read a few pieces at a time and come back to others later. I read ENERGY during my lunch breaks over the course of a month or so.

When I purchased ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, I also bought and read its predecessor Plundering Appalachia: The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining. I am donating my copies to the local library so that others can read and share these remarkable books.

Featured Image at Top: BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Drilling Platform on Fire in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, Photo by unknown photographer

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Greening Your Laundry Habits

Freshly Washed Towels with Bottles of White Distilled Vinegar

Greening your laundry habits may be easier than you think. Laziness and using fewer products are the keys to success.

Doing laundry is a habit, something you do routinely without giving much thought to it. Over the course of your lifetime, you will either do or contribute to thousands of loads of laundry. When you consider that everyone else around the country is also doing thousands of loads of laundry, you realize it all adds up.

Laundry Habits and the Environment

Each load of laundry uses water, electricity, and possibly natural gas. So does making washers, dryers, and laundry products and their containers. If you use liquid laundry products, which consist mostly of water you are paying for diesel-powered semi trucks to transport extra water and then flushing it down the drain. Recycling plastic and cardboard containers are better than tossing them in the trash, but recycling also uses energy and creates waste.

All the substances that you flush down your washing machine, toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub end up in at a sewer treatment plant, unless you have a septic tank in which case your wastewater percolates into the ground. Sewer treatment plants primarily attempt to remove solids and kill pathogens before pumping the remaining effluent into an ocean, lake, river, stream, or aquifer. Although many natural and synthetic compounds are broken down in water, not all are. The more substances wastewater treatment plants have to deal with the more energy and chemicals they use to clean the water.

Here are some easy actions you can take to green your laundry habits.

Laundry Laziness Policy

My sons introduced me to the concept of laundry laziness.

Upon arriving at their college dorm rooms, the quickly abandoned most of the laundry habits I had taught them and laundry piled up until they would run out of clean clothes. When I asked them why they did not do their laundry every week, they responded with something like, “I have better things to do or I’m lazy.”

That got me to thinking about my own laundry routine. One thing led to the next, I began questioning everything about laundry habits and wrote about it in the post Laundry – Laziness is Good.

The drought in California forced my hand. At one point, our small town’s water supply was running dangerously low so conserving water was critical. My sons’ laundry laziness strategy seemed like a good water saving measure so I began doing only full loads of laundry and only when it became absolutely necessary.

I discovered that I could actually survive without doing small loads of laundry to wash my favorite jeans.

Laundry laziness is easy to implement because all you need is a slight change in mindset. Doing fewer loads of laundry might even save you money.

Using fewer laundry products will also help you green your laundry routine.

Use Fewer Laundry Products

Depending on how many different products you currently use to wash and dry your laundry, using fewer or in some cases, different products can substantially reduce your laundry environmental footprint.

One of the unexpected results of the drought was that I was laser focused on what we were putting down our drains. That is why I ended up standing in front of my laundry cupboard one day surveying its contents and sighing.

My collection included several different laundry detergents (you know for different fabrics), bleach, color safe bleach, an oxy additive, both a stick and a spray for pre-treating stains, liquid fabric softener, and washing machine cleaner (for the high-efficiency washer).

As I stood there, I asked myself “Do I actually need all these products to get our laundry clean?”

The answer was “I doubt it.” My next thought was “Why did I buy all this stuff in the first place?” followed by “Aha, advertising got me.” I see myself as an intelligent woman capable of making informed choices, but apparently, I had been easy prey for shrewd laundry product advertisers. Thank goodness, I came to my senses before laundry scent booster found its way into my shopping cart.

I decided to try using fewer products, which would mean fewer chemicals and other substances going down our drains or being in contact with our skin 24/7.

The first challenge was using up the products I had on hand. I did not want to dump the products I no longer wanted down the drain or toss them in the trash because that would not be environmentally sound and would waste money. Since I had bought some products in bulk, and am I now using them sparingly, I probably have enough bleach and pre-treating spray on hand to last for at least a decade.

Ditching fabric softer for distilled white vinegar was a major change for me. I buy vinegar by the gallon and transfer some into a smaller bottle which makes it easier to pour into the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine.

Vinegar effectively removes odors and acts as a softener. The towels and clothes might not be quite as soft and fluffy, but they are soft and thankfully, they do not have that cloying “fresh laundry” smell. When static cling occurs, I just shake it out. Vinegar also keeps the washing machine clean.

I wish I had changed to vinegar years ago, but oh well.

Go look at your own laundry shelf or cupboard and then decide what products you can do without and which ones you want to change to a more environmentally and people friendly version.

Consider adopting a laundry laziness policy and then enjoy having extra time to do fun things instead of laundry.

Reader Note: If your washer is over ten years old, you could be using twice the amount of water of newer more efficient washers that also use less electricity. Old electric or natural gas dryers are also less efficient than newer models. However, I am not advocating replacing appliances that are currently in good working order. When it is time to replace your washer and dryer, consider buying water and energy saving models. Look for the ENERGY STAR label.

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