It’s book review time again! If you’re the type of person who wants to read about the miracle technology that will single-handedly save humanity from the energy crisis… this book is not for you. No, Power Down is decidedly pessimistic about our near-future options for creating a sustainable energy economy without major human sacrifice along the way. After all, as Heinberg argues, in past societal collapses, evidence shows that an average of about 90% of a given population dies off in the wake of the social unraveling. Those that survive are deligated to a life of hardship. Heinberg puts forth a good case for why we should be comparing ourselves with collapsed societies in the first place, and includes a brief discussion of several promising energy technologies that may impact, if not invert, the current energy market.
So all is not doom and gloom. To be honest, I felt inspired after reading about the necessary sacrifices that we will have to make in order to usher in the new sustainable global energy economy. In all the heavy thoughts lie opportunities for change, and Heinberg makes a decided point of keeping a silver lining even on the cloudiest day. The book also includes inspiring stories about nations that have made the rough transition to energy autonomy with varying degrees of success. I learned as much about foreign policy from this book as about alternative energy technologies.
Overall, Power Down is a good read, and has been included on many prominent environmentalists’ must read bibliographies. It is a tribute to the swiftness of developments in the energy industry that some passages in the book seem dated, though the book was published as late as 2004! If you’re looking for a book that looks the problem squarely in the eye and suggests solutions, check out Power Down.