An exploration of alternative energy's future, looking beyond solar, wind and nuclear power.
Whether due to climate change, economic instability or threats to national security, many agree civilization can no longer depend on fossil fuels. So the question becomes “What next?” In the second edition of their book, Manning and Garbon—both active in the New Energy Movement, an organization devoted to developing and advancing clean, sustainable energy sources—believe there’s more than one answer to that question. The pair seeks to educate the public about an array of alternative technologies, virtually all of which were created and/or championed by inventors, scientists and laymen outside the scientific mainstream. In the book, the authors weave a narrative of individuals developing new approaches to energy only to be stymied by businesses, governments and a public unwilling to consider new paradigms. However, the authors’ passion and optimism is undermined by detours into New Age-style ideas—“orgone energy” and “sacred geometry” among them—and pervasive paranoia, as many of those profiled detail perceived coercion, intimidation and coordinated efforts to keep their discoveries unknown. These issues cause a more serious problem—few of the technologies have been subjected to organized scientific analysis, and many haven’t yielded reproducible effects. Since the overall thrust is that these technologies deserve research and recognition, the mostly anecdotal evidence referenced here isn’t convincing. While this shouldn’t deter readers from learning more—some of the technologies discussed have been reviewed favorably in mainstream publications, and the authors provide copious footnotes and resources for further research—the authors ultimately don’t advance their cause as they hoped. As Carl Sagan said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” and the material presented here doesn’t meet that standard.
The glass may be half full, but this book won’t necessarily convince readers to drink.