An engaging state of the union by an important leader in solar power.



Pioneering solar power entrepreneur Williams (Chasing the Sun: Solar Adventures Around the World, 2005) chronicles how he left journalism to become an advocate for the distribution of solar energy around the world.

In 1979, the author was invited to join President Jimmy Carter's newly formed Department of Energy to help promote the use of solar power. At the time, nuclear power was still in the ascendancy, and the program did not take off. Nonetheless, five years after Carter left office, “the country was using 15 percent less electricity…[due to] government sponsored energy saving programs.” This was the beginning of the author’s dream to transform the lives of the billions of people living in the developing sector who lacked access to electricity—by making it possible for them to purchase individual solar installations. Since the cost of extending the electric grid to these remote villages was prohibitive, photovoltaic cells would be competitive, and they would not “[destroy] the global environment.” Williams developed a plan to set up a nonprofit organization that would be a pilot program to demonstrate the feasibility of his vision. His job would be to solicit funds and then look for countries where he could apply his “concept of small-is-beautiful solar power for householders” and recruit locals to run the project. In 1990, he launched the Solar Electric Light Fund, which sold solar installations at cost, with grants from the World Bank, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and other major philanthropic institutions. This pilot project succeeded brilliantly in proving the viability of a commercial market for solar energy in the developing sector, and it laid the basis for major government-sponsored programs in India and China. Today, with the reduced cost of photovoltaic cells, “America is now the world's fifth-biggest solar market, after Germany, Spain, Italy, and China.”

An engaging state of the union by an important leader in solar power.

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3377-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.



An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death.

In addition to an intriguing natural history, Swedish journalist Svensson includes a highly personal account of his relationship with his father. The author alternates eel-focused chapters with those about his father, a man obsessed with fishing for this elusive creature. “I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream,” he writes. “I can’t remember us speaking at all….Because we were in…a place whose nature was best enjoyed in silence.” Throughout, Svensson, whose beat is not biology but art and culture, fills his account with people: Aristotle, who thought eels emerged live from mud, “like a slithering, enigmatic miracle”; Freud, who as a teenage biologist spent months in Trieste, Italy, peering through a microscope searching vainly for eel testes; Johannes Schmidt, who for two decades tracked thousands of eels, looking for their breeding grounds. After recounting the details of the eel life cycle, the author turns to the eel in literature—e.g., in the Bible, Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea Wind, and Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum—and history. He notes that the Puritans would likely not have survived without eels, and he explores Sweden’s “eel coast” (what it once was and how it has changed), how eel fishing became embroiled in the Northern Irish conflict, and the importance of eel fishing to the Basque separatist movement. The apparent return to life of a dead eel leads Svensson to a consideration of faith and the inherent message of miracles. He warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning.

Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296881-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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