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Niki Collins-Queen

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The Little Engine That Did It
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Can the earth have a sun-powered future?
by Niki Collins-Queen   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Posted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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Niki Collins-Queen

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Two scientists say the energy for a sustainable future lies not in oil but sun-power.

Authors Vincenzo Balzani (Professor of Chemistry), Nicola Armaroli (Research Scientist) say Spaceship Earth cannot land and cannot dock anywhere to be refueled or repaired. Any damage has to be solved and fixed by its passengers, without disembarking. It's the only home where we can live. Since we travel alone in the universe we rely on our planet's resources and the sun's energy. Because our human ecological footprint is large (7-billion passengers) our 4.5 billion-year-old planet has entered a new epoch. In 1950 the world population was 2.6 billion, with an increase of 1.5% per year. In 2009 humankind began using biological services faster than the Earth can renew them. In spite of alarm bells “growth” remains the magic word for economists and politicians. They believe economic growth is infinite and press for increasing production and consumption.

Balzani and Armaroli say the modern life of affluent people is currently easy compared to our ancestors because of the steady flux of cheap and plentiful energy in the form of fossil fuel. In “Energy for a Sustainable World: From the Oil Age to a Sun-Powered Future” they explain that fossil fuel is a nonrenewable resource and that is going to exhaust, how it is currently causing severe damage to the Earth's atmosphere and how it is indirectly contributing to iniquities in human society (half of the total primary energy supply is consumed by 10% of the population).

Energy plays a key role in controlling Earth's fragility. Humankind's problems and challenges include food, water, health, wealth, climate, heating, lighting, cooling, transportation, communication and wars.

Fortunately, the authors say the energy crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity to make responsible decisions right now. The Earth is in our hands: we need to be wise enough to use our science and technology to develop an ecologically sustainable civilization and reduce disparity. Also the quest for ecological and social sustainability requires we become aware of consuming resources above the threshold of our needs. A logic of “sufficiency” is necessary to attain ecological stability.

By outlining the alternatives for today and the future Balzani and Armaroli give an extensive overview on nuclear energy, solar thermal and photovoltaics, solar fuels, wind power, ocean energies and other renewables. They balance the pros and cons of each energy source, survey the energy issue from a broad scientific perspective while considering environmental, economic, and social factors. They highlight the increasing importance of electricity and the long-term perspectives of a hydrogen-based economy.

They explain why we need to focus on and develop renewable energies. They say energy sources based on Sun, wind, water and Earth are abundant enough to supply the power needed in 2050 when our planet will have over 9 billion people.

This book is an excellent source of updated and carefully documented information.

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