Energy Storage and Civilization

This is an early announcement for a forthcoming book co-authored with Graham Palmer, Energy Storage and Civilization: A Systems Approach. We completed the manuscript last Thursday, submitted it to the publisher, Springer, the same day, and they’ve already got a web page up here. Pretty impressive turnaround, and has me reflecting on the benefits of working with a large publisher versus self-publishing (as was the case for Carbon Civilisation and the Energy Descent Future). There’s definitely something to be said for being able to focus on the content, while leaving production, promotion and distribution to the experts.

So what is Energy Storage and Civilization all about? Here’s the blurb that Springer has put together:

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Descent Pathways

I’ve noted on a number of occasions over the course of this inquiry that Beyond this Brief Anomaly is motivated by interests and concerns that go well beyond its notional focus on “energy issues”. The broader question to which this relates can perhaps be most simply stated in two parts:

  1. What might it mean for humanity to live well, together?
  2. How might such an existence be realised?

In conventional development theory and practice, whether wellbeing is viewed in functional-material (“standard of living”) terms or takes into account experienced life quality (“quality of life”), the conditions for wellbeing are considered in almost exclusively economic terms. Wellbeing, in whatever way this is conceived, therefore tends to be associated by default with the globally dominant consumer-industrial form of economic organisation. Increasing wellbeing supposes expansion of this. Consider, for instance, the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index. Each of the index’s components–life expectancy, literacy, school enrollment and income–is either directly economic in nature, or is dependent on economic factors for its improvement. Want improved health? Increase expenditure on medical infrastructure and services that reduce mortality. Want improved education? Build more schools and employ more teachers. This is obviously a very rough caricature. I ignore myriad nuances here, particularly at the micro scale. But in terms of headline initiatives attracting the majority of resources, I suspect few would argue that the generalisation is entirely unreasonable. Continue reading