“What magic, or monster, lurks behind the light switch and gas pump? Where does the seemingly limitless energy that fuels modern society really come from – and is that perception of limitlessness delusional?”
Over the years, the Foundation for Deep Ecology (one of the numerous organizations and initiatives that comprise Tompkins Conservation) has helped build the intellectual infrastructure of the conservation movement through grantmaking and an activism-oriented book publishing program. The latest effort is a new large-format book— ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth—and a related campaign to promote “energy literacy.” A collaboration between the Foundation for Deep Ecology (FDE) and the Post Carbon Institute (PCI), ENERGY features essays from leading writers in the field accompanied by hard-hitting photographs. The goal? Illustrate the true costs—ecological, social, economic–of our out-of-control energy consumption.
As Richard Heinberg, contributing author to ENERGY and senior fellow at PCI, notes: “[This is] really the most important moment in all of human history; if we consciously and deliberately move away from our dependence on fossil fuels, we have the opportunity of reinventing civilization. If we don’t, civilization probably won’t survive.”
Edited by Foundation for Deep Ecology staffers Tom Butler and George Wuerthner, ENERGY is the educational centerpiece of PCI’s Energy Reality Campaign. Now in full swing, the campaign promotes energy literacy with a strong emphasis on the issue of how much energy we use, in contrast to the oft-promoted alternative energy sources. Central to the campaign is challenging the notion that the world is infinite and can support endless economic growth. As Heinberg says, “We’ve gotten ourselves into this bizarre situation where if we do what’s actually good for us, which is to become more self-sufficient, to consume less and to share more, we hurt the economy.”
Together, FDE and PCI are distributing upwards of 4,500 copies of ENERGY to environmental NGOs working on energy and climate issues, targeted policymakers and thought-leaders, and others identified as influencers of energy conservation by partner organizations. A text-only volume suitable for course adoption, The ENERGY Reader, was published simultaneously and has been widely distributed to academic institutions and professors around the country. The book’s content is also available on the campaign website and through digital editions.
Select essays from the book have been released bi-monthly over the course of the campaign, are shared via social media, and are sent out to targeted email lists by topic. Photographs from the book have been shared with a wide range of social media sites and partner NGOs. Additionally, PCI just released the first of many shareable image decks; over the course of this coming year, PCI will publish image deck photo-essays on each of the issue areas covered in ENERGY, to be widely promoted on partner Facebook pages and Twitter.
Additionally, PCI has begun work on a public art campaign to further engage the public in energy literacy. Tod Brilliant, Creative Director at PCI, explains, “This has been an incredible opportunity to deeply engage with and educate what is arguably the most influential community: propagandists aka artists and creatives. While we always involve artists in our projects at PCI, this time thanks to FDE we’re working with them more intimately than ever before. By showcasing creative interpretations of academic materials, the Creative Community Outreach phase of the Energy Reality campaign will, I think, have great impact and reach a broader, more diverse audience.”
We want this campaign to have the greatest impact possible — fostering widespread energy literacy is crucial if we are to transition toward a future energy economy that supports beauty and biodiversity, assumes a steady-state economy (not perpetual growth), and is anchored by appropriately scaled renewables. Please check out some of these links, spread the word, and even request a copy of the book!
Additional links and interviews:
- Multipart interview with Tom Butler featured in Outside Online’s Adventure Ethics blog: Part I and Part II
- Interview with Tom Butler on New Hampshire Public Radio: How Much Energy Is Too Much Energy?
- Interview with Richard Heinberg featured on AlterNet.org: The Coming Crash: Our Addiction to Endless Growth on a Finite Planet
- Post Carbon Institute’s YouTube page, featuring interviews and further information on our energy reality: www.youtube.com/postcarboninstitute