Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

By Ozzie Zehner | Go to book overview

Epilogue: A Grander Narrative?

And the people bowed and prayed/to the neon
god they made.—Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel,
“The Sound of Silence”

When approaching any large challenge, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start, and in our particular global crisis, nations are finding it difficult to determine who should start. In response to the statistic that China is building more than a gigawatt of new coal-fired power plants every week, Berkeley physicist Richard Muller asks, “Do we demand that the Chinese stop? Do we have the right to do that? Do we have the power to do that?” His answers are even more straightforward, “No, no, and no.”1

Analysts often characterize China as following an unsustainable path compared to the United States, but consider this: One country has a fertility rate below replacement value and an annual per-capita energy consumption equivalent to 1,500 kilograms of oil per year. The other country’s population is expanding and its citizens annually consume over five times as much energy, equivalent to 7,700 kilograms per year.2 When comparing a modestly consuming

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