Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Non-Fiction: Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology by Alexis Madrigal

We feel a certain arrogance, perched here as we are on the edge of the brave new world. We know that new things are close by: a whole revolution of them. And us? We’re going to be part of the change. All of us. It’s a new day.

According to Alexis Madrigal, though, we can safely lose the smug: Americans have been having green dreams for a very long time. In Powering the Dream (Da Capo) Madrigal tells us:
In 1900 people could use the sun to heat the water for a howler. They could drive across New York City in an electric taxicab …. In 1945 a person could have purchased a solar house or gone to see the one-megawatt wind turbine …. Green technology has been a viable set of technologies for more than one hundred years but, regardless, supplies little of America’s energy. What happened? What might have been?
Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic and former Wired staff writer, skillfully uses stories from the past to illustrate both the follies and successes of the present. In doing so, he places some of the environmental madness we’re experiencing now in perspective. It is, at present, too easy to feel as though we’re out there all alone, fighting environmental battles that few have thought of and that fewer still have seen. And, somehow, the struggles of the past give us hope for the future and, in the end, they make us realize, there’s really nothing new under the sun. ◊

Aaron Blanton is a contributing editor to January Magazine. He’s currently working on a book based on his experiences as an American living abroad.

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