April 9, 2013

Tonight we are talking with the editor of a book that is an eye-opener, both visually and editorially. ENERGY: OVERDEVELOPMENT AND THE DELUSION OF ENDLESS GROWTH is published by the Post-Carbon Institute and Watershed Media; it’s coffee-table sized, with full color, wall-to-wall photographs, but also containing rich text by internationally renowned specialists.

With us now on the phone is Tom Butler, who is coeditor of this book with George Wuethner. Tom is editorial projects Director for the Foundation for Deep Ecology in Sausalito and president of the Northeast Wilderness Trust in Bristol, Vermont. Thanks for being with us tonight, Tom.

Listen to the Interview

–The cover of your book shows the Deepwater Horizon, source of the Gulf Oil spill, sinking in flames. Why did you choose that photo to illustrate your narrative of “overdevelopment and the delusion of endless growth”? (You obviously had hundreds of other powerful photographs to choose from—deserts, oil-covered birds, devastated marshland.)

–We think that most of our listeners know well that we are in the midst of an energy and growth crisis—neither is sustainable. So we’re ready to hear about what you discuss in Part I of the book, “taking a deeper look at the energy crisis,” [underline added] examining the “less visible . . . range of ideas and assumptions—the worldview—behind our energy choices.” (our underline, 7)

…Please tell us more about some of the “less visible” aspects of our cultural choices.

…How does world and especially western culture hide the delusion of endless growth?

…You cite California (35) as an example of a state that has done a pretty good job of conservation and per capita consumption. Yet our electricity use (and related fossil fuel consumption) has risen overall. How does this illustrate the conundrum (or dead end) of endless growth?

–You write of and advocate “energy literacy.” What is that? How do people become truly energy literate? Can this literacy change the world’s view of itself and its energy use?

–Getting back to the book, we were especially interested in your section, Part IV, called “False Solutions.” We don’t have time to talk about each of these, but perhaps you could tell us a little about (your choice of) false solutions:


…Nuclear power

…”Clean” coal




…Oil shale

and especially, if you’d like to discuss it

…Geoengineering. [Note: We recently interviewed a Northern California resident who is particularly alarmed about alleged “chem trails” and dispersion of aluminum and other metal products by commercial and military aircraft. We—Steve and Susan—are skeptical of some of the claims that are made about secret agencies poisoning the atmosphere. But in your book, the ETC essay on “Retooling the Planet” talks about the threat of more widespread geoengineering projects. <http:www.etcgroup.com.> Anything you can say to raise our geoengineering literacy would be appreciated.

–In Part VII you describe “What We Are For.”  Who is the “we” in “what we’re for.” How can you/we “reframe the discourse” in positive terms?

–We’ve already briefly discussed the idea of “ecological literacy.” How might that play out in terms of nonconfrontational or positivist strategies?

–As our time permits, let’s review (your choice of) other positive directions that people can take:






…Family planning

–A huge question we regularly ask on this program: What will it take to bring about change on the scale that you are calling for? Do we have to go to the brink? over the brink? Will our politicians save us? Are people literate enough and smart enough to do the right thing voluntarily?

Are you an optimist?

—-We’ve been talking with Tom Butler, co-editor of ENERGY: OVERDEVELOPMENT AND THE DELUSION OF ENDLESS GROWTH. Before we go, we hope you will tell us a little more about yourself and the organizations that you work with.

…You are editorial director of the Foundation for Deep Ecology. What is the Foundation and what does it do? (What is “deep” ecology?) <http://www.deepecology.org/>

…You are also president of the Northeast Wilderness Trust. What are some of its projects? <http://www.newildernesstrust.org/>

…We’d also like to learn more about the Post-Carbon Institute and Watershed Media, publishers of this book. [We have previously raved about and given away our copy of CAFO: Confined Animal Feeding Operations, another book that seems an unlikely candidate for a “coffee table” treatment.]

Thank you, Tom Butler. The book is ENERGY: OVERDEVELOPMENT AND THE DELUSION OF ENDLESS GROWTH, published by Watershed Media and the Post-Carbon Institute. Thanks very much for being with us on Ecotopia.