Excerpts from review of Power from the Sun by Dan Chiras | Header: Review: Power from the Sun by Dan Chiras, with Robert Aram and Kurt Nelson | Published Oct. 22, 2009 by Energy Bulletin | (Visit the web page)
For the average home- or small business-owner looking to purchase a solar PV array, there is much
homework to be done—and truly good textbooks, amid the cacophony of voices on the subject, are a
real find. Thankfully, Power from the Sun, the latest offering from green building guru Dan Chiras, is
just such a book.
In eminently readable, informative, accessible prose, Power from the Sun describes the components
and workings of a solar electric system, how to go about having one installed and some basic things to
know in order to be an informed consumer and avoid common pitfalls. Solar PV buyers will still have a
bit of legwork to do after reading the book, including finding local solar contractors and obtaining
quotes. But once these steps are done, their learning curve will no doubt be greatly reduced.
Over the past three decades, Chiras has pulled off the amazing feat of both fashioning a sustainable
life for himself—he lives in a natural home run entirely on solar and wind, and built from straw bales and rammed earth tires—and drawing on this firsthand experience in churning out a formidable oeuvre of books on sustainability and natural building. He also serves as director of The Evergreen Institute's Center for Renewable Energy and Green Building, which offers certificates in residential renewable energy and green building.* In short, it's hard to imagine a more credible guide than Chiras to walk us through this introduction to solar PV systems.
His two coauthors on this book are Robert Aram, an electrical engineer and longtime renewable energy advocate and consultant; and Kurt Nelson, a seasoned solar PV installer whose company SOLutions specializes in the design, consultation, sales, installation and service of off-grid systems. Together these three authorities have created a detailed, comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidebook that is sure to be read thirstily, and with great profit, by anyone intent on purchasing a PV system.
At the age of 11, Vancouver, B.C., artist and author Douglas Coupland was forever changed by two experiences involving oil and humankind’s addiction to it. In late September 1973, a freighter spilled bunker fuel off the coast of West Vancouver, and Coupland volunteered mopping up tarballs on the beach. During interviews he still has trouble talking about it, especially when describing how a
cormorant died right in front of him. And only weeks later came the first of the ‘70s oil shortages,
inciting lines at gas stations and widespread panic. Coupland vividly remembers this wake-up call
to a civilization dependent on a depleting resource.
So it's quite fitting that when selected to be last year's Massey Lecturer, Coupland chose to speak on the world oil predicament. He wrote a novel titled Player One, in which a small group bands together to survive an oil shock, and presented it as five separate lectures. (Considered to be among Canada’s most important public lectures, the Masseys have featured some of the preeminent thinkers of the
past several decades, including Northrop Frye, Barbara Ward, John Kenneth Galbraith and Martin
Luther King, Jr.) Player One was a bold departure, the first Massey Lecture to have consisted of a
work of fiction.
The novel, like some others by Coupland, has its roots in a medieval novella collection titled The
Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, in which 10 people take refuge in a villa outside bubonic plague-
ridden Florence, Italy, and tell stories to pass the time until it’s safe to go back outside. Player One's characters take shelter in a seedy airport cocktail lounge in Toronto and debate the burning questions of our time as the oil crisis roils around them.
Douglas Coupland is best known for being the voice of Generation X, beginning in 1991 with his debut novel of the same name (which also popularized the term “McJob”). But he’s since tried to show that he's capable of a wider range—and the bid has proven successful, with People magazine proclaiming, “Coupland, once the wise guy of Generation X, has become a wise man." He’s also a kindred spirit to anyone concerned about peak oil, to the literature of which his new novel makes a significant and swell contribution.
Excerpts from review of Player One by Douglas Coupland | Header: Visions of the Afterlight | Published Apr. 12 2011 by Energy Bulletin | (Visit the web page) Excerpts from review of The Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones | Header: Is Coke better than Pepsi? | Published Oct. 28 2008 by Energy Bulletin | (Visit the web page)
“[This] book has been purposefully made small so that you can keep it with you in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or pocket…Whatever you do, don’t put it on a shelf!”
That’s author Ellis Jones’ advice regarding his latest edition of The Better World Shopping Guide, a
handy, pocket-sized reference book intended to help shoppers make socially and environmentally
responsible purchasing choices.
The book is an invaluable resource for anyone concerned about the consequences of his or her
everyday buying decisions, whether from the perspectives of peak oil or climate change, animal
testing, toxic waste dumping, child labor or corporate accounting scandals, to name just a few of the
issues. The book systematically ranks every type of company from airlines to banks to cereal
manufacturers on an A-to-F scale, and presents the information in an easy-to-follow, shopping-
Another nice feature of the book is the product category index located at the back, which is intended
to help readers find items that they may have missed the first time through. Couldn’t find condensed
milk? It’s under “Baked Goods and Baking Supplies”—as are marshmallows, corn meal and evaporated milk. Didn’t see bacon bits? They’re in the “Sugar, Spices & Sweeteners” section, which also covers syrup, honey and salt.
For me, a chief highlight of reading this book is that is resolved, once and for all, the perennial question—debated endlessly in tongue-in-cheek TV ads from the ‘80s and ‘90s—of whether Coke is better than Pepsi. I can now safely say which is the better beverage from a social and environmental responsibility standpoint (never mind that both of them rot away our kidneys in equal measure). And you’ll know too, once you’ve read the book!
Writing a book review is a thin line to walk. You want to do a thorough job of covering the book, but you don't want to go into so much detail that you lose your readers. The samples below, which are taken from reviews of books on environmental topics, exemplify this fine balance.