Electricity Vs Fire: The Fight For Our Future from Walt Patterson

Electricity Vs Fire: The Fight For Our Future from Walt Patterson

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Description of Electricity Vs Fire: The Fight For Our Future from Walt...

Humans cannot go back to the beginning and start again, but if they had to, Walt Patterson’s new book would be as fundamental a guide to the challenges as any. It doesn’t contain many helpful prescriptions about the most efficient exploitation of the emerging technologies that could deliver renewable energy, or deliver more bang for the megabuck of investment. But that’s not the point. Patterson’s point is that a new start means a fresh attitude, and Electricity vs Fire is as nice a statement of the essential simplicity – and the scale – of the challenge as I have yet seen.

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The Fire Age began before the Stone Age. It began even before homo sapiens - but we are still in it. We take fire for granted. Most of the time, in rich countries, we no longer even realize when we use it. We think of fire as a key to civilization. But fire's greatest contribution may be making possible the human control of electricity. Electricity, in turn, may save us from fire.

For all its usefulness and appeal, fire is actually violent and extreme. Fire in car engines, household heaters, factory furnaces and power station boilers is making the air in major cities around the world poisonous, almost unbreathable. The commonest gas that fire produces, carbon dioxide, is relentlessly heating up the planet. The way we use fire now threatens the future of human society.

Much of what we used to do with fire we can now do with electricity - making light, exerting force, moving things, managing information. But we still use fire far too much, and we still make too much of our electricity with fire. If we are to keep our planet habitable, that must change. We need urgently to move beyond the Fire Age.

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