If you hate government waste, and are frightened by our obsession with what seem alarmingly Ponzi-like market growth expectations, then Green Illusions is for you.

Zehner takes a critical look at green energy technologies – not to say that they’re not worthwhile or that some proportion of global energy use will not rely on these technologies in the future – but rather to conduct a reality check on how much of an effect these technologies can really have on energy consumption habits that are becoming exponentially more demanding.

He observes the issues of efficiency with solar cells, and, more frighteningly, the toxic waste created during their manufacture. He discusses the issues that need to be overcome for wind power to supply a large part of our energy, and the collateral damage that the building of wind farms often causes. He looks directly at nuclear power’s dirty underlinen and asks us how much risk we are willing to take on to fuel our consumption addiction.

Yet, he does not judge. He does not expect us to sacrifice to save the planet. He believes that we can improve our consumption behaviour by rethinking communities. He asks why we continue to look for a technological solution to our problems, instead of cultural and social solutions.

I am willing to admit that he might not be right on all of his points that detail the failing of green energy technology. I have read some of the responses to his novel from Green Energy advocates whose noses have been put out of joint. Their anger may be well founded – it’s difficult to know without going into the issue in more depth. But even if they are right, and the technologies show more promise than he says, they have missed the point of his book. The point is that even if all of these green energy methods work much better than they are now, it will take time for them to become economically viable and be adopted in large enough numbers to make a difference. In the meantime, our consumption will continue to rise, cancelling out our efforts. We need to do something in the meantime that doesn’t need massive government subsidies and we need to change our culture so consumption isn’t how we measure happiness.

If nothing else, the book makes us question the marketing that we absorb in every aspect of our lives and forces us to remember the vested interest behind every spokesperson.

In terms of the writing, all I can really say is I didn’t notice it, which in a book of this kind is praise enough. If I was to find something to criticise, I would raise a concern that he drew so many of his examples of what is good practice from the Netherlands. Is there so little good from other countries? Just because he lived in the Netherlands doesn’t mean the book should be a ‘we love Dutch culture’ fest.

Otherwise, I found it a thought provoking book that made me reconsider my ambitions for my future. I’m giving it a 4.5/5.

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