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Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism (Our Sustainable Future) Paperback – 25 Jun 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (25 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803237758
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803237759
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 15.4 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ozzie Zehner is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. His research, writings, and projects over the previous two decades have been covered by CNN, The Washington Post, MSNBC, Science News Radio, The Economist, Business Week, The Humanist, and numerous other publications. He also serves on the editorial board of Critical Environmentalism.

Product Description


"Ozzie Zehner's 'Green Illusions' Ruffles Feathers... If his goal was to capture attention by tweaking the nose of clean-energy enthusiasts everywhere, Ozzie Zehner might well have succeeded. His new book, published last month and provocatively titled "Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism," takes on what Zehner considers the sacred cows of the green movement: solar power, wind power and electric vehicles, among others." Tom Zeller Jr, HuffingtonPost.comJuly 27th 2012 "Provocative and essential! Green Illusions shakes us awake to the true challenges we face as a species ... And inspires us to take action."John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man "At once prophetic and pragmatic must be read by anyone concerned about our collective future." Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation and Childhood Under Siege "An extremely important message for a society whose best-intentioned members have lost themselves in a wilderness of wishful thinking... In fact, the sort of techno-narcissistic behaviour that Ozzie Zehner identifies is a tragic distraction from the actions that would keep us from falling through the cracks of history."James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency "Terrific book... Zehner is especially good at untangling sloppy thinking."David Owen, author of Green Metropolis "Think the answer to global warming lies in solar panels, wind turbines, and bio fuels? Think again ... In this thought-provoking and deeply-researched critique of popular green solutions, Zehner makes a convincing case that such alternatives won't solve our energy problems; in fact, they could make matters even worse."Susan Freinkel, author of Plastic: A Toxic Love Story "There is no obvious competing or comparable book... Green Illusions has the same potential to sound a wake-up call in the energy arena as was observed with Silent Spring in the environment and Fast Food Nation in the food system." Charles Francis, former director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture Systems at the University of Nebraska

About the Author

Ozzie Zehner , who has collaborated on numerous projects in industry, government, and academia, is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, USA.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Anonymous on 26 July 2012
Format: Paperback
Personally, I thought it was a great book, especially the parts on women's rights, and building better neighborhoods. The chapter on the hydrogen zombie was humorous and educational as I did not really know much about hydrogen or the fascinating political story behind it. The book is written for an everyday audience and does not have technical jargon - just straightforward, thoughtful thinking on our big environmental challenges and how to approach them without partisan politics. Two thumbs up.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By RF on 6 Feb. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fascinating and balanced account of all the claptrap we are fed by politicians and biased scientists. No need to be technically minded to understand this book and it makes you want to read on.
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Great and realistic expose of Green Delusions by Ozzie zehner and well worth getting a copy to run through his analyses. Look, I'm a deep green conservation activist and I've long seen the crass nature of the industrialisation of environmental rescue. The two do not mix in any rational manner. Ossie looks at this dichotomy in this book, with excellent exemplars and a good view to the future.
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57 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Devastating, Astounding and Impossibly Important. 9 Jun. 2012
By J.H. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
I began quite the skeptic. I know the importance of green energy and I am committed to helping slow the degradation to the environment. To be clear, the premise of Green Illusions seemed provocative to me and rather improbable. However as an academic, I knew that the The Nebraska press has a solid reputation in publishing conservationist thinkers - one of their books was just announced as a Pulitzer Prize finalist and now I know why.

To say that this book is simply powerful would actually be to shortchange it. This book is not just an incisive analysis of our current state of environmental affairs. This book is also a work of sheer epistemology- brilliantly interrogating the very facts and data on which our analyses lay. Given his work as an environment consultant, he should know. Yet, there is a keen sense of sophisticated thinking that requires us to think deeply about "solutions" - taking the time to examine the presuppositions that undergird them and the axioms that allow them to go unchecked. This work of disentangling facts from fiction is prodigious on its own. Yet, to connect this disentanglement to the larger the social, political, and moral obligations that befalls our society makes what was a merely sophisticated argument into an ineluctably ethical one.

I came to this book as an educated skeptic. But the book not only brought me to think in important new ways, it also made me realize why these issues were so incredibly important. The author argues that it doesn't matter how many answers we discover if we are asking the wrong questions to begin with. I certainly had been asking the wrong questions. While I still disagree with the author on some issues, I think that the larger thesis is actually quite profound. The author weaves a compelling story about the global and growing addiction to consumption and the way that desires of technological abdication have obfuscated the relationships between economic habits and its effects in the form of environmental degradation. Zehner undoes this obfuscation through facts. This is where my skepticism began to subside. Working with a mountain of statistics and data, the story becomes undeniably clear and it is here where I find that these facts become incredibly important. But he does not rely on this. Not only does Zehner clearly lay out these facts, he also show us just how limited these facts are given our larger, rapacious trajectory of consumption - a trajectory that is much too fast (and accelerating) to be undone by expert ambiguities about data. No squabbles regarding the true benefits of wind technologies or other green tech solutions - can undo the undeniable consumptive dinosaur in the (world's) room. You can put all of your data regarding benefits of green technology together and they still can not undue the velocity of consumption.. It is there.. at that very moment that Zehner's provocative hypothesis goes beyond the methodological impasses of data to the undeniable truth of causes and solutions.

And yet, the most shocking part, at least for me, revealed after his elegant unraveling of our gilded assumptions, - is the sheer pragmatism of his solutions. The book avoids easy, pie-in-the-sky solutions and instead clearly articulates about three dozen "first-steps" all of which are clearly achievable. This is especially momentous given our current climate of endless political divisions, rugged anti-intellectualism and fact-free rhetorical grandstanding. These solutions touch all areas of our societies - approaching large-scale social problems such as those of healthcare and women's rights (p.187).

As an academic, I'm often prone to a permanent sense of reservation and as a once-ardent defender of green technologies, I actually know a lot about the subject. But I feel quite certain that this book will likely change things in dramatic ways. This book and the larger idea that it represents will likely reorient the entire conversation about energy, consumption, conservation and the sociopolitical tenets that though that we held so dear. As a person who rarely lifts his brow, I actually found this book to be devastating, astounding and impossibly important. I have been converted.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An Environmentalist Gut Punch 24 Aug. 2012
By Isaac M. Gaetz - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zehner goes right after many environmentalist sacred calves and holds nothing back in Green Illusions. The result is a really intriguing work that hammers home several key points. I'll try to summarize a few of them.

1. Increasing energy production sources (by using power from "renewable" wind, solar, geothermal sources etc. or improving fossil fuel technologies) results in a reduction in energy prices, which history has proven time and time again, results in a rebound effect in which consumption rises, consuming whatever short term gains were accomplished.

2. Comparing the environmental impact of renewable energies to fossil fuels is fundamentally flawed because being more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels is a preposterously low bar which to clear. This results in "less bad" technologies being portrayed as "good" because they are slightly better than the previous "bad" options.

3. Looking exclusively at the power generation side of the equation, whether fossil or renewable, is an approach akin to treating a symptom. Environmentalism would be more productive treating the causal side of the equation, which is consumption.

Zehner's Green Illusions first section is quite similar to Robert Bryce's Power Hungry . Zehner systematically goes down the list of energy technologies, fossil and renewable, and describes the realities of both their energy production potential and their environmental impacts.

The latter half of the book is closer in tone to Robert Laughlin's Powering the Future . Zehner describes real solutions and ideas of what could occur to actual address the world's power problems via practical reductions in consumption through social, political and cultural changes.

Zehner doesn't have all the answers, but he seems to have honed in on the problem, and as they say, before we can agree on the solution, we have to agree on the problem.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Sobering, Essential, Troubling 23 Sept. 2012
By GlobalChangeSupercenter5 - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Green Illusions" is the best kind of critical journalism, written by a researcher with the good of the cause in mind. The deconstructions of solar, wind, biofuels, batteries, suburbs, "green" academia are written with verve and extensive scientific understanding to extract the reality of our energy predicament. The challenge to orthodox green techno-optimism is very strong and cogent.
The difficulty comes in the more gee-whiz kind of "solutions" banality that occupies the latter half of the book. Zehner is quite right to state that walkable, bikable cities with less consumption would be the way to have some shot at human "sustainability," so his architect background leads him to envision this or that green living utopia, from Dutch cities to kids on bikes to efficient retrofits. Fine - yet where is the data to suggest that this is going to come out of the present supersystem of greenwash and big corporate extraction? All the necessary instruction in how we should have designed our global social infrastructure is irrelevant if we are Too Far Gone.
Robert Laughlin, in "Powering the Future," does not make the assumption that walkable/bikable/voluntary simplicity is the next phase of human social reality - carbon is going to come out of the ground, one way or another, until the last drop or chunk.
Look at the CO2 numbers - too high already, and on track to blow through any Gladwellian cliche. Look at the population figures, the server farms, the global waste, the complete corruption of the political governing bodies and process - and yet there is to be biking and non-coerced Amish living across the energy-hungry globe?
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This Kid is Someone to Watch! 21 Mar. 2013
By Canman - Published on
Format: Paperback
I haven't finished this book yet and I don't agree with everything he says, but I have found what I've read so far to be incredibly intelligent. So I got on the internet to find out who the hell this guy is and found a YouTube presentation. I was shocked at how young he looks. I'll leave a URL in the first comment.

I've been reading a lot about green technologies and was expecting a bland review of stuff I had already seen. I'm finding lots of new stuff told with engaging prose. My favorite chapter is his brilliant critique of wind power. I highly recommend it!

------Edited after finishing-------

I knew I would probably not agree with much of the rest of this book, but I was surprised at how much he dislikes capitalism and consumption. He's ready with all kinds of ways of social engineering society. Things that he prefers, like vegetarianism and bicycling might appeal to that part of the population that chooses them freely, but will they bring happiness to people who have other choices curtailed.

While the early parts of the book have a lot of original research, the rest is mostly backed up with quotes from other popular authors. I would suggest he look into the history of 'urban renewal' in the mid later half of the twentieth century. To be fair, he does not claim to have all the answers and has clearly shown that he can think outside the box.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a life-changing book! 23 Jun. 2014
By Jocelyn Mercado - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I already had some mild opinions about environmentalism, drilling for oil, empty consumerism, the U.S. car culture, etc before reading this book. I bought this book because I was seeking an honest, open analysis of "what can the average person do help with the climate/environmental crisis?" This book has absolutely, 110%, answered my question.

Zehner has provided important information that all Americans (really, all people in industrialized countries) should be exposed to. You'll find out why solar cells, wind power, ethanol, and other "green" energy solutions are not as perfect as they are touted in the popular media. You'll probably be shocked to comprehend exactly how deeply ingrained we are in U.S. culture with the need to drive cars, buy as much as possible, and work overtime. Think about it - what do people really want? More vacation time? More time with the people we love, friends and family? More time outdoors in nature? And yet what do we do everyday? We go to work, go to the store, sit in traffic, eat prepackaged food, and watch TV. Do these activities make us happier? Healthier? More able to enjoy every moment? No. Absolutely not. The book includes realistic ways for real people to start small in reversing the unhealthy, damaging habits we have developed in our society over the past few hundred years, as well as larger, more sweeping suggestions for communities and the government to consider.

If you want to read a book that will make you question your current way of life, and start working toward living a better life right now, read this book. If you're paying any attention at all, it will spur you into action. Let's start taking better care of ourselves and our earth, today, right now. Thanks to the author for a candid and striking discussion of topics that have typically been swept under the rug in our American society. This is an excellent book that I will read and refer back to again and again.
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