Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Earth Day Begs the Question about the Future of Energy


Yes, today is the 43rd annual Earth Day recognition worldwide. A number of live and online events are taking place; see a list below for some unusual items. But in 2013, to me, the day raises a central question about how to power the human race without killing the planet in the process.

Two recent publications from Scientific American tackle this question head-on. First is a new eBook called Earth, Wind and Fire: The Future of Energy. It takes a fascinating and no-nonsense tour through the potential and problems of all sorts of renewable energy options, from the familiar solar and wind to some radical research projects, among them machines that turn sunlight into gasoline and shape-memory alloys that turn waste heat inside car engines into electricity. Information about all our eBooks is at the same site, including editions on climate change and water management.

Second is an interview with Mark Jacobson, a researcher at Stanford University who has produced incredibly detailed plans for how the world could get all of its energy solely from wind, water and the sun. He has also scaled the formula down for New York State as a first real-life test case for how to implement such a plan.

For other Earth Day fun, you can add your face to a wonderful and interactive online photo-mosaic that is growing by the hour, run by the Earth Day Network. The New York Times has posted a beautiful slide show of stunning black-and-white images of nature’s beauty that remains untouched by human hands. If you prefer movies or music, check out a music video put together by actor Ed Begley, Jr., and singer Jason Mraz about clean energy. And if architecture is your thing, you can look inside what is being called the greenest office building in the world, the Bullitt Center in Seattle, which opened … today, of course.

Image: Public domain, by Matriot on Wikimedia Commons

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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