An eye-opening look at the consequences of coal mining and oil and natural gas production—the second of a two volume work by award-winning author William T. Vollmann on the ideologies of energy production and the causes of climate change
...Refused interviews by fuel-industry executives and U.S. Department of Energy staff, Vollmann portrays individuals who have endured intimidation to speak out against the 'callous villainies' of fuel corporations. Unflinching, exacting, and forthright, Vollmann brings abiding respect, empathy, and tenderness to this endeavor, both documenting the fuel industry’s betrayal of hardworking people and recognizing 'the stubbornly irrational component in human affairs.' Invaluable, enlightening, and heartrending testimony to how enmeshed we all are in the carbon-industrial complex and accelerated climate change.
This curious mix of certainty and confusion is a defining affect of the climate crisis, and it’s one of the main themes of William T. Vollmann’s new two-volume Carbon Ideologies ... combines a heavy dose of scientific instruction with Vollmann’s reporting from energy-producing regions around the world. The work’s stated goals are to help readers understand the costs and benefits of their own energy use and to explain to future generations the hopeless complexity of our reckless dash toward cataclysm.
So is this the book on climate change we’ve all been waiting for? Maybe not. Carbon Ideologies, Vollmann’s two-volume exploration of the energy sources we use and the mess we are in, is prodigiously reported but sprawling and undisciplined ... Vollmann’s many fans are drawn to his literary hoarder aesthetic, and they will not be disappointed ... He has stacked his reporting high, giving us interview after interview with local people in places ravaged by our need for power and by our wastefulness ... We hear them at great length, but with little interpretation or analysis ... the biggest problem with this monumental work: not its length, or the way it might test your tolerance for sarcasm, but the author’s tendency to assume the absolute worst consequences of climate change ... Vollmann...gives short shrift to renewable energy sources like solar power that can help to provide a pathway to a less damaged future ... Reading these two books did have an effect on me ... I do feel worse about myself. Maybe that’s what the work was for.