Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Memorable books I read this year

By Daniel Kammen

Three books were very interesting to me this year:

First, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers on the 'care and feeding' of exceptional individuals.  This is both heartening (in an extreme over-simplification; to some extent, super-creative individuals and groups can be nurtured).  This is exciting to think about as the US begins the conversation on how to re-invest in and expand our science and technology training and launching process in the country.

Second, I went back and re-read Rachel Carson's masterpiece, Silent Spring. This had (and always has) a huge impact when I think about her writings and her life flow.  But in this moment, it was particularly important because she essentially created a new field of environmental life-cycle analysis and public  engagement - and that is just the moment we are (ideally) in right now in terms of creating a full systems science of energy research.  This is what my research and laboratory are focused on right now, and I hope  'full employment' for myself over the next decade.

Finally, the need and opportunity to engage with researchers and the public in developing nations is vital to create a sustainable global energy economy.  To that end I returned to re-read an African classic, When Rainclouds Gather by the South African exile Bessie Head.  In her book local economic and development opportunities the aspirations of a whole range of actors (village chiefs, 'development greenhorns', cynical industrialists and agriculturalists all clash and reshape how technologies and policies are used in the field).  Sobering stuff when one is thinking about the ability for whole new clean energy economies to grow around the world -- or not.