Monday, 12 November 2012


Our Man's not a very good reader. He tends to read the first few pages of a book, flip to the back and skim read back to front, pausing at pretty pictures and punny captions. Maybe that's a consequence of growing up with newspapers, or a personal inalienable belief that life is too precious to waste on poor writing. Or an interest in the footy scores.

Or it's just him, which is why he tends to keep his writing as brief as possible, aware that you, dear reader, have far better things to do with your time.

And so it was that he read Fresh Currents: Japan's flow from a nuclear past to a renewable future -- reading the intro and flipping to the end and skim-reading back to the front.

The first shock was that his name is there in the "Special Thanks" category, below Bianca Jagger, but above Jake Adelstein. Other than retweeting the occasional pronouncement from the Fresh Currents folks and wishing them the best in their publishing endeavours, Our Man is wholly undeserving of special thanks. But now he felt obliged to read on.

Very well, here's what Our Man took from the experience:

  • If you are a Buddhist you should buy green energy coupons, according to Buddhist writer Jonathan S. Watts. Not to be confused with the Jonathan (no S.) Watts who is a Guardian journalist and whom Our Man once got pissed with in Takadanobaba watching the Spurs v. Leicester City League Cup final. Spurs won, which pleased Jonathan (no S.) Watts no end, being a Spurs fan, but not Our Man, a Leicester native. But Jonathan (no S.) Watts confusingly also contributed an article to Fresh Currents about some Chinese CEO reckoning that his solar panel beating company would be as big as BP. Seems an un-Buddha-like ambition to have, but what would Our Man know?
  • Dams are bad.
  • Little windmills in Tokyo are good.
  • Masayoshi Son, the Softbank dude, was going to solve Japan's energy needs by putting solar panels on unused beaches, building a giant "super grid" that would cost billions and billions and trillions, and then building another one to link Japan to China and India, those two countries famous for their abundance of excess electricity and stable governments.
  • Super grids like the one above are bad.
  • Always turn off unused lights. This could save 30% of lighting bills.
  • "Mr Renewable Energy Japan"
  • Some incomprehensible tables with numbers that could mean something very significant or not, Our Man had no way of knowing.
  • If renewables constituted an enormous percentage of Japan's energy supply in 2050, wouldn't that be nice?
  • Nuclear disasters are bad.
  • We'd have to build lots more nuke power plants to stop global warming, but if we did that, there would be lots more nuke power plants, which would be bad, so therefore renewables will solve all our energy needs.
  • TEPCO is bad.
  • Yakuza are bad.
  • Hiroshima is bad.
  • More numbers.
  • Buddha is a tool-making ape.
For the record, Our Man entirely supports the aim of weaning Japan off fossil fuels and turning the nukes off, but apart from saying this would be an undoubtedly Good Thing to do, he's not sure Fresh Currents made the case. Should we have giant solar schemes? Or grow our own energy on rooftops? If nukes aren't the answer to global warming then compost heaps are? And we get to continue our current lifestyles jetting around the world and downloading PDFs of Fresh Currents to our smart phones indefinitely?

How do we get from our messed up present to the sorted-out future? That's the pressing question that Fresh Currents doesn't answer. Maybe none of us can, to be fair, but the shit is going to hit the fan soon and if we can't use fossil fuels or nukes to dig ourselves out of it, there are going to be some pretty severe sacrifices that we aren't going to able to avoid, no matter how hard we stamp our feet. If we think the solution to our energy needs is just a matter of wanting it badly enough, we've got a hell of a bigger shock to come.

Download a PDF of Fresh Currents: Japan's flow from a nuclear past to a renewable future here. And read a more thorough review over at Spike Japan right here.


Brian Williams said...

Life indeed is too precious to waste on poor writing, and that obviously includes lazy-ass reviews so superficial they are nanometer thin, like this one!
You actually make a living with breezy shit like this?

Our Man in Abiko said...

Touché! Fair criticism, Mr Williams. You'll be happy to note Our Man doesn't make a living from writing book reviews, it's true. And he did want to like this particular book. He certainly likes many of the people involved in the project and thinks it is a worthwhile one. If he had written a less breezy review he couldn't have done better than Spoke Japan's effort, which he linked to. But why duplicate effort?