Chris Goodall, 2016. The Switch. Profile Books. 274pp.
With so much free solar energy the world is catching up fast in harnessing it day and night. The author, an expert on these matters, puts the case for the inevitability of the global switch and turning over to ever more efficient systems and storage in particular. The switch to a low carbon economy is convincingly told. We learn of the novel perovskites coatings on new PVs that my give an extra 20-25% boost in productivity. The book is a good read on the history of solar production which includes details of main players (and photos of them in black and white), how the ‘experience curve’ provides for cheaper materials, of Swanson’s and Moore’s laws, and all manner of alternative energy sources being trialled and honed. Altogether this is an essential guide to the subject. It has an appendix to figures and terms and an index. There are no references in the book, but reference is made to the authors website (www.carboncommentary.com) which is complete as can be, and offers updates (following publication of this book in 2016) and warns the reader to be wary of columnists in newspapers who get solar stats wrong.
S.J. Bowe 2015. Mulberry, the material culture of mulberry trees. Liverpool University Press. 124pp.
If ever there was an introduced tree that has such a fascinating historical record in the grand gardens of Britain it is the mulberry. The book looks at both the white and black mulberry species and how they are wound up in the silk industry and associated with people such as James 1 and Shakespeare as well as Morris, More and Milton. The unique part of the book is its approach to the use of mulberry in the Japanese sashimono furniture tradition, highly regarded and often used in the tea ceremony. It is beautifully illustrated in colour showing many artefacts such as whisk shapers, tea containers all made from mulberry. This is a serious, almost academic book though accessible for general readership – the author is Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University – magnificently published and ideal for dendrologists, especially those keen on the historical perspective of the Morus genus, as well as antique dealers and enthusiasts of Japanese art. Each of the five chapters has exhaustive references and there is a good bibliography and useful list of 100 UK gardens where mulberries continue the tradition.
RBG Kew. 2016. The State of the World’s Plants. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 80pp (also on-line).
It was a surprise that the world’s plants had not had been put under the microscope before, but this timely report sets the record straight, and will be an annual event. This is a major work brought together and verified by scores of eminent botanists worldwide. The brutal message is that the quantum of plants is declining. There are three sections to the book, first, how many plants are there (391,000 vascular plants) second, threats, including climate change, and third, policies and international trade. The stark facts are highlighted throughout the book in large print: 21% of global plant species currently threatened with extinction, one in five of plants threatened with extinction. This is not compensated by the 2,034 new plant species logged up to March 2016. Genome sequencing is running apace, with 136 species whose whole-genome sequences are known. There are an amazing 31,128 species of ‘useful plants’ and 1,771 ‘important plant areas’ but, worryingly very few of these areas are protected. There are 4,979 species now documented as invasive; they say it is inevitable that with globalisation the incidence of invasives will rise. On climate change they agree that ‘>10% of the earth’s vegetated surface demonstrates high sensitivity to climate change.’ This year the review focussed on Brazil where there 32,109 native Brazilian seed plants known to science and where more seed plants are known than any other country in the world. There are 219 scientific references in the book, just in case anyone wants to dispute the facts. It will be interesting to compare parameters next year on the world’s inventory of plants. Clearly, then, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about plants.
Howard Johns 2015. Energy Revolution – Your Guide to Repowering the Energy System. East Meon, Permanent Publications. 2015. ISBN 978 1 85623 197 8 288pp.
Some books take decades to evolve, but this one has been borne out of one man’s enthusiasm for the subject that goes back 15 years. The author is from East Sussex whose passion for renewables has seen Southern Solar, Transition Lewes and Ovesco establish themselves in the marketplace. There is an energy spirit coursing through Johns’ veins, a passion to see renewable energy succeed, even though politics repeatedly gets in the way. Given that sunlight, wind and water are free resources it is a great pity that they have not been exploited further. In 2014 20% of the energy used in the UK was from renewables, about half of that from wind. There are people who sit back, flick the light switch, watch TV and have no idea where the energy comes from, or are that bothered. The book is not just about energy in the UK, how it is produced, especially at community level, but there are chapters on the state of repowering in fifteen countries. We learn that energy from renewables in Germany peaked in May 2014 at 73% of total energy production. The chapter on ‘100% renewable’ details the advances that companies such as Ikea, Apple, Google and J. Sainsbury’s have made, and how Iceland (the country) first produced all its electricity from renewables in 2013. Overall this is an up to date and exciting book charting the rise of renewables – a good textbook on the subject; with glossary, index and list of resources.