Fossil fuels and nuclear power pose equally apocalyptic threats, according to this fact-strewn, muddled opening volume of a massive two-volume cri de coeur on energy. Addressing an imagined reader of the future, when climate change has made the earth a scorched wasteland, novelist and journalist Vollmann (Uncentering the Earth) opens with a guilt-stricken primer on mankind’s heedless production of greenhouse gases—then proceeds to attack nuclear power, one of the largest sources of low-carbon energy. Much of the book covers his travels in Japan, where he roamed the environs of the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011 taking readings with a radiation meter, talking to locals, and shuddering at desolate vistas of evacuated towns—the fruit, he contends, of a callous “nuclear ideology” that saddles humanity with poisoned landscapes. Vollmann’s critique doesn’t quite make a coherent case that Fukushima’s spew will have significant health effects (the scientific consensus says otherwise); instead he veers between sarcastic jibes—“unlike its three main rival fuels, nuclear could be fun!”—and alarmism about “gamma rays stabbing through me.” Nuclear power and energy policy deserve a more thoughtful, less biased exploration than Vollmann gives them. Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/05/2018 Release date: 04/10/2018 Genre: Nonfiction
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