The Coastal Post - November 1999

Book Review The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation

By Thom Hartmann

Harmony Books, ISBN 0609605461, 336 pages, $24

Though it took little more than 150 years to burn half the Earth's fossil fuel, what Vermont environmentalist Thom Hartmann calls "ancient sunlight," only a 30- to 50-year supply of oil remains. How this can be, along with many other startling revelations, appears in Hartmann's The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking Up to Personal and Global Transformation (Harmony Books, $24), a pre-millennial sequel of sorts to Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.

In a thought-provoking introduction that grabs attention of even the most narcoleptic reader, Hartmann soars through 7,000 years of human history to illustrate the mega-abuse of natural resources committed during the last few hundred spins of Earth around the Sun.

Extinctions, climate changes and the death of trees (lungs of the planet, writes Hartmann) find their place alongside other man-made calamities.

Of course as bleak as it seems, Hartmann does have answers to these latter-day plagues and I was curious enough to keep reading. So piqued, in fact, that I hardly put the book down till the end.

We've forgotten, apparently, how to respect the Earth and her resources. Hartmann claims it's a matter of "Older Culture" vs. "Younger Culture" thinking, tribal ways against consumptive living of the modern city/state, a failure to remember the lives of distant ancestors.

O.K. So he bogs down in the middle with a bit of New Age musings. Just keep reading.

What Hartmann suggests goes beyond developing alternative energy sources (although I must admit he got me researching the current status and affordability of generating solar electricity at home--can you say "photovoltaic"?) and past the comfortable hit-and-miss recycling of beverage cans and newspapers.

Hartmann calls for a spiritual healing of self, community and globe at the same time he shares practical insights into how we can get out of this mess: learning to thrive on today's sunlight. You may not buy into every idea. I didn't. But you'll glean enough inspiration and know-how to make your future--our future--look bright.

David V. Tilton is a writer living in Florida.

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