Saturday, January 28, 2023 -
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Renewable books

I’ve been re-reading one of my favorite childhood books, A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag, and I am struck by just how prescient it was. Truth is, I probably shouldn’t be surprised as the author, Gordon Korman, is a rare talent. He published his first book at the age of 14 and hasn’t stopped writing since. His books are laugh-out-loud funny, filled with hilariously unique characters. They are highly recommended for your elementary or middle grade kids or grandkids.

In Semester, DeWitt High School is the site of SACGEN, a Department of Energy renewable project. Theoretically, the school should be running at full capacity using only solar power, but the “Windmill,” as one student dubs it, regularly breaks down, disrupting and frustrating both students and teachers.

Here’s the problem: The school has no backup plan in place. So not only is the main anti-SACGEN agitator’s poker game displaced, but computer data is lost and classes are cut short on a regular basis.

In this kids’ book from 1987 is the current renewables vs. fossil fuels summed up.

Even as many agree that a move to renewables is necessary for protecting against climate change, natural gas remains necessary to fuel our everyday lives — from driving, to electricity, to the internet. We cannot afford — like the students at DeWitt — to have our lives disrupted constantly.

As we move to renewables — or to nuclear — steady, reliable energy sources must remain viable, otherwise key institutions, including schools, hospitals and law enforcement, cannot function. And for as long as we need it, the more we can produce ourselves, the less reliant we are on the whims or cartels of dictators and blackmailers.

Europe faces a truly frightening winter due to its super short-sighted reliance on Russian gas. In its enthusiasm for renewables, Europe handed a dictator unbelievable leverage over the basic needs of millions of Europeans.

Even if renewables become the sole agreed upon energy source, the path must proceed with caution and balance. Not to mention, the renewables debate is a complex one. It is often presented as a simple good vs. bad binary, even though renewables can themselves cause climate disasters. For example, by clearing forests for wind turbines in Scotland or by the extraction of lithium in Chile.

This is why I love to re-read children’s books. Without fail, each re-read stimulates new observations.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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