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Posted June 27, 2013
There are many academic authors who write to impress their peers rather than communicate effectively with a broader audience.
Fortunately, Steve Hallett is not among them. What makes The Efficiency Trap interesting and informative is his use of a wide variety of
examples from both history and nature to explain how our efforts to slow down consumption by maximizing efficiency simply have not
worked and are, in fact, a trap leading us down the wrong path.
He offers several suggestions for building resilience in order to withstand the negative impacts of a changing (even collapsing)
energy system. His suggestions sound reasonable enough, but large city dwellers and the rural poor, lacking either authority or
resources, may find them difficult to implement.
There is some inconsistent and confusing use of terminology, specifically the terms sustainable development (used twice and later
labelled an oxymoron) and sustainability (both rejected and embraced). Overall, however, the main message is clear enough and there
are some terrific insights in this book. We have to give the author credit for seeing what is now more obvious to the rest of us with
hindsight: improving efficiency is not the way to alter a complex system. Improving efficiency is basically a numbers approach, and a
better number usually does not significantly change the way a complex system works.
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