Ethical Performance
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review

What is Sustainable Technology?

August 2012

A book for specialists in the area, What is Sustainable Technology? nonetheless gets down to fundamentals in its much-needed revaluation of the problems and paradoxes of a once uncritically extolled area of research and development. 
 
Looking at everything from wind turbines to water systems, from electric cars to CFCs, the essays collected in the book give an impressively comprehensive narrative of achievements and dilemmas in sustainable technology, as well as offering depth on particular issues. 
 
Though the writers uniformly show striking historical perspective, the book’s topicality is impressive. Both in terms of the issues considered, such as nanotechnology, biofuels and hydrogen technology, and in the book’s sense of the current challenges in the industry generally, the collection of essays provides the reader with a thorough and persuasive account of the complex relationship between sustainability and technology. 
 
There is, though, a disappointing lacuna in the book’s geographical breadth, as surely the biggest technological challenges – those in the third world – are left virtually unexplained. Very little mention is made of Africa, and even China receives scant treatment – surely a major topic of interest to multinationals and international development organisations alike is overlooked here. 
 
The book disappoints therefore, partly because of its success: it would have been uniquely valuable to have seen the incisive description of European sustainable technology trends extended to economic climates where different rules apply, and where the stakes may be even higher. 
 
Ben Hickman 
 
Karel Mulder, Didac Ferrer, Harro Van Lante (eds.), What is Sustainable Technology? Perceptions, Paradoxes and Possibilities, Greenleaf. 260 pages. £40



Ben Hickman | UK & NI Ireland | Sustainability

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