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The Thread of Energy

Martin J. Pasqualetti

Publication Date - 10 December 2021

ISBN: 9780199394807

464 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

The Thread of Energy breaks down the most influential driver of human actions and decision making: energy.


Energy weaves the tapestry of our lives, and it does so in more ways than we usually recognize. While it is clear that it powers our homes, airplanes, and factories, its overwhelming influence often goes without notice in other areas, from the heartbreak of poverty to the motivation for war. While maintaining its availability has the potential to create jobs and contribute to competitive economies, nonrenewable energy sources are scarring our landscapes, polluting our air, and fouling our water. Understanding how we use energy and what we are willing to do to maintain our access to it can help us prepare for the complex and daunting challenges that linger as we look for alternatives.

In The Thread of Energy, Martin J. Pasqualetti homes in on this vital driver of human actions and decisions. He exposes the impact of energy according to multiple scales of measurement and assessment, from everyday applications to global entanglements. The book traces our increasing dependence on Earth's nonrenewable energy resources by comparing lifestyle changes throughout history.

Pasqualetti showcases the many ways energy infiltrates communication methods in all its forms (e.g., print, visuals, digital, etc.). The final chapters detail various approaches used by democratic societies looking to lessen their energy usage, including the critical importance of environmentally conscious policymakers.

The Thread of Energy treats energy as a social issue with a technical component, rather than the other way around.


  • Reveals the boundless ties between energy and society
  • Compares the influences of energy on living in the global North and the global South
  • Explains how the form and function of burgeoning cities drive an accelerated demand for energy
  • Demonstrates how sustainable energy can help curb global warming

About the Author(s)

Martin J. Pasqualetti is Professor of Geography at Arizona State University, where he has created and regularly teaches a course called "The Thread of Energy." In 2015, he received the Alexander and Ilse Melamid Gold Medal from the American Geographical Society for his contributions to energy studies. For similar contributions, he was named 2018 Alumnus of the Year by the University of California, Riverside and a Fellow of the American Association of Geographers in 2019. Pasqualetti currently serves as the ASU liaison to the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Land Art Generator. He has edited or co-edited seven books, most recently: The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies (2020), Nuclear Decommissioning and Society (2019), and The Renewable Energy Landscape (2017).


"Thread lays out a complex subject with admirable clarity. For environmental science classes, Thread may be even more valuable, because it deliberately traces the social dimensions of energy without delving into the physics and engineering. Without exposures like Thread, science students may be led into thinking that fixes to energy problems just require getting the science right." -- John H. Perkins, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

"The Thread of Energy explains the ubiquity of energy in all activities of a modern society. Prepared for a student audience, this well-researched and well-illustrated book explains many complexities and consequences of producing and using energy, particularly from fossil fuels. It urges readers to use the information to promote an energy transition to mitigate climate change [...] The many examples Tread presents make the book a good candidate for classes in environmental studies and sciences." -- John H. Perkins, PhD, The Evergreen State College, Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences

"Enhanced by many drawings, photographs, tables, and illustrations, overall, the book is well written; full of interesting information, both quantitative and qualitative; and suitable for a general audience." -- A. M. Saperstein, CHOICE

"The book is incredibly well researched, beautifully written and surprisingly easy to understand even if one does not have a background in energy." -- James R. Huning, PhD, NSF/NASA (retired)

"A prodigious achievement, this important book comes at a critical moment of energy transition and offers insights that challenge us to take both individual and collective responsibility for the fate of the world." -- Andrew Blowers, OBE, author of The Nuclear Legacy and Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences, Open University, England

"In our post-factual world full of instant simplistic expertise based on shallow learning it is important to have such books as Martin Pasqualetti's wide-ranging survey: factual, historically grounded and mindful of complexities." -- Vaclav Smil, Author of Energy and Civilization. Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

"A masterful piece of research and writing that takes decades of experience to produce, and it shows in every chapter." -- Benjamin K. Sovacool, author of Visions of Energy Futures, Editor-in-Chief, Energy Research & Social Science. Professor of Energy Policy, and Director of the Sussex Energy Group, University of Sussex

"Martin Pasqualetti has woven together a brilliant volume. Finally, an energy book for the rest of us! This book should be widely read and used, not only by energy, environmental and sustainability students and faculty but by government policy makers as well." -- Barry Solomon, Co-Editor (with Kirby Calvert) of Handbook on the Geographies of Energy and Professor Emeritus, Michigan Technological University

"Brimming with historical and contemporary observations, practical insights and fascinating illustrations, The Thread of Energy promises to enrich the learning journey for students as well as seasoned researchers and practitioners." -- Gregory Trencher, Associate Professor of Energy and Sustainability Governance, Kyoto University

"The Thread of Energy is the kind of book that highlights connections and complexities, helping you to punch holes in the box you have been thinking inside. That's how the light gets in." -- Dan van der Horst, Personal Chair of Energy, Environment and Society, University of Edinburgh

"There are few authors who can describe in such a comprehensive and readable way the specific roles that energy has played and plays in the history and present of our society. Martin Pasqualetti dominates with the brilliance and clarity of language and complexity of analysis." -- Bohumil Frantál, Professor, Institute of Geonics, Czech Academy of Sciences and Executive Editor of the Moravian Geographical Reports

"The Thread of Energy is a deep synthesis of knowledge from sociology and technology brought to bear on the transition to a low carbon energy future. The product of this synthesis is a book that is accessible for students and informative to professionals. I highly recommend The Thread of Energy to all readers interested in energy in the Anthropocene." -- Gary Dirks, Former President, BP Asia-Pacific and BP China

"The Thread of Energy is a must read for anyone who wishes to comprehend the deep interdependencies among energy and society across different geographical contexts." -- Stefan Bouzarovski, author of Energy Poverty and Professor of Geography, University of Manchester

"We appreciate, in Europe, too, Martin Pasqualetti's comprehensive, well written work which embraces all aspects of the energy sector from the viewpoint of social sciences. The book appears, fortunately, during the crucial transition to the new era of renewable sources of energy which will be decisive for our future." -- Wolfgang Brücher, author of Energiegeographie and Professor Emeritus, University of Saarbrücken

"The Thread of Energy is by far the most comprehensive survey of energy and its interrelationships with human society. It is the first book to read in order to get acquainted with the issues humanity faces in the 21st century, all of which revolve in some way around energy." -- Robert Ferry & Elizabeth Monoian, Founding Co-Directors of the Land Art Generator Initiative

"The Thread of Energy is a readable, engaging, and compelling book that provides an accessible overview of a complex field. The book mobilizes two assets to manage this complexity: a straightforward, clear writing style and a vault full of rich examples that Professor Pasqualetti has collected during a distinguished career." -- Vanesa Castán Broto, Professor of Climate Urbanism, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield

"In The Thread of Energy, Martin Pasqualetti has provided a terrific, accessible resource for newcomers looking to understand how the pieces fit together, for people steeped in the technologies and issues, and for everyone in-between." -- John Rogers, Senior Energy Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

Table of Contents


    Chapter 1: Discovery: Encountering the Thread of Energy
    Chapter 2: Transition: Evolving Uses of Energy
    Chapter 3: Life: Everyday Threads of Energy
    Chapter 4: Art: Reflections of Meaning
    Chapter 5: Environment: Natural Costs of Energy
    Chapter 6: Climate: Growing Threats of a Warming Planet
    Chapter 7: Policy: Guiding the Direction of Energy
    Chapter 8: Geopolitics: Spider Webs of Global Interdependency
    Chapter 9: Cities: Centers of Usage
    Chapter 10: Justice: Supply and Accountability
    Chapter 11: Lifestyles: Security and Demand
    Chapter 12: Dangers: Personal Risks and Hazards
    Chapter 13: Business: Jobs and the Workspace
    Chapter 14: Futures: Tapestries of Life


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