Alex Steffen.

It’s not every day that the author of a new book — a sharp perspective on a topic that’s central to your work — approaches you and proposes that you make the entire thing available on your website. Usually, authors are more … parsimonious with their work.

So when Alex Steffen brought his Carbon Zero to Grist several weeks ago with this offer, I wanted to make absolutely certain I’d heard him right.

I knew he’d already raised a little money on Kickstarter to write the book. And I knew he was publishing Carbon Zero under the share-and-modify-friendly Creative Commons license. Still, I had to ask.

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“So, you’re sure you want us to post the entire book? Really truly? You’re not afraid it’ll hurt sales? You won’t change your mind?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “I’m most interested in getting these ideas out there.”

(Of course, if you like what you read, Steffen absolutely will not mind if you do want to buy Carbon Zero in its fully designed e-book format, available very shortly.)

I first encountered Steffen the way you probably did — through his work cofounding and editing the late, lamented blog called Worldchanging. He’s known for thinking realistically — but not too dejectedly — about how we might get to a greener future, and in a way that embraces technology without fetishizing it.

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When I read Carbon Zero, it more than lived up to that reputation. It’s a brief but deep manual for imagining how our cities can become the solution to our climate woes. I think you’ll find it makes for bracing, inspiring reading that should serve as perfect pick-me-up after Sandy’s devastating East Coast visit. You may want to quarrel with some of Steffen’s arguments, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the scope of his ideas or the urgency of his perspective.

This week, we’ll be posting all of Carbon Zero‘s six chapters (along with their occasional sidebars), a chapter each day till we’re done. You can begin at the beginning right here.

We’ll also bring Steffen over soon to talk more about the book and its ideas and answer your questions. As we post these fresh hunks of prose, the links on this contents page will light up — and once we’re done, they’ll stay lit. Ideas, after all, are a renewable energy source.

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