‘The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight’ by Thom Hartmann

This book had a huge impact on me when it first appeared in 1998. With the exception of a few reviewers’ opinions that the concept really wasn’t new, most of those who read it were excited about the book and the clarity with which it explained that the fossil fuels we’re using now contain the energy of sunlight that plants captured eons ago, long buried in the form of coal and other fossil fuels.

As Hartmann wrote, “In a very real sense, we’re all made out of sunlight. Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of virtually all life on Earth. Everything you see alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it.” This reminded me of George Wald’s statement that we carry the stuff of ancient stars within our physical selves.

I enjoyed the book, stuck it on a shelf somewhere, and ultimately forgot about it until two kids listening to a shortwave radio program in Anthony Doerr’s All the Light we Cannot See heard a lecture about the subject of sunlight hidden in fossil fuels. He doesn’t credit Hartmann, so the concept of ancient sunlight has perhaps become so common that we no longer think of it as new or from the writing output of one man twenty-five years ago.

The book was updated in 2004 with an afterword by Neale Donald Walsch (Conversations with God).

From the Publisher

While everything appears to be collapsing around us – ecodamage, genetic engineering, virulent diseases, the end of cheap oil, water shortages, global famine, wars – we can still do something about it and create a world that will work for us and for our children’s children. The inspiration for Leonardo DiCaprio’s feature documentary movie The Eleventh Hour and soon to be released HBO special Ice on FireLast Hours of Ancient Sunlight details what is happening to our planet, the reasons for our culture’s blind behavior, and how we can fix the problem. Thom Hartmann’s comprehensive book is one of the fundamental handbooks of the environmental activist movement. Now with fresh, updated material on our Earth’s rapid climate change and a focus on political activism and its effect on corporate behavior, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight helps us understand – and heal – our relationship to the world, to each other, and to our natural resources.

The concepts in the book are still valid and probably more urgent than they were when the book first appeared.


Malcolm R. Campbell, a conservationist, and a former mountain climber is the author of paranormal, contemporary fantasy, and magical realism novels and short stories.