It all comes from the sun

Note: I originally published this in August ’14, but with all of the thinking about sustainability I’ve been doing, I wanted to push this up to the front page again for those who may have missed it before.

Imagine a family with carefully built wealth. For four generations, the adults have worked hard, carefully managed and invested, leaving the next generation with more than they started with. Somehow, the latest generation doesn’t get it. A century’s worth of wealth gets squandered in mere decades.

Would anyone look upon that last generation kindly? No? I didn’t think so. For this reason, history will judge the petroleum era harshly.

All energy comes from the sun.* What we call “fossil fuels” is merely solar energy, captured and stored over millions of years. And we’ll squander it in a few centuries. Whether peak oil has happened or is yet to come, petroleum is a finite resource.

When it is gone, will we look up to the sun, look down at the earth beneath our feet, and wonder what the hell we were doing? The last generation of our imaginary family probably had fun, but when the bender was over, what then?

Think about it.

*This ignores the notable exception of fissionable minerals mined from the soil. Though, of course, even those had to be formed in the core of a star.

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