Mother Earth Monday – Energy Slaves

Before ever trying to convince someone that they might want to lower their power usage, it is important to understand what it even means. Ignoring economics for now (and I will get back to that again in the future I am sure), I would like to explain a concept dating back to 1944. A man named Buckminster Fuller, who is most well known for the discovery of buckminsterfullerene (AKA: bucky balls, seriously. Go look it up), came up with the idea that all of the energy we use can be measured in meaningful terms.

If we are honest, most people have no real understanding of what a Watt really means in terms of energy. Mister Fuller decided that it would be much more meaningful to measure in terms of human power. This measurement was dubbed the Energy Slave. That has meaning. Do I have your attention?

Every electrical item in your home uses power equal to a number of humans working hard to create the energy needed to power it. Right now, we use fossil fuels by and large to accomplish this. It is a miracle of science. We can argue about peak oil and other matters, but regardless of the amount available we are well aware of the pollution and rising costs.

So let me point out some very real examples. Most of us shower every day. A show called Bang Goes the Theory on BBC decided to demonstrate through cyclists pedaling just how much power it takes to keep a warm shower going. Roughly 80 men and women pedaling against an uphill resistance were required. More noteworthy is that most of them had to pedal so hard that they were unable to walk for days afterward. Add to that the amount of energy that went into feeding them after the task and it expanded the overall numbers greatly.

Okay, so you tell yourself that a long shower is really a big draw of energy. Let’s go to the humble toaster. Mmmm Toast. One small bonus along with the rest of your breakfast. A minute tops to toast the bread. How many Energy Slaves are we sending to do this task? Eleven. You need to have 11 slaves pedaling bikes every morning for a minute strait just for a single piece of toast. The numbers continue like that. This only accounts for the energy current, not for the energy used in bringing that energy into being and getting it to our homes.

All told, the world currently uses around sixty six billion Energy Slaves to sustain our needs. Think about that the next time you decide to leave a light on or take the extra long shower. Go ahead and indulge yourself, but do it knowing exactly what is going into it. There are clean energy ways to get what you need just as well after all. Still, realize just how easy we have it and just how many phantom slaves we each keep in our house working furiously each day to serve our petty needs.

What are your thoughts?

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