Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Energy

If we are going to do work in the world--hopefully, meaningful work--of whatever type, we are going to need energy to accomplish the work. This is a basic principle of physics.

In my post of 5/16/09 (Warmth), I mentioned George M telling folks in his workshop that all the energy we use is solar power, in the sense that it ultimately comes from the sun. The energy we use to do anything with our bodies is from eating plants (either directly or indirectly) and those plants store energy that they get from sunlight.

Therefore, eating well is one form of energy we will need in order to do any work. My mother used to talk about us needing to use 'Elbow Grease' to get things done, and I think that may be one of the most effective forms of energy that there is.

Further energy that we will need to do work takes us to the realm of 'Peak Everything'. We have limited amounts of oil, gas, coal, uranium, etc. Hopefully, we do not have limited amounts of sunlight, ingenuity, creativity, willingness to work, etc. (See my posts on Peak Everything--7/20/08, Peak Oil--7/18/08, Appropriate Technology--8/19/08, and Warmth--5/16/09.)

One of the problems with some of the 'alternative' methods of getting energy--solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal pumps, even my beloved bicycles--is that it takes energy to create them. Someone calculated that it takes more energy to create those tiny wind turbines some people put on top of their house, than the wind turbine actually ever generates. Also, some high tech solutions (such as solar panels--or even computers) create toxic waste products--which often ends up as pollution in some developing country.

In order to get anything done, we need to use energy--and we need to use energy wisely. We need to think about how much energy we really need to get something done, and whether this is the best use of the energy. We will need to think about how to do things Simply and Sustainably (see my posts of 9/24/08 and 10/14/08) so that in a time of limited resources, there will still be energy available to do needed work.


Resources:
Co-op Power--As they say: "...a multi-class, multi-racial movement for a sustainable and just energy future"; currently organizing in Massachusetts and Vermont (USA), but a model that could be applied anywhere
Tamara Dean, The Human-Powered Home--A sourcebook of information on pedal and crank powered devices
Home Power Magazine--Trumpeting the gospel of alternative energy for over twenty years
Pedal Power---A webpage devoted to using the act of pedaling a stationary bicycle to generate energy; lots of useful how-to information
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food--A manifesto on eating healthy, getting our energy from plants, and ignoring the junk that agribusiness is trying to sell us
Also see the resources under Food (5/13/09) and Warmth (5/16/09)


Quote of the Day: "Energy and persistence alter all things." - Benjamin Franklin

2 comments:

SoapBoxTech said...

One aspect of technocracy that I agree with is that energy ought to be a , or the, currency.

MoonRaven said...

Interesting thought. I was too frantic about trying to get my blog post up on 'Trade' to have included it, but it's an interesting way to view economic transactions.

I appreciate all your thoughtful and thought provoking comments. Thank you.