Earth Debt


‘Antique Sunlight’, a term lifted directly from my recent viewing of the 11th hour resonated with me more than any other concept in Leonardo Di Caprio’s ecological wake up plea. We, as a race, are cashing in on previous generations unused sunlight. We’re cashing in their petrol tickets and burning them as though it’s a race to do so.

A concept that the film presents is that in previous generations prior to the industrial revolution and harnessing of fossil fuels, earth’s inhabitants had only the sun as their finite energy source to provide for themselves. Each year that energy from the sun would grow a finite amount of food to provide for the people. Once we established that previous generations hadn’t used all of their sunlight and we could in fact cash it in and claim it as our own through coal and oil and the like. It’s perhaps no coincidence that under these false pretenses of using borrowed sunlight that the earth’s population began to grow exponentially.

From 1 billion before the use of fossil fuels to 6 billion today. We moved from 2 to 6 billion people from 1920 to now… corresponding with our increasing debt to previous generations and increasing cost to future generations. If we were to use only our own allocated sunlight it is said that the earth would provide for little more than the 1 billion that it previously had.

Our own sense of self preservation and evolution of technology suggests that through improved present day practices of Agriculture and the use of modern solar energy technology that we would likely accommodate slightly more if such an ‘affliction’ of living within our environmental means were ever placed upon this planet. We have already begun to use other forms of energy outside of the sun, antique or present day. The surge of phenomenal technological development allows for the modern race of inhabitants to use the wind and the tides as additional sources of fuel on this planet. Both of which, along with solar technology are sustainable, renewable sources. So now we’ve got the sun twice (solar), wind and tides as energy sources. My question therefore is thus: if all the R&D funds being put into extracting previous generations left overs from our Earth were redirected to further developing this technology for just one 6 month period, how many occupants could we be sustainably providing for on this planet today?

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Posted in climate change, ecological degradation, energy, food, sustainable technologies
2 comments on “Earth Debt
  1. jeremy says:

    According to more energy reaches the Earth in the form of solar energy each day than is consumed by human beings in a whole year (around 100,000 terawatts). Appropriately harnessed, therefore, we have more than enough ‘current’ sunlight to sustain us, and our need for ‘ancient’ sunlight is not as critical as we might imagine.

  2. tonhublog says:

    Indeed, there is a lot of energy out there, and a lot of resources (money and very smart people) that can be channeled to learn how to harness more energy. The obstacle is how to align it all. I think there is more than one answer/option. I think the key will be a combination of business, government, consumer, activist and scientist interests all ligning up, before stars can align. Today, there seem to be so many other priorities and leaders are busy putting out fires with respect to other issues. Sadly, I think it may get a bit worse before it gets better.

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