Reality Blind - Vol. 1

exotic chemicals which never existed on Earth in quantity before) which we don’t think of when we think of the “energy use of a television.”

Walking into the ki tchen for a glass of water, we don’t think of the energetic pumping that makes it come out of the faucet from whence it came. The water itself has also been chemically treated to kill contaminants and filtered to remove some portion of the stuff which has made its way from the waste streams. Not only does the water have embodied energy, in this sense, but once we’ve drunk from the glass, it is placed into a dishwasher which uses detergents, phosphates, surfactants, power spraying and steam heat to render it suitable for re-use, all of which becomes part of the energy backstory of your next sip. (Contrast this with the old days when people would walk to a stream to fill water jars. They had a much stronger understanding of just how much energy was required to “fetch the water.”) The food from our evening meal has likely been assembled from inputs thousands of miles away, pulled from a process which throws away all but the cosmetically perfect food, and ships it in refrigerated containers at high speed to us, resting only a day or two in your local store. What we don’t eat goes into the waste stream, which is picked up at our homes by giant specialized diesel trucks and motored somewhere we can’t see or smell, perhaps placed on barges to be towed many more thousands of miles for disposal. These days something as simple as bringing home a pair of shoes involves multiple factories and mind-bending arrays of energetic processes. If we order those shoes over the internet, they may be flown additional thousands of miles in the wrong direction to enable hub-and- spoke “overnight” delivery. Again, this is all invisible to us, due to the nature of the human mind. Anything we don’t focus on becomes literally invisible, like a gorilla in a basketball game 96 . We barely register the infrastructure we long ago incorporated into our personal baselines: 4 million miles of roads in the USA, which we only notice when they develop a pothole. Oil refineries and drilling platforms, which we only notice when they explode. Over 600,000 bridges which we only notice when they collapse. Mostly we don’t notice them because they haven’t failed yet, having been built during decades of ultra-cheap energy and resources. Even if a person moves to the woods and lives in a tent eating home-grown potatoes, they are still making use of the roads, the medical system, the industrial complex which makes their tools and clothes, and the military complex, all of which requires 25% of the world’s energy and materials coming to 5% of the world’s population. 97


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