The Modern “Exosomatic” Pyramid
Summary: We’ve seen the “trophic pyramids” which track energy through food chains of plants, herbivores, and predators. Something very analogous can be done to track the energy used outside living bodies, and it’s a useful thing of which to be aware. For hunter-gatherers, the calories consumed as food constituted the sum of the energy available to do work. This endosomatic energy has natural limits. It’s not possible for a human (or any other animal) to, say, eat five days’ worth of food and do five times
as much work on that day. As we have seen in previous sections, exosomatic energy (outside the body) allows one to do just that: use arbitrarily more energy in a short time than would be possible for our bodies. Today, 98.5% of our “energy footprint” in America is consumed “exosomatically” ( globally it’s about 94%). 158 Before agriculture, our ancestors used their endosomatic energy plus a little exosomatic energy in the form of wood-fire to: 1) find, harvest, and prepare food in the form of meat, insects and plants, 2) raise offspring, and 3) defend against predators and other tribes and assemble basic tools. Any excess available energy for leisure could go to artistic pursuits such as play, socialization, jewelry making, body adornments or ceremonial/creative activities.
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