Reality Blind - Vol. 1

to when speaking of powering human systems are energy carriers ; that is, something moving that we can slow down to tap some of its kinetic energy, or something we can burn, creating disorder out of which we can direct a lesser amount of order towards a task. But we only have one word for it: energy. That can lead people to assume there is merely one commodity: energy. This oversimplification has a number of critical dimensions, two of which are: (a) some energy-carriers are inherently higher-quality than others, and (b) how useful an energy- carrier is to you depends on what you are currently specialized to use. In the sections to come, we’ll explore just a few aspects of energy quality relative to human systems, and how they relate to some of society’s insufficiently examined assumptions about “energy,” which everyone agrees we need, but few understand. TaaL: Her e’s a question: When flower nectar runs out, why don’t hummingbirds eat grasshoppers? Both nectar and grasshoppers contain energy. The answer is that they simply aren’t built to do it. It isn’t that grasshoppers don’t contain calories and nutrients, and th ere may indeed be huge numbers of them within a hungry hummingbird’s sight. But the size of the available “grasshopper” resource is simply irrelevant to hummingbird functionality (and would be even if hummingbirds believed in neoclassical economics). You now live in something of a “hummingbird society” whose entire infrastructure is specialized to primarily use high-energy nectar (crude oil and its many derivatives) for most of what it does. It is generally believed that all energy carriers are fungible, but that belief may be of little more use than the belief a hummingbird could eat grasshoppers if it ever got really hungry. Hummingbirds have benefitted from the efficiency of specialization, just as you have with oil: they are better than other birds at sucking nectar from flowers. The downside of specialization is that efficiency is purchased at the cost of lost resilience, the lack of a “plan B.”

To what extent, in your future-energy assumptions, might you be looking at grasshoppers but currently assuming them to have the attributes of nectar?

The Bottom Line: Our exosomatic energy carriers vary in what they can do for us.


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