A Global Addiction: Are You Contributing to the Energy Crisis Without Even Realizing It?
August 27, 2023 by Ricky Lanusse Leave a Comment
Imagine you want a cup of coffee.
How many ways can you think of to boil the water?
Each method requires different elements — electricity, gas, wood, coal, or the sun — but they all achieve the same result: boiling water.
Energy isn’t just about boiling water, though. It’s a part of our daily lives, from keeping our homes warm to lighting our nights and even paying for all those services.
Tasks that humans used to handle only half a century ago, like dishwashing, grooming, or egg beating, have been swapped for electric-powered devices. From large-scale manufacturing plants to personal devices, there are countless examples, big and small, in our homes, offices, and factories.
The utmost example might be my great-grandfather’s typewriter, which he gave me on my 10th birthday. That grotesque Remington always fascinated me: its mechanical noises, the vintage typography, the texture of the paper. I used it for years to write fantasy stories and lost love letters. It was a gateway to feeling like a full-blooded writer. But the paper began to clog, the typos gave no margin for error, and the ink had to be renewed and was increasingly scarce in the market because we were already living in the supercomputer era. A machine with all these functions, but unlimited. And thousands of others. These days, the ones who come to my house think the Remington is a hipster decoration of my living room, not a treasured memory from my great-grandfather.
Since I was born in 1991, the population went from 5 to 8 billion. Electricity domestic consumption has gone from 10,000 to more than 25,000 Terawatt-hour (TWh). One had a 0.6 growth; the other, a 1.5.
Bottom line: we are now using almost three times more energy.
As I write this, I am sitting at a desk with my computer, where I’m also plugging headphones, my Kindle, and a memory desk. The room is warm with the electric heater. And I’m drinking mate with 85°C water from the electric stove. From time to time, I get messages on my phone. Oh, and I just remembered to turn off the unnecessary light above my head.
I had a light-bulb insight: not only the tools we use but also the things around us needed electricity to be there.
The chair I’m sitting on probably had a molding machine behind it. Oh, and someone designing it on a computer. The same for the desk, the tool to cut the wood, and even the varnish consumed electricity in its development process. The floor? A splitting hammer and a polishing machine, electric. The windows? Electricity for glassblowing. You get the point.
So this all led to an experiment: How many times do I use electricity on a regular basis? Not like sitting on a chair that consumed electricity to make the plastic, but actively charging my phone or turning on a light.
For three days, I wrote down every time I used electricity. Every. Single. Time.
The average? 121 times. Or almost 8 times per hour that I am awake.
With it, we see in the dark, cook, have inflectionless surgeries, and speak instantaneously with our friends 10,000 miles away. It’s the heartbeat of modern life. I’ve grown up in a world that takes these luxuries for granted, and I’m surrounded by folks who even dare to use electricity way more than 121 times a day.
Three-plus decades ago, when I was born, over a billion people had no access to electricity. Fast forward to today, and that number is almost half: 770 million people live without access to electricity, mainly in Africa and Asia. 1 out of 10 people still live in the dark.
Imagine cooking or cleaning only by firelight and no lamp to brighten the night. How could you study, go to school, or progress? No shocker, these countries lead the illiterate stats.
Energy plays a central role in the climate challenge, holding both the problem and the solution.
Most of our electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, or gas. And so, we contribute significantly to the greenhouse gases that envelop our planet and trap the sun’s warmth.
Globally, more than half of all electricity is consumed by homes and businesses. The growing demand for energy to heat, cool, and power our spaces, along with the surge in air-conditioner use and electricity consumption, has led to an uptick in building-related carbon dioxide emissions.
Our daily lives exert a profound influence on our planet’s health.
Now, consider the OECD countries, wealthy nations sprawling across the globe. This 15% of the world’s population lives well, producing twice the value of everything in the rest of the world combined. Yet, they’re also responsible for consuming 40% of the world’s fuel and almost half its electricity. And the cascading environmental changes that affect us all.
I know that this will sound naive, but this is not fair. Even more when you read that:
In 2022, the world produced 179,000 TWh of energy. If we distribute that equally throughout the entire population, that would give us 22,375 kWh of energy per person, including electricity and other areas of consumption such as transport, heating, and cooking.
Want to read a crazy coincidence? This is the average consumption of a regular person from my country, Argentina. It also applies to Croatia, South Africa, Turkey and Portugal.
And you know what? Life is pretty awesome here in Patagonia.
The real challenge of the twenty-first century lies in taming our consumption. Our generation faces the monumental task of using less in a society that promotes and thrives on consumption. Everywhere we see, there are consuming options. And we just can’t avoid doing so, even when we know there’s no point. How many times do you turn on an unnecessary light? Or check your phone with no purpose other than remembering it’s one minute after the last time you checked it? And what about buying another jacket that looks just like the ones you already have?
The main problem here is that what should matter often doesn’t, while so much that doesn’t matter occupies our thoughts. We go on with our lives numb. What colonizes our thoughts, efforts, and time? It certainly isn’t the critical things we should be concerned about. The world is burning, melting, and collapsing all around us. But instead, we consume, waste, and overproduce, devoting ourselves to the shallow, the meaningless, and the inconsequential.
If what matters doesn’t seem to matter, and what doesn’t matter consumes us, how can life hold any meaning, fulfillment, or truth? Is this our peak potential as humanity? No wonder 1 every 16 people in the world have experienced depression in the past year. Instagram fake lives, success tales of behind-the-scenes depressive stories, and money debts for overreaching lifestyles.
A fair and colorful world doesn’t demand grandiosity. It needs functionality and modesty. It’s perseverance in the small things that compound into significant change.
We can do much more than what we’re doing now.
Turn off lights you don’t need. Unplug things. Be conscious of how many times you use and waste energy and get into decluttering habits. And spreads these positive changes.
That is the one, necessary light we need.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class and community.A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group and our online communities.A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Log in if you wish to renew an existing subscription.
Choose your subscription level
Credit / Debit CardPayPalChoose Your Payment Method
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: NASA on Unsplash
Filed Under: Ethics & Values, Featured Content Tagged With: climate change, energy, environment, politics, sciencewe are now using almost three times more energy.How many times do I use electricity on a regular basis? 1 out of 10 people still live in the dark.How could you study, go to school, or progress?Our daily lives exert a profound influence on our planet’s health.this is not fairThe top 10% of global emitters (771 million people) are responsible for about 48% of global CO2 emissions.The bottom 50% (3.8 billion) account for around 12% of all emissions.The top 1%? 17% of all emissions in a year.The world’s top 1% of emitters produce over 1000 times more CO2 than the bottom 1% Life is pretty awesome here in Patagonia.…The main problem here is that what should matter often doesn’t, while so much that doesn’t matter occupies our thoughts.If what matters doesn’t seem to matter, and what doesn’t matter consumes us, how can life hold any meaning, fulfillment, or truth? Is this our peak potential as humanity?A fair and colorful world doesn’t demand grandiosity. It needs functionality and modesty. It’s perseverance in the small things that compound into significant change.