Energy: Thriving on Five Percent?

April 14, 2014 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

By John Thackara, Doors of Perception, March 2014

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10,000 years ago, a hunter-gatherer needed about 5,000 kcal per day to get by. A New Yorker today, once all the systems, networks and gadgets of modern life are factored in, needs about 300,000 kilocalories a day That’s a difference in energy needed for survival, between simple and complex lives, of 60 times – and rising. Does that sound like a resilient trend?

When pressed, technical experts I have spoken to tell me that for our world to be ‘sustainable’ it needs to endure a ‘factor 20 reduction’ in its energy and resource metabolism – to five percent of present levels. At first I believed, doomily, that Factor 20 was beyond reach. Then, by looking outside the industrial world’s tent, I realized that for eighty per cent of the world’s population, five per cent energy is their lived reality today – and it does not always correspond to a worse life.

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Entry filed under: Energy, Resilience.

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