New Energy Systems
Poop energy needs to hold a place in the future of human energy production. Humans burn all kinds of shit to power their societies’ seemingly unquenchable thirsts for electricity, with America and the West being the major culprits. Electricity does improve outcomes for an individual’s development. A child who can continue studying in good light without after sunset can study longer and learn more, a person with a stove can prepare their food quicker without the need to spend time gathering firewood, and a hospital with a clean and abundant source of running water can perform more hygienic surgeries with less effort. The benefits of abundant energy could benefit all people. However, the source of that energy must be come to warily. The West’s collective energy footprint is forged in a legacy of devastated mountain ecosystems from the mining of coal and uranium. Oil spills from the petroleum industry defile the ocean and land. Natural gas extraction lets tons of the fuel escape into the atmosphere. Cow farts have been found to be a significant contributing factor to the methane in the atmosphere. We produce so much destruction to keep the benefits of abundant access to energy for a minority of the species. Yet, there are other ways.
The paradigm shift we must undertake would be from a current focus on cradle-to-grave production, in which all materials end up as waste, to cradle-to-cradle production, in which no materials’ resting place is final. For an illustrative view imagine the lifecycle of the typical bottle sold in a convenience store.
- Petroleum is extracted from the ground
- The processed petroleum is turned into plastic
- The plastic is turned into a bottle
- The bottle is filled with a product and labeled
- The product is taken to a store, bought, and consumed
- The bottle is either thrown away (in which case it ends up in a landfill for thousands of years) or recycled (at which point it is reprocessed and continues its cycle until it ends up in a landfill)
It’s a cycle with only one potential outcome.
One might consider cradle-to-cradle industrialism better because it reduces waste and makes the landfill defunct. One might consider it superior because it expands people’s access to materials as ‘stuff’ becomes more abundant and as ‘away’, as in thrown away, becomes ‘onto its next lifecycle’. One might consider it inferior because it makes the cost of industrial manufacturing higher as corporations will need to put more effort into designing a product that will serve a function after it has been used and discarded, and possibly because they will need to put more energy and expense into creating a product out of materials that last. However, what cannot be argued is that our current system of disposable manufacturing can continue indefinitely. Throw-away culture has caused ecological destruction and land waste; and it has caused an economic and social psychology that disregards the value of conscientious resource use. Throw-away culture can be replaced by cradle-to-cradle production with collaboration and a change of mindset toward valuing resources as finite and within a closed loop. We can overcome our destructive, counterproductive psychology, and we must for society to continue. A great place to start would be by examining the waste that comes from our bodies and working out the best way for it to keep the lights on.