October is Energy Awareness Month, and in this day and age if you are not aware of energy, chances are you’re living in a picturesque off-grid cabin somewhere in Vermont. From liberal to conservative, the topic of energy is firmly entrenched in the collective consciousness of our nation as we prepare to face the challenges of powering the ever-increasing demands of our modern world. No matter your position on the issue, one fact cannot be ignored: our energy-hungry world is taking no steps backwards from its triumphant foothold in the technological revolution. For those of us who walk that thin line between the idealistic hope for an environmental revolution and a pragmatic understanding of the realities of our newly forged world, this month is more than just about a list of tips and tricks to defeat rogue kilowatts, it’s about a perspective on what energy is and how it shapes our world.
Let’s start with the very basic concept of energy. According to physics, energy is the ability to do work, and according to the law of conservation of energy, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Step back for a moment and realize the implications of this concept, every ounce of energy in your life, from your ability to perform metabolic processes, to internal combustion, to lighting a room, every last drop of energy is part of an eternally continual chain of reactions that utilize energy from one source, only to become the source for the next reaction. Nothing that happens in this world occurs in a vacuum, that very concept carries with it a certain gravity when you realize that every action undertaken is dependent on something else.
Even as you read this blog, the air you are taking into your lungs is the result of a complex series of reactions involving the Sun, plants, animals, and even lightning. From our early days as students in grade school, we are taught about the amazing interconnected dependencies of the food web, but one thing we never really touch on is the energy web, that web that powers not only our smartphones and flat screens, but life itself. Energy is everywhere; it is past, present, and future. The very energy that once departed our Sun many hundreds of millions of years ago now helps to carry planes across oceans.
All of this is leading to a point, and that is to really stop and consider the very nature of energy, no matter its form. In today’s busy world, it’s almost necessary for us to gloss over the deeper relevance of things, and to that end I think that we are losing something of our connection to the world around us. Awareness doesn’t require such an investment of time and consciousness, but the world does seem to come alive when we dig just a little bit deeper.