When following coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill (let us call it the
“Oil Slick”), I cannot help but draw comparisons to the Dust Bowl of the
1930s, which exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression. Both natural
calamities occurred during periods of economic weakness, characterized by
high unemployment and sluggish or negative growth. Both occurred in
relatively impoverished areas of the country where wealth is dependent on
natural resources (agriculture for the Dust Bowl, fishing/tourism for the
Oil Slick). Those who will be directly impacted are people who are most
vulnerable to any sort of unanticipated calamity.
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January 31, 2010
Ever since 4 billion years ago when our earliest protozoan ancestor slouched the earth looking for highly excited electrons to cut down a few quantums, energy has been an important part of life on earth. Here are some highlights:
10,000 BC: Humans develop agriculture, thus providing the first form of regular and reliable base-load generation. No longer do men need to wait for a half-eaten carcass to show up at the cave in order to have a good meal.
4,000 BC: Draught animals are domesticated, thus allowing humans to utilize energy stored in grass and other such indigestible sources.
2,251 BC: The Great Pyramid of Giza is built with nothing else but the energy of human brawn. Egyptian seers laugh at the ineptitude of Boston’s Big Dig.
500 AD: Bedouin nomads in the Middle East begin raising camels in arid zones and selling them as draught animals, thereby effecting a useful transfer of energy from arid zones to population centers. Meanwhile in Europe, where population density is too high to maintain draught animals, people develop windmills and waterwheels for additional energy.
1698 AD: Thomas Savery invents the steam engine, causing dinosaurs to turn in their graves. They are later exhumed.
2004 AD: 6,000 years of draught-animal utility are rolled back as Jamba Juice begins feeding its customers wheat grass.
2009 AD: Federal subsidies in the United States lead to a wave of wind and solar energy developments, with the apparent goal of returning us to an intermittent-energy society. Pre-historic farmers wonder why they ever bothered to invent agriculture.
2010 AD: A post about energy appears on “Yesterday’s Salad”, introducing a new level of reductionist absurdity to the blog’s miscellany.