Roughly 10,000 years ago, a major social change occurred that revolutionized human society forever: instead of hunting and gathering for food, we began to farm our food. This agricultural revolution had a dramatic impact on human society. Instead of living in warring nomadic tribes, humans began to form early farming settlements that eventually grew into major global metropolises. However, while we now farm for the vast majority of our agricultural resources as a society, we still hunt and gather for one resource: energy.
Some examples of hunting and gathering for energy include activities such as drilling for oil, mining for coal and extracting natural gas. In addition to the obvious negative environmental impacts of hunting and gathering energy, it has also caused a massive amount of global conflict and social inequality. Much like when humans hunted and gathered for food, with energy there is a perceived scarcity due to the fact that the world’s current energy supply is finite and the world’s population is rapidly growing. In addition to the challenge that the world’s energy supply is currently a depleting resource, global energy stores are unevenly distributed which results in global conflict for control over access to energy.
The perceived scarcity of energy resources has to lead to a wide array of predatory and exploitive behaviors by major energy corporations. One prime example of social injustice that has occurred due to the predatory hunting and gathering of energy by major corporations include the destruction of the Niger Delta by The Shell Oil Corporation which is pictured below. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that the destruction done to the Niger Delta by Shell is just one case out of countless examples of corporate energy exploitation caused by our current system of hunting and gathering for energy.
In spite of the current destructive ways in which humans collect energy, there is a major change on the horizon. Thanks to recent developments in renewable energy humans are beginning to “farm energy” instead of hunting and gathering for energy. One example of farming for energy is the widespread global deployment of solar power. For example, from 2000 to 2015 the amount of total global solar has increased by 170 times. The graph below demonstrates the substantial growth rate of global solar within the last 15 years.
As the rate of deployment of solar energy along with other renewable energy technologies such as wind power and battery storage technology continue to rapidly increase the world will inevitably shift towards a more sustainable method of producing energy. Obviously, the global shift towards renewable energy will have substantial environmental and pollution-related benefits, but what is much less often discussed is the positive social benefits that will arise from a shift to “energy farming.” While a society that farms for its energy instead of hunting and gathering is difficult to fully conceptualize, as it has not yet happened yet, it is clear that shifting from hunting and gathering energy to farming energy has the capability to bring about a more stable and equal future global society with affordable & clean energy access for everyone.
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