Civilization is About Capturing Energy

Civilisation, like life itself, has always been about capturing energy. That is to say, just as a successful species is one that converts the sun’s energy into offspring more rapidly than another species, so the same is true of a nation. Progressively, as the aeons passed, life as a whole has grown gradually more and more efficient at doing this, at locally cheating the second law of thermodynamics. The plants and animals that dominate the earth today channel more of the sun’s energy through their bodies than their ancestors of the Cambrian period (when, for example, there were no plants on land). Likewise, human history is a tale of progressively discovering and diverting sources of energy to support human lifestyle. Domesticated crops captured more solar energy for the first farmers; draught animals channelled more plant energy into raising human living standards; watermills took the sun’s evaporation engine and used it to enrich medieval monks. ‘Civilisation, like life, is a Sisyphean flight from chaos,’ as Peter Huber and Mark Mills put it. ‘The chaos will prevail in the end, but it is our mission to postpone that day for as long as we can and to push things in the opposite direction with all the ingenuity and determination we can muster. Energy isn’t the problem. Energy is the solution.’


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 The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Ridley , Matt (2010), The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Retrieved on 2017-09-22
Folksonomies: capitalism optimism libertarianism