Energy is the real currency on Earth

The Incas in South America worshipped the sun (inti), because the energy coming from it is the sustenance of life on planet Earth. I will always remember going to Machu Pichu and celebrating the sunrise with two hippie friends who convinced me to it. It was a profound experience. Since then, I am a sun-worshipper too.

The sustenance of modern life is money. On its own money is not evil, because as Yuval Noah Harari has said in Sapiens, it is basically a trust system that enables cooperation. And that is an excellent thing.

The problem with money is that it has no actual value. Backed by gold? No longer, it is backed up by governments (called Fiat money). We don’t have problem with this because we religiously trust the perpetuity of the (ironically), modern states. Gold is also not the most important element on earth, or for humans.

What if money was backed by something real, or expressed in terms of units of energy? This is the concept of “Emergy”" that was developed by the great ecologist Howard Odum, unfortunately forgotten. It is very simple. Here, we measure how much energy it takes to transform the land and create products. The more energy we use, the more expensive is the product (or vice versa). Also, we can measure energy consumption with great precision, just look at your electricity bill for an example.

Following the emergy concept things start to make more sense. A package of chips can never be cheaper than a raw potato, because it requires more energy and transformations. This can be a way of keeping a real accounting of the damage caused to the planet. Right now, the true cost of producing things is called “externalities” in the current economic system.

I acknowledge it will take a considerable effort to make emergy work. It is not in my expertise to work out the details, but I do think it is a way to escape the simulated nature of the world right now.

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