Energy Comes and Energy Goes

Think of every being’s life as they go through a cycle from birth to growth and then finally death. Trees, birds and humans follow this progression; all being connected, all directly or indirectly linking with each other. Typically the success of an individual rests upon its ability to acquire resources, principally energy and chemical compounds. By linking this flow of resources we see how all life is connected as it progresses.

Blue whales wonderfully depict a point in this simple connection. Their principal source of resources is krill; a very small creature living in the ocean. A whale being the largest animal on earth eats lots of krill. By some accounts 3600kg a day. Today about 25,000 blue whales swim the oceans of Earth. That’s a consumption of 5.75E16 Joules of energy. That’s a lot! But long ago, before they were hunted to near extinction there were over 300,000 blue whales swimming the ocean. That’s 6.9E17Joules of the Earth’s animate energy budget assigned to these creatures.

In contrast consider the United States’ military. Yes they are at peace today. Still their annual consumption of fuel for Operational Energy is 5.1E17Joules.

Compare these values. See that the military force in peacetime consumes as much energy as the Earth’s ecosystem had allocated to the blue whale species before we nearly drove it to extinction. Does this mean people have more concern about physical strife and safety than they have concern for other species? Last, think of what happens when the connections between living things start breaking; think extinction. Does this breakage mean resources get freed up to humans or do they simply disappear?