Spending more than you make leads to bankruptcy. What about energy expenditures? Today, the largest per capita energy consumers use over 160,000kWh/a in some nations. For all 8 billion of us on Earth to consume this amount, we need to produce over 1.28e15 kWh per year. Our current energy production is 627 exajoules; slightly less than a seventh of the desired. This deficit began with the industrial revolution as top consumers continually consumed ever more while every other tried to catch up. In effect, our continual energy deficit has us facing an energy bankruptcy.

Given the climate change challenge and other factors, we expect to never produce enough energy. So, how do we counter this energy bankruptcy? Let’s correlate actions of a business facing bankruptcy to our needs (in italics below):

1. Concentrate Efforts on Best Customers – nurture developed nations
2. Explore Funding Options – look for alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and fusion
3. Cut Costs and Repay Creditors – maximize energy efficiency and rebuild fossil fuel reserves
4. Offer Discounted Prices in Return for Immediate Payment – subsidize renewable energy production
5. Cut Non-Essential Costs That Don’t Contribute to ROI – use energy only where essential

Many of today’s global activities do correlate to an energy bankruptcy. This supports our conjecture that we’re facing an energy bankruptcy.

Can we consider grander actions, including:

6. Revise Business Plan and Budget – have an achievable plan for civilization
7. Evaluate if major stakeholders (nations) will support a restructure
8. Determine if the business (civilization) is worth saving

Is civilization like a business? Can we afford to let civilization go energy bankrupt? If not, how do we recover from our continual energy deficit? Do you agree that our civilization needs a plan? What do you want to see in the plan?


The Pyramid of Life

We dominate the animal kingdom. We are the apex predator on Earth. We control, eradicate, or nurture others, whether as large as a mammoth or small as bacteria.

The trophic pyramid is an illustrative segregation of Earth’s life into 4 levels. A lower level provides energy and nutrients to the higher level. Level 1, the lowest, includes all the autotrophs or plants. Level 2 has herbivores. Level 3 has carnivores. Level 4, the apex, contains the omnivores that consume almost anything. Most people live at Level 4 of the pyramid.

Assume everyone lives at Level 4. People require 12,500 Joules per day. As a rough metric, the ecological efficiency is 10% meaning that only a tenth from a lower level gets transferred to the higher level. Thus, 3.65e+19 Joules of energy from Level 1 supports the 8.012 billion people alive today. On average, Level 1 life annually stores about 2.3e7 Joules per sq.m. of energy. Thus, overall, we annually consume about 32% of energy that is captured by Level 1 life.

Being at the apex and in full control, we can form a future of our choice. So far, people have co-opted more than half the land surface for agriculture to support this consumption. We and our livestock outweigh all other wildlife 24 fold resulting in another mass extinction event. Our future could include wildlife or it will only include living creatures that directly support and maintain the human population? Which do you want and what will you do to achieve it?


Our wonderful Earth provides environments of great variety and extent. We’ve made our homes nearly everywhere with research stations in the Antarctic, shelters in the high north and hotels underwater. We’ve even built accommodations well above Earth’s surface with Tiangong and the ISS. What is special about all these? We have ensured that their temperature and humidity remain amenable to us, i.e. controlled environments.

What do we mean by controlled? It means we negate weather’s discomfort whether rain, snow, heat or cold. With it, we can focus upon contrived activities, e.g. designing or shopping. However, we need energy to maintain the artificial environment. Without it, the weather directly affects us and we cannot focus on our contrived activities, e.g Arsal. We could say that losing climate control would diminish the gross domestic product (GDP).

Is there a limit to the area with controlled environment? We now maintain about 178 billion square meters, larger than the area of Cambodia. Energy for this artificial environment accounts for nearly 50% of annual global CO2 emissions. We expect to add 230 billion square metres of floor area by the year 2060. Is this enough or too much? When constructing, should we account for energy usage and emissions? Do we reduce the area as our population diminishes? Do you see a future for yourself living in nature or living in a controlled environment?



Henry Ford built cars. Many cars. And these cars needed roads so roads were built. And these cars needed petrol so petrol was refined. Presently, the Earth has over 64 million kilometres of roads. Transportation uses energy; over a third of all energy consumed or about 1.7e20Joules annually. By design, roads stop natural processes; roadways have no vegetation, no natural capturing of solar energy by plants. Almost all fuel comes from non-renewable fossil fuels. We know Henry Ford’s world of cars is not sustainable.

We have learned much from the Covid pandemic. One important piece of knowledge is that we can undertake beneficial work, even when working remotely. We don’t need to commute every day to an office. At least we learned this is possible if we have competent managers.

We have also learned that there’s much to enjoy in our local environment. We don’t need to travel halfway around the globe for a vacation. Rather, simply spending an hour walking in a natural environment of woods and glades recharges our spirits.

From an overarching view, today’s service economy is replacing the production economy emphasized by Henry Ford. The Internet is the backbone of the service economy. As showcased during the pandemic, we don’t need ready, personal transportation for each of the 8 billion people on Earth. Isn’t it time to reduce the unnecessary energy spent on transportation? And return roads to nature?

Tipping Points

Let’s view life as consisting of many systems. A system gathers inputs, processes them and emits outputs. A stable system continues unabated. A stable system can also accommodate occasional, small, acute divergences. That is, a momentary disruption of inputs, some stoppage of processes or a slight prevention of emissions will disrupt the system but not remove the system from its stable state. The system will overcome the glitch and continue.

However, most stable systems do not accommodate large, acute divergences or chronic divergences. These push the system to a tipping point. That is, the system tips from its stable state. Churns for a bit. Then, returns to a new stable state that does accommodate the divergences. If you know all about a system, all its inputs, processes and outputs, then you can predict its future state after the divergences.

We do not know all about our Earth system. However, we have identified 9 critical boundaries that correlate to processes of the Earth system. We know that we have passed 6 of these. We expect that their passages will tip processes toward a new, unknown stable state. In consequence, no amount of available energy returns the Earth system back to its current stable state. Are you ready as life plunges into this new Earth system?