Just in time: The human race has only been around fairly recently is we take the entire history of the planet.
 *Illustration supplied
Just in time: The human race has only been around fairly recently is we take the entire history of the planet. *Illustration supplied

This is my last energy column for 2013 and for those of you who have been paying close attention you may have noticed it is two days late! 

The good news is that my literary tardiness has caused me to stop and reflect on what this ‘energy thing’ is really all about. Energy is so much more than just analyzing a monthly electricity bill. Some forms of energy, like the fossil fuels we burn every day, are undoubtedly finite and we have a responsibility to use them responsibly and in a way that minimizes the potential harm they can inflict on our fragile environment. 

We need to preserve our natural resources for future generations and always remember that our time here, on this wonder we affectionately call planet earth, is insignificant when measured in geological timeframes. 

Our relentless exploitation of our planet’s natural resources seems to have been going on for so long that most of us have become immune and we have been conditioned to accept it as something that is both normal and sustainable. The reality however, is that we have caused a catastrophic level of environmental destruction in a timeframe that is so short, relative to the history of our planet, that it is virtually too small to be measured. 

We are only now, gradually reaching a level of technological maturity where we are gaining the ability to develop a relationship with our planet that could be based on harmony, rather than exploitation and abuse. The decisions our generation are making and our willingness to make the short term sacrifices that are needed to leverage the new technologies will dictate the legacy that we bequeath our children. We finally have the potential to start reversing the trends of exploitation and environmental destruction.

To get a better understanding of the impact we have made on our precious Earth I am going to use the analogy of the 24 hr. clock face. The concept is simple; the earth has existed for approximately 4.5 billion years. We take those 4.5 billion years and divide them by 24, to represent the hours in a day. Next, we divide each hour by 60 to get the minutes and then by 60 again giving us a second by second linear timeframe of the history of our planet.  

The human race has been in existence for just 1 minute and 17 seconds of the 24 hour history of planet Earth! What really helps to give that number some perspective is to realize that Jellyfish arrived over three  hours ago and dinosaurs came and went in just a few minutes around 11pm. The carboniferous swamps that created much of the fossil fuels we are currently devouring were created just over 90 minutes ago. The growth of industrialization that has led to the exponential increase in the exploitation of our natural resources began in earnest around 200 years ago and that relates to less than 1/200th of the final second in the final hour of our 24 hour earth clock!

What I realized while thinking about this sobering set of numbers is that there is another form of energy of even greater importance, and that is the energy we bring as individuals to every discussion related to how we consume our planets resources, and power our daily lives. In the infinitesimally small fraction of a second that I exist on this earth I want to know I used my energy to help preserve rather than destroy – for the sake of our children. 

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Sustainable New Year. 

Nick Duffy is the divisional manager at Bermuda Alternate Energy. He may be contacted at info@bae.bm