Andrew Nikiforuk on Our Energy Slaves

Andrew Nikiforuk, crusading anti-tar-sands journalist and author, writes in the Tyee about our oil consumption and compares it to the energy output of human beings. He concludes we have become temporary masters of oil slaves.

Now most people don't regard oil, say, as an energy slave or a liquid replacement for human muscle, but they probably should. Thanks to petroleum, every North American now behaves, thinks and often looks like an obese and overbearing 19th century slave owner.

He suggests that the use of fossil fuels was one of the prime generators of the population explosion:

After coal and then the discovery of oil in the 1850s, Homo sapiens exploded to an astounding population of 7 billion in just 170 years. And non-renewable energy slaves paved the way. Oil, in other words, was a powerful Viagra for the species (with unwieldy erections and other side-effects).

Surprisingly, Ivan Illich said this almost forty years ago, in his essay "Energy and Equity", questioning whether "the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command."

More in the Tyee
More on Andrew Nikiforuk:
Society of Environmental Journalists Announces 2008-2009 Award Winners
What Goes Into (And Comes Out of) A Barrel Of Tar Sands Oil
Canadian Tar Sands: a Hydrocarbon Hurricane