The World Economy and the Great Hidden Theft

When we buy things, we pay money for them. In turn, the supplier paid others for the things we buy or their parts. We pay for work others do for us. When we put our money in a savings, such as a bank, the interest paid is for the use of our money and the small chance that it might be lost by the bank. What is wrong with this? Nothing so far.

But where does all of the wealth ulimately come from? Is it a slow pyramid scheme? It all starts with raw materials from the Earth and energy from the Sun. We expect the sun to shine on for many millions of years. In the past, some of the Sun's energy has been stored as chemical fuel in the Earth. This energy can be retrieved by burning wood, coal, oil and gas. This stored energy is created very slowly, especially for coal, oil and gas.

For the last 100 or so years, we have been consuming this stored energy with increasing speed, to the point that roughly half of it has already been consumed. It took millions of years to create, but in just decades, we are gobbling it up to run everything in civilization. On top of that we have created a survival crisis with regard to global climate change.

What has been happening is that we have been borrowing from the Earth, but rarely paying her for what we take. The process has been slow up until recently, so people have ignored this important part of the economic picture. When we don't pay the Earth back for its resources, they become artificially cheap and make certain individuals and companies ridiculously wealthy. When we don't pay the Earth back in the form of cleaning up pollution, it will end up poisoning us and our food. When we don't pay the Earth back for the extracted energy, we are destroying our climate and may ultimately cause such food shortages that humans become extinct. When we don't pay the Earth back, it makes sustainable alternative solutions impractically expensive, compared to just stealing from the Earth.

Is it too late to fix this? Think about it!

Nuclear energy using fission creates huge, very long term pollution problems, so it is not a good alternative. Fusion energy continues to be an elusive solution.

Solar energy is the only chance. Just a hundred mile square of land in Texas could supply enough energy to run the entire United States, using rather inefficient solar cells. The remaining problem is finding ways to store that energy. New batteries are making that possible. New fuel cells may make that even better, storing the energy in chemical form, which would be useful for transportation. The problem is cost. It would take about 3 trillion dollars. But that is a small price to pay to avoid collapse of society and ultimately extinction.

So lets start paying the Earth back properly. Let's use that money to clean up the environment, develop clean energy sources, and recycle all of those valuable materials from the Earth. Or, should we just continue to behave like bacteria in a petri dish and follow our selfish instincts until everyone dies?