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The decline in resource quality, measured in part by falling energy returns on investment, is a serious problem for our futures in and of itself. Access to fossil fuels has given many of us a far more comfortable life. Cellular phones are a ubiquitous possession, even among the world’s poor. Fossil-derived energy has lifted the burden of heavy manual labor. Most Americans now work in offices and access electronic media at will. These feats would be impossible in the absence of electricity. Many people complain vociferously about how difficult commercial airline travel is these days with late flights, extra baggage charges, no food, and cramped seating. But imagine crossing the country in a Conestoga wagon. As an exercise, try thinking about the energy that is embodied in your day-to-day consumption patterns. Not surprisingly, people are reluctant to do without the goods they have acquired and become used to. When environmental educator Ray Bowdish, speaking at a recent symposium, asked his students what they could simply not give up, a frequent answer was «my truck!»
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Murphy, D., and C.A.S. Hall. 2011. Energy return on investment, peak oil, and the end of economic growth. In Ecological economic reviews, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1219, ed. R. Costanza, K. Limburg, and I. Kubiszewski, 52–72. Boston: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the New York Academy of Sciences.
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Angus, A. 2016. Facing the anthropocene. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Foster, J.B., B. Clark, and R. York. 2012. The ecological rift. New York: Monthly Review Press.
Hansen, J. 2009. Storms of my grandchildren. New York: Bloomsbury.
Steffan, W., A. Anderson, P.D. Tyson, J. Jäger, P.A. Matson, B. Moore III, F. Oldfield, K. Richarson, H.J. Schellnhuber, R.L. Turner II, and R.J. Wasson. 2004. Global change and the earth system. Berlin: Springer.
Hall, C.A.S., C. Ekdahl, and D. Wartenberg. 1975. A fifteen-year record of biotic metabolism in the Northern hemisphere. Nature 255: 136–138.
- Fossil Fuels, Planetary Boundaries, and the Earth System
Charles A. S. Hall
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