In praise of fossil fuels—Part 2: the remarkable legacy of ancient life

Over the past quarter century, the justifiably deep concern held by many of us about climate change has led to a shift in humanity’s relationship with fossil fuels—burning of which accounts for well over 60 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. This relationship seems to have shifted from what  might be roughly characterised as ‘appreciative ambivalence’ (as long as the supply spigots remained open) towards uneasiness at first and more recently, even open animosity. Given the bad rap that fossil fuels get from many of us now, there’s more than a little irony in the fact that, even beyond the idea that the modern human identity is shaped—as I suggested last week—in the image of fossil fuels, we humans and the energy sources that enable our present ways of living are expressions of the same Earth-centred and carbon-based life continuum. As the remnants of vast accumulations of deceased organisms laid down over millions of years, fossil fuels are in a manner of speaking a gift left to us by our ancient selves. Granted, holding such a view requires that we first adopt a bio-centric sense of identity—an identity with all Earth-based life across evolutionary time. Assuming such a default mode of self-understanding may be taking things just a little too far for some readers. In the interests of advancing the systemic intent of our inquiry though, this is perhaps not an entirely unreasonable suggestion, at least as a provocation to new thinking about our collective situation i.e. a perspective with which to experiment in order to see what it might reveal. Continue reading