Carbon-based life

As the sunset of fossil fuel era approaches perhaps we should give those (Fossil Fuels) their due and put things in perspective about Carbon.

With all the negative connotations around how "CO2 is bad, bad, bad" and that there should be a "tax on Carbon" (which I support), it seems that we have put aside the fundamental fact of life which is that carbon IS life. We are all carbon based lifeforms and until that first sentient computer emerges or we have a confirmed encounter with extraterrestrial intelligence (and if that life is not carbon-based), carbon means life. Without carbon, life would not exist.

And because we are carbon based lifeforms all, the formerly existing carbon lifeforms have given us, the current lifeforms, a gift of their own bodies concentrated into what we call oil and gas as energy resources. There is a beautiful Circle of Life at work here if you chose to see it.

We should appreciate this circle of life rather than wring our hands over how we have possibly "broken the Earth" through our use of fossil fuels. Lifeforms which existed over millennia have made it possible for us to catapult ahead in evolution of life over the last couple of hundred years. There is beauty in that.

Yes, there would have been electricity from hydro, probably, and we can burn currently existing wood to heat ourselves or perhaps to even power a weak steam engine but the wonderfully concentrated sources of energy that are oil and gas have accelerated human development massively. If there had been no oil and gas, New York City would today be a huge pile of horse manure, which it was becoming before automobiles and trains came about.

Some like to say that oil is dirty and somehow "unnatural" and nothing could be further from the truth. Oil is as natural as anything. Oil existed on the surface of the planet for a very long time - La Brea tar pits were not "invented" when we started to use oil - they have been there for tens of thousands of years, they are very much "natural".

A hundred years from now there will be an "Oil and Gas Museum" in which an account of this discovery and its impact on life will be told. I will bet you any amount of money that the "summary judgement" at that time will not be that "it would have been better if we never discovered it". Quite on the contrary - they will be celebrated for their contribution to life on Earth during a particular period of time. Just like realization of how to control fire contributed to a different earlier period of life on Earth (it would be hard to come up with a museum for fire, though).

And of course, the point of departure for all of this is my "radical humanism" - we ARE the highest expression of life in the Universe, we are not an accident of chemistry and evolution, we are its highest form. And so what if we are at the top of the food chain just like Polar bears or Orcas - when they do what they do, we call it "majestic", when it comes to us, we engage in self-loathing.


Steve Carlson said…
I do agree with all you wrote, with the caveat that neither you nor I would wish to make a home in the La Brea tarpits. Nor would we wish to drink water that has been polluted by oil or natural gas spills. Etc, etc.

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