Energy is a precious commodity in today’s world. We’re plagued with articles about energy crises and the impending dissolution of all the earth’s resources, meanwhile changing little to nothing about the way we live and lead our lives. Even as I sit here writing, this realization is startling and unnerving: I type on my phone, drink my tea, and sit in my expensively woven sweater, and I think about the vast amounts of energy that have gone into the type of life I am privileged enough to lead–the type of life that many in the world are not granted the opportunity to lead.
I sat on the L today, watching groups of girls board and exit the train, pondering similar thoughts about energy expenditures and their subsequent waste. Dunkin’ donuts cups of iced coffee, soaked in processed sugars, absorbed mindlessly into their bodies; the girls lost in their technology, chattering mindlessly. I can’t help but sound hypocritical, as this similar to the life I lead, as well–one dominated by technology, energy dissipating consumables, and selfishly ascertained goods, all meant to satisfy some sort of Social Darwinian motivation; however, that motivation has slightly changed in the millennial generation. Our motivation is not only to survive anymore, but to survive, flourish, seek comfort, and in the process, develop a sense of social status in the process.
But what’s ironic about all of it is that all of this energy, all of this privilege, all of this status–it is nothing but borrowed. While we consider these things a sign of success–a sign of something we’ve “achieved”–all of these can be attributed to our individual sense of imperialism. We strive to attain because the conquering of our territory, the command of all the energy and resource on which we can get our hands excited us and provides a sense of safety, belonging, and connection that we so desperately crave.
However, at the end of the day, when stripped down to our core, these things are truly fleeting, expendable, dissipated, and will eventually run out, which is why we strive to attain as much as we can, so that we may prolong that sense of safety, and avoid instability and fear. We subconsciously know the energy will run out, we know the glimmer of the achievement will eventually become unremarkable and slowly fade into the abyss, and we realize that all things are temporary.
On the other hand, we know that, in the process, by saturating ourselves with all of this expendable energy, we know that, in a way, we are robbing something else of that energy, whether it be another person near us, someone halfway around the world living in a desolate village (or someone living on a desolate street corner within mile of us), or even the polar bears in the Arctic, whose homes are slowly melting away underneath their feet due to the mass consumption of Earth’s energy for our own progress, status, and ever threatened sense of safety.
I can’t say whether the way we’re living is right or wrong, nor can I judge, lest I be judged. Then again, maybe I should be judged. I simply wonder if any other way of living is possible, or if this story that we’ve written is a plausible trajectory for any sort of system or civilization.