Unfriending Fossil Fuels


Unfriending Fossil Fuels 

Fossil Fuels have become our best friends—oil, coal, and natural gas power about 85% of the global economy. These energies are absolutely essential today to keep us healthy and happy. Seven billion people inhabit the planet—a planet with whales in the oceans and trees on the land—because we have mostly switched from burning trees and whales for energy to burning fossil trees and fossil algae.

But, we are burning those fossils about a million times faster than nature saved them for us. We cannot continue these practices very far into the future because the resources will no longer be available. If we burn most of our available resources before we make major progress on sustainable alternatives, we risk dangerous shortages of energy in a world that is much harder to live in because of damaging climate change. Given this, we are faced with the difficult task of "un-friending" our best friends—fossil fuels.

According to the “Help” page on a major social networking site, "un-friending" someone is as simple as going to the right website and clicking “Un-friend." Even that simple act has generated a truly amazing number of online discussions that explore the implications, reasons, impacts, options, and ethics of "un-friending." Switching from fossil fuels is far more serious as it involves changing how we spend almost $1 trillion per year just in the U.S., for example.

To begin, let’s take a quick tour of just how valuable fossil fuels are to us. Later, we will look at the dangers of continued reliance on fossil fuels. Looking at the good and the bad of fossil fuels will help us make sense of the issues at hand.

Required Reading

Get Rich and Save the World is an article by Dr. Richard Alley from the Earth: The Operators' Manual website. This will give you more background before moving on to the next section in this module.

At the end of this module, you will be asked to join in an online discussion of the module content with other course participants. You may access the Week 1 Discussion Forum at any time, but we suggest that you work through all of the content first so you are ready to fully engage in the topic-related discussion(s).