We live in a world overflowing with energy. It is all around us, and we are constantly trying to harness it, control it, and shape its use. There was a time when this was enough, when we didn't have as much control over our world, when there weren't so many of us on the planet. But now, technology has come so far, and there are so many people in the world, that we can't ignore the consequences of our actions and must figure out how to live sustainably. The single biggest shift in energy that we are undergoing today is to attempt to switch away from fossil fuels, with much of this renewable energy coming from above in the form of sunshine.
This series is my discussion of energy and
what renewable energy looks like on a small scale, a human scale. I have
had a set of experiences that allow me to make a more grounded
description of where energy is coming from, and where it goes. The first
major experience is managing a farm property that my family owns near
Ottawa, Canada. The second experience is building and living in a
super-insulated and off the grid home on this property, powered
primarily by solar panels (which I've written about as The Manitou Hills Project).
Both of these require an in-depth knowledge of where energy is coming
from and going, and living through it puts everything at a scale that
feels very natural, that of a single family, a single home, and a single
acre of land.
I have tried to include the things that are needed to really
understand land use and energy use at this human scale, and to talk
about all of the different energy flows that are needed for a family to
get along while living the modern lifestyle that so many of us take for
While I've published this as a blog, I also
see it as a narrative where it makes more sense to read from beginning
to end. Below are the individual posts presented in an order that I
think makes the best narrative, which will be updated as I publish the
What is energy?
Energy capture, conversion, and storage
So how much energy does a person really use?
Insolation (aka Sunshine)
Harnessing the sun's energy - Photosynthesis
Logging, cutting down trees for wood products
Food from the land - hunting and gathering
Fossil Fuel Footnote
Food from the land - Raising beef cattle
Food from the land - Growing domesticated crops
Food from the land - Annual crops
Energy from the land - Photovoltaic solar panels