Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 10:32am

Analogies can be highly effective expressions of a point that seems to go missing and/or is very difficult to understand - take the point, for example, that the Earth's resources are indeed exhaustible and need to be conserved, protected, enhanced and replenished:

"You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years," said the study's lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering. "The sun's energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished."

That is from our colleagues, Schramski and David Gattie, whose new study on the slow destruction of the Earth's plant life was recently published in PNAS. At some point, we will have to agree that we know too much to ignore this:

The study's calculations are grounded in the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, a branch of physics concerned with the relationship between heat and mechanical energy. Chemical energy is stored in plants, or biomass, which is used for food and fuel, but which is also destroyed to make room for agriculture and expanding cities.

Scientists estimate that the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass 2,000 years ago. Since that time, humans have reduced that amount by almost half. It is estimated that just over 10 percent of that biomass was destroyed in just the last century.

We continue to ignore this by accepting not-so-sophisticated misinformation campaigns on behalf of the extraction industries. We can diffuse the responsibilty, but it mostly comes back to them. And us, of course. Because these saavy arguments are constructed along lines that seem fall in our favor though they actually do us no favors at all. That is, they re-inforce that way we live - wasteful usage, including the crossing of needless distances on a daily basis - and provide the rationale for changing nothing, save expanding the range and scope of conveniences we should expect. It is indeed an extraordinary challenge to do something difficult that we are told over and over again is unnecessary. But at least that would be one thing we are already familiar with.

Image: The Blue Marble, via wikimedia commons.