Aesopian Fable for Modern Times

April 28, 2006 by aaron

**The First Law of Thermodynamics is: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it may be transformed form one form into another, but the total amount of energy never changes.” This law can be translated to say that because energy is finite then matter also is finite.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is: “in all energy exchanges some energy must be used to transfer the energy from an object with less energy to one with more energy.” This law can also be taken to mean that energy is used as energy is transferred.**

Without most people even realizing it these two laws rule the world around us. The strive for energy and heat has caused wars between peoples of all technology levels. For without it few can survive. In our modern world oil is the energy producer of choice but oil will run out, energy trapped in its particles will be released back into the universe to serve as a different type of energy. For that is the fate of all things. Nothing ends and nothing begins; forms may change but everything is made out of pieces of the things that came before. Energy does not replenish itself, like water it can be used too quickly or too wastefully. What would happen if humankind achieved the ultimate goal, the harnessing of all energy, to have it at their command? Would it bring happiness or sorrow? Would it bring pleasure or pain? Could humans even be trusted with the possibility? There are no definitive answers, just dreams and fantasies.

Think of the world around you, cars number in the millions each consuming far more fuel than they need, houses are built larger and larger, wars are fought over oil and forests strips for firewood. Many of the conflicts of today are based on the scarcity of resources: oil, food and land. The energy that is produced from the burning of coal, firewood and oil is not free, nature spent many years transferring solar energy into sugars to grow the trees, animals spent energy eating the trees to eventually die and become oil, and the earth itself used energy to heat and cool magma in such a way as to create coal. Unfortunately this process thanks to the second law is always run at a deficit and humankind continues to exploit these resources without concern over the future well-being of the planet or humankind.

Now imagine a world, much like this one, where uranium, oil, coal and wood are no longer used for energy. The fight over combustion has ended, the ultimate form of energy harnessing has been perfected, there are no longer conflicts over resources, every man, woman and child can acquire exactly what they need with little in the way of work. This new energy creation is not the forms of the past, no windmills or solar plants are used. Instead the very energy of the universe is harnessed to manipulate both matter and energy to change it into the petty desires of the common man. Soldiers no longer fight wars, farmers no longer plant crops, business men no longer do business, in fact no one does anymore than is required. The sick can heal themselves, the hungry can feed themselves, there is no need for any thought outside temporary pleasure.

This idea may seem pleasurable to the workers, the sick or the hungry, but the surface image of an idyllic yet under-preforming world hides a much bleaker image. As the machines that harnessed the previously non-exploitable energy of the universe, global warming stopped. Those who argued that combustion was the cause of the global warming declared victory, but the average man did not notice but instead just turned the heat up. As the years went by the days got shorter, but the average man just turned the lights on longer. Centuries pass, it now seems to be an endless winter night, the days are long and cold, the earth trembles at its core no longer able to rejuvenate itself.

Even the seemingly unlimited energy of the universe has a limit, energy can not be destroyed or created, but can be wasted. For the people of the above world they thought they found an unlimited supply of energy, but everything has a limit. As they stuffed themselves with food, lengthened their lives and built houses they manipulated the energy of everything around them. Energy flows from one point to another and every link in the chain is effected when one part changes its circumstances. The energy the people used was not from some mystic energy filled place in the universe that would never run dry but instead it can from themselves, their planet and their sun. The free use of resources met with disaster because they believed themselves above the mortal chains of the universe, because they forgot the most basic laws of the universe.

One may read this little fantasy and disregard it as an exaggeration of reality, but this is unwise. Humans in the current time show a great disregard for the resources around them, energy is wasted day and night by people from many different societies. The two laws show us that no man is an island, what one person does effects all other people and only through careful stewardship can the energy around us be harnessed in a manner that is not wasteful. Otherwise in the future man may become like the above world, lazy and killing themselves with their own pitiful desires.

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