2   The balance sheet

Nature cannot be fooled Richard Feynman

Let’s talk about energy consumption and energy production. At the mo-
ment, most of the energy the developed world consumes is produced from
fossil fuels; that’s not sustainable. Exactly how long we could keep liv-
ing on fossil fuels is an interesting question, but it’s not the question we’ll
address in this book. I want to think about living without fossil fuels.

We’re going to make two stacks. In the left-hand, red stack we will add
up our energy consumption, and in the right-hand, green stack, we’ll add
up sustainable energy production. We’ll assemble the two stacks gradually,
adding items one at a time as we discuss them.

The question addressed in this book is “can we conceivably live sustain-
ably?” So, we will add up all conceivable sustainable energy sources and
put them in the right-hand, green stack.

In the left-hand, red stack, we’ll estimate the consumption of a “typ-
ical moderately-affluent person;” I encourage you to tot up an estimate
of your own consumption, creating your own personalized left-hand stack
too. Later on we’ll also find out the current average energy consumption of
Europeans and Americans.