A radical analysis of our master-and-slave
relationship to energy and a call for change.
Ancient civilizations routinely relied on shackled
human muscle. It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe
emperors, and build cities. In the early nineteenth century, the
slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the
planet, and slaveholders viewed religious critics as hostilely as
oil companies now regard environmentalists. Yet when the abolition
movement finally triumphed in the 1850s, it had an invisible ally:
coal and oil. As the world''s most portable and versatile workers,
fossil fuels dramatically replenished slavery''s ranks with
combustion engines and other labour-saving tools. Since then, oil
has transformed politics, economics, science, agriculture, gender,
and even our concept of happiness. But as Andrew Nikiforuk argues
in this provocative new book, we still behave like slaveholders in
the way we use energy, and that urgently needs to change.
Many North Americans and Europeans today enjoy
lifestyles as extravagant as those of Caribbean plantation owners.
Like slaveholders, we feel entitled to surplus energy and
rationalize inequality, even barbarity, to get it. But endless
growth is an illusion, and now that half of the world''s oil has
been burned, our energy slaves are becoming more expensive by the
day. What we need, Nikiforuk argues, is a radical new emancipation