The following notice was sellotaped on the hot water dispenser in the office’s pantry area: “Energy conservation measure: This water boiler will now be switched off overnight and at weekends.”
I don’t know how come I didn’t notice that before but this time around it really did strike me as rather peculiar. Surely we don’t need an energy conservation measure. If there’s one thing we don’t have to worry about, at all, ever, is whether energy is going to be conserved or not. Energy conservation is the most fundamental principle there can be. The whole existence, evolution and end of the universe depends on the principle of conservation of energy, This principle, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, implies that the amount of energy will always remain the same. The only thing that changes is the type or form of energy. This basic principle governs absolutely everything there is. We have no say – and far less any control – in this principle. Why should it be like this? We don’t know. It just is. It’s a characteristic of our universe.
What the notice should have referred to instead is energy-saving or how to avoid wasting energy. That we have some control over. We can choose to reduce energy wastage by redirecting how some of the unused energy is consumed. But the overall amount of energy being circulated will not change. It will simply be redistributed to some other system whether in the form of heat, light, sound, etc.
In the case of the hot water dispenser, the boiler will be switched off. This means that the electrical energy which would have otherwise been used to heat the boiler would be redirected somewhere else or not be consumed at all. In any case, there would have been conservation of energy. Also, what we consider as ‘waste’ energy might be useful in other systems or circumstances. What we need, therefore, is a clever way to manage energy.
One example of how we can better manage our energy consumption is to look at how we source the energy in the first place and, consequently, how efficient we are in getting the most out of the energy source. The ITER project is looking into harnessing energy from nuclear fusion: the same process which takes place inside the Sun! In effect, we would be replicating what goes on inside the Sun by fusing or binding atomic nuclei together to release a tremendous amount of energy. Currently, nuclear power plants harness energy from nuclear fission. This is the opposite of the nuclear fusion process but less efficient. In nuclear fission, we split atomic nuclei to release some of the energy contained therein. It is also the case that, when atomic nuclei are smashed together, they fuse and release a lot more energy. This is what the ITER project is essentially about. Now imagine the benefit of such an endeavour: an almost limitless supply of energy. To find out more about this amazing project please see there website here: ITER.
I long for the day when we would stop consuming energy sourced from dead organic material or fossils and use the near endless supply of either solar or nuclear energy. Until then, please be mindful about energy consumption but don’t worry about its conservation…