Home Borrower We plunder the past and borrow from the future

We plunder the past and borrow from the future

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In a weekly column, written alternately by Eveline van Zeeland, Eugène Franken, PG Kroeger, Katleen Gabriels, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla, Willemijn Brouwer and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to guess what the future will look like. These columnists, sometimes joined by guest bloggers like Maarten van Andel, all working in their own way to find solutions to the problems of our time. So tomorrow will be good. Here are all previous articles.

The earth has amassed a lot of solar energy from the past in the form of fossil fuels (solar stocks). In the space of 100 years, we have plundered these solar stores by consuming far more energy than we can produce from sources such as the sun, wind, hydroelectricity and biomass (solar flows). We are now trying to stop this depletion of resources. However, we are still making two crucial mistakes: we have started to deplete the earth’s mineral resources (lithium, cobalt, copper and other rare metals) and we have started to borrow biomass from the future.

Critical mineral reserves are more likely to run out first than fossil fuels, even in this century. And cutting down and burning trees releases more CO2 than burning coal. Newly planted trees would absorb this CO2 again in 30 years, but that’s a lot like a 30-year mortgage. Do something you can’t afford now, but do it anyway by borrowing future resources. This involves risks and costs money.


CO2, however, is not money. CO2 from burning trees and coal is chemically identical and is now being released into the air and causing global warming. There is only one type of CO2, and there is nothing that can be borrowed in the future. It is a pure error.

We cannot continue to plunder the past, because the reserves will one day run out. We also cannot continue to borrow in the future, because this house of cards will also collapse one day. Complex Energy Subsidies and CO2 accounting won’t change that. We must halve our energy consumption no matter what. At least the looting and borrowing will slow down, and we will buy time to adapt society without lurching from crisis to crisis.