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In Search of a Sustainable Image of the Nature of Energy.
(A draft summary of my exploration to November 2004. Key ideas are:

Energy is bounteous and comes in many forms
Our vision of energy determines our use of it.

You may be an Energy Expert. ( Some humans imagine that certain energy forms are energy and in so doing put humanity at risk.)
Our insane Economics is curable.
We can transcend our individuals beings and engage a greater wisdom. This wisdom enables us to know the delights of energy more fully and make wiser uses of it.)



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Our image of energy is the most powerful image we know. The symbols we use to evoke it trigger associations that are the most profound we can experience. These associations are as large as the universe and as intimate as our breath. The image is rooted in every sense and in every element of our awareness. 

This is reflected in its English synonyms. These include power, force, push (get up and go) and variations on spirit, vigour (lively, thrive) such as vim and vitality (to endow with life or energy). 

The word symbol “ energy” has distant roots in ancient Greek (en - in), Latin (en – in, into) and Old English (nian - cause to be) symbols and in the Indo-European symbol (werg – work). We see it in the words for active the late-Latin word energia and the Greek word energeia

Unlike its synonyms and associated words, energy is recognisable across a range of European languages:

English   French   German  Italian  Spanish  Swedish   Yiddish    Turkish       Polish
Energy   energie  energie  energia  energia   energi     energye     enerji       energia 
Life        vie         Leben    vita        vida        liv           lebn       hayat     zycie

We see its parallel use in the Sanskrit symbol prana (universal energy, life force, biofield, chi) and in the Mandarin and Japanese symbols qi, chi, ch’i, ki  (the circulating life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things.)

Every individual and every culture has a unique image of the nature of energy for each knows a different time and place in the energy flux that forms our universe. These diverse viewpoints do tend to share one thing. They commonly associate energy with movement, change and transformation.

However this association with change and transformation (mortality) generates a range of responses that are as different as the human experience. Their image of energy generates a fear response in some while it generates an awe and delight response in others. Some know a sense of deprivation while others know a sense of bounteousness. Some feel overwhelmed while others feel liberated. Some feel controlled by energy, some desire to control energy and others “go with the flow.” 

Some feel their vision of energy is the only correct one and are intolerant of other visions. They may have an intellectual understanding of Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty  but remain unable to live with that uncertainty in their lives. They separate Physics (Nature, Material Matters) and Psychology (Soul). They believe that the Uncertainty Principle is true only for quantum physics (Energy at the subatomic level) and not in our daily lives. This divorce generates a fragmented spirit, one in which energy is associated with sensations of arrogance, deprivation and fear. Compassion is reduced.

Others embrace all visions of energy as their own and believe every viewpoint is essential to a fuller revelation of the nature of energy.

Some, such as the Buddha, seek to marry the Physics and Psychology of change by embracing impermanence and transience. They search for ways to transcend the body and the mind, to marry Nature and Soul, so acceptance of transience is total. Those who achieve this state of transcendence speak of enjoying a sense of completeness or unity in spirit. Energy is associated with sensations of humility, gratitude and awe. Compassion is enhanced. 

The Bounteous Nature of Energy

The Principle of the Conservation of Energy states that energy is, by its nature, conserved and cannot be created or destroyed. Though humans have endeavoured for many centuries to breach this principle, all have failed. Some say it can be called a law for this reason. The First Law of Thermodynamics, as it is also known, expresses another profound insight: energy comes in many forms. It is subject to constant transformation. 

This may seem obvious and yet we constantly lose sight of it. As a result we tend to forget the range of transformations possible. As a result, our lives are often severely diminished. We even destroy each other when we become obsessed with just one of the range of forms of the energy that can sustain us.

Every culture has different ways of categorising the variety of energy forms possible. The ancient Hindu culture saw Prana as suffusing all living form but that it is not itself the soul. Indian, Chinese and Japanese cultures have imagined energy in terms of its flow within the individual and have extended their insights from “the arena of the body to the earth itself”

They imagine systems of energy flows in the body that need be balanced for optimal performance. Central to these images is the sense of balance. This results in an awareness of the need to maintain balance, harmony and unity in the wider environment.

Our modern European traditions have a variety of methods of categorising the forms of energy.

In our schools we are taught energy comes in these different forms – heat (thermal), light (radiant), mechanical, electrical, chemical and nuclear energy. 

Subcultures within this tradition have emerged that tend to imagine energy as thermodynamics and the universe is seen in terms of heat flows. 

“The science of thermodynamics originally comprised only what is implied in its etymology: the relations between heat and mechanical work. In the course of time, and in no small measure because of the work of Willard Gibbs, the meaning of the word has been broadened to embrace the whole field of the transformations of energy between all the forms in which it may be manifested -- thermal, mechanical, electrical, chemical, or radiant.”

It is interesting to note that here in New Zealand, the Maori word for energy is mahana.  Mahana also means heat, temperature, warm.

The modern European Science tradition teaches us in our schools that there are two types of energy – stored (potential) energy and working (kinetic) energy. Some cultures do not imagine this distinction. Theirs may be a more timeless vision of energy in which past, present and future manifestations of energy are undifferentiated. The individuals live as part of the flux of change, not apart from it. What we regard as stored energy, such as a tree, is integral and sacred to them. They cannot use it without ensuring the energy balance is conserved.

Some cultures in Asia and elsewhere imagine all energy as potential and believe it is the individual awareness that transforms it into working energy. Mind is matter and “we live our dreams.” The thought and the action are one. The individual is responsible for the degree of happiness and harmony they enjoy. Equally the individual is responsible for the misery they know and it is made clear that disharmony is ruthless in its consequences.

Some Physicists in our “Western” tradition are now using this vision of energy having limitless potential: 

“Already physicists speak of the infinite potential of energy within the vacuum or ground state and that our universe is nothing more than a flicker of energy within this immense background. And even that the whole universe came into existence as the result of a minor fluctuation within this energy. One is also drawn to the curious nature of quantum theory with its collapse of the wave function and its non-local correlations, ideas that seem to lie beyond the more conventional and classical notions of force and energy. There is even speculation that information plays an active role similar to that of energy, or that the one can be transformed into the other, or that the one can act to give form to the other. David Bohm, for example, in his Causal Interpretation of quantum theory, speaks of "active information" that will affect the motion and correlation of quantum particles.2

At this point the layperson may be asking” If energy is what we make of it, what does it matter what we imagine it is?” It matters because if our image of energy contains fatal flaws, then they potentially doom us. We dream uses of it that generate misery and disharmony.


Visions of Uses.

Our vision of energy determines our use of it. Thus we find cultures also describe energy in terms of how useful it is. Cultures may envision a particular life form such as plants or oceans or the sun or minerals as the source of energy. This particular form becomes the centre of customs and worship.

 In a “sun worshipping culture”, customs and concepts of power revolve around the use of solar energy. Sometimes individual humans will place themselves at the cultural centre of the worship and claim the providence of solar energy comes through them. In some cultures fellow humans were sacrificed to the ‘sun god’ in the belief that this will ensure a more reliable source of energy. 

Our present culture is a “fossil-fuel worshipping culture” and our dominant image of energy is that it is coal, gas and oil. We even call these fuels “energy” in our daily lives. Again some individuals lay claim to ownership of these resources and persuade us they alone can provide us with energy. As with the sun worshipping cultures, we sacrifice our fellow human beings to ensure continuing supplies of “energy”. 

We have created a civilisation of 6 billion souls based on the image that the mineral fuels, oil, gas and coal, are energy. (We do maintain a “back up” image that unlimited nuclear-based energy forms will sustain our children if necessary.)

The flaw in the image that energy is minerals is that people feel and act as though the form of energy abides by the Principle of the Conservation of energy and is of unlimited bounty too. The image fails us in that we act to destroy a valuable energy form that is not easily renewed. 

The flaw also works to obscure the potential use and value of other forms of energy. A prime example is the way we ignore solar energy in its most direct form and in its secondary forms in what we call the biosphere – plants, oceans and the atmosphere. Indeed the flaw obliterates the Principle of Conservation itself. This states energy comes in many forms and can be transformed.

Finally, and perhaps fatally, the flaw omits the atmosphere from the energy equation and many of us remain oblivious to the impact of our activities on our climate’s balances.  

Our schools do generate more abstract categorisations of the value of energy forms. They evoke images of useful and non-useful energy forms in the concepts of exergy and entropy. 

Entropy is variously defined as unavailable or non-useful or random energy or energy that is manifest in the disordered state of matter.

Exergy is defined as available or useful or organised energy or energy that is manifest in an ordered state. In practice, this definition is further refined by differentiating between the potential useful energy available in a system with the actual useful energy. 

The two concepts are related in that when exergy diminishes in an “energy system”, then entropy is increasing.  Any activity that generates entropy destroys exergy.

This system of analysis communicates a range of more profound and often confused messages. These include images of the universe tending to become less ordered, of energy becoming less useful with every transformation, of life becoming more dissipated and, in general, of entropy becoming complete. Every thing winding down. Everything turning off. Everything phasing out.

A brief explanation of this system of analysis is that it started with the observation of steam-driven engines as energy systems. Only some of the energy in the system is in useful forms that the engine can use. This is the useful energy or exergy. In the process of using the energy in the system the machine transforms much of the useful forms of energy (exergy) into additional non-useful forms of energy (entropy). 

The classic case is the motor vehicle.  As little as one percent of the energy used when the petrol and air are mixed and burned actually moves the driver of the car. 99% of the energy used is dissipated as ‘waste’ in that it is not used to move the driver. Most of it ‘disappears’, heating the surroundings. (The ‘waste’ statistic gets worse if you live in an advanced country like New Zealand and your vehicle is a large SUV sitting stationary in a traffic jam. It requires truly advanced systems in entropy generation for a country of only 4 million people to create hours-long traffic jams. ) 

For a lovely discussion of the Principle of Entropy (or if you like, the Second Principle of Energy or the Second Law of Thermodynamics) I recommend  The site explains the Second Law simply as the process whereby "Energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused and spread out."

The author, Professor Lambert, has a most helpful summary at the end of :

‘The second law of thermodynamics says that energy of all kinds in our material world spontaneously disperses or dissipates when it is not obstructed." Its quantitative codicil is "Entropy measures how much energy is dispersed (per unit temperature) in any process." Entropy really is simple, qualitatively!’

What is nice about this site is that it affirms that you already know all about how entropy works already from your daily experiences. It reveals how this tendency for energy to take more dispersed forms really works to enable life, as we know it. It also reminds us that energy is bounteous in that Earth uses a trace amount of the solar energy in our solar system and that modern human awareness is but a momentary flicker in the scale of the known universe. 

Of particular help is the concept that the rate at which energy disperses or dissipates can be slowed or obstructed. This is a powerful image. It suggests we can affect the process and it reinforces our daily experiences. We know we can store food for later consumption and we know we can obstruct the flow of rivers for later use as electricity or irrigation or drinking supplies. 

So what is the flaw in this image of energy as entropy and exergy?  The flaw lies in the act of dissociation. We still tend to image energy has something out there. It remains an abstract system, a construct somehow separate from us that we stand apart from and observe.

The website contains hints of this fragmentation of our beings.  Professor Lambert writes,

 ”Our psychological sense of time is based on the second law. It summarizes what we have seen, what we have experienced, what we think will happen.”

He is saying that the “second law” generates a linear, directional sense of time. This had profound implications on our experience of time and energy. It leaves no opportunity for “timeless” reflection and reduces our ability to access the great wisdom based in our primal beings. This is the wisdom imbedded in our genes and cultures that has enabled humans to survive millions of years. In the act of reflection, a sense of past, present and future merge into the moment. People often report experiencing a sense of timelessness in this state. The individual becomes totally involved in the moment. Time is transcended. This is the state when humans are most alert to the environment with all its energy forms and balances. The sense of harmony is most potent.

Another hint of the fragmentation is contained in Professor Lambert’s statement,

Life is hard. But it’s harder if you don’t know how the material world works!” 

The image suggests that the material world is something separate to the mind. The viewer is separated from the viewed and there is little hint of the possibility that Mind is Matter. 

Perhaps a more helpful image is found in the statement,

Life is hard. But it is harder if you don’t know how the psychology of the material world works!

Life is harder because you suffer from a fragmented image of energy with its attendant risks of deprivation, war, alienation and loss of compassion generally. 

To understand intellectually how this can be. I will first remind you of the tenuous image in which Mind is Energy. It is an image so vague it defies the intellect and yet those who experience it most fully tend to speak of it as the ultimate vision, of infinite illumination. These individuals may be educated princes or illiterate peasants. Education and wealth are not a requisite for the experience. 

In Western Science we catch glimmerings of the Mind-Matter link from those who work with sub-atomic particles. They evoke images in which mind and matter are so related that one cannot be without the other. The very act of observing alters the observed. For instance, the very waves or particles we chose to use to “see” the activity of electrons influences their behaviour. The act of observation alters the probability of something happening.

It is the proverbial ‘quantum leap’, a large and abrupt movement, to make sense of this power in our daily lives. It almost impossible to imagine how we can, for instance, observe a horse race from a distance and alter energy flows so that our horse wins. We cannot will our bodies to stay in its existing form indefinitely. And yet all our senses tell us we can and do change things. Our every breath transforms energy and alters the balances of the material world.

Perhaps we cannot understand energy without understanding our psychology? Perhaps one is of the other? Perhaps to imagine one as though it is not of the other is to risk alienating our selves and experiencing much sorrow.

Perhaps to most fully understand the nature of energy we must ask questions of our own nature. In terms of our daily experiences, perhaps we can ask questions such as:

Why does a human being choose to move millions of tons of matter into the form of a hydroelectric dam so they can keep warm when they can keep equally warm by moving their own body mass a few meters into the sunlight? Why does another human, given the same knowledge and option, choose to sit in the sun rather than use an electric heater to keep warm? 

Why does a human being choose to rearrange the atoms of buildings and their human occupants using the combustive forces of bombs so he or she can travel by car rather than by train when the latter use of energy would not require this vast transformation of energy?

Consider the different experiences of a tree. One person is aware of living, breathing presence that provides as essential harmony in global energy flows. The tree is as intimate as one of their limbs. Another person may experience the tree as a distant, inert form of energy that only works when it is in the form of a credit mark on a trading ledger.

Each awareness works to create a different planet and you can be the judge which one you choose to live on. Which Mind-Energy system most lacks balance and generates the greatest risk of sorrow? Why did you make your choice? 

One implication of this Psychology of Energy is hilarious, scary, sobering, boring, liberating, overwhelming or exhilarating. It depends on your point of view. The implication is that you are an energy expert.


Why You are an Energy Expert.

If you feel you do not know much about energy then consider the ‘wisdoms’ of those who are imagined as “energy experts” in our western culture. 

They teach, “Humans can conserve energy”. This is in direct confusion with the First Principle of the Conservation of Energy. This states the very nature of energy means it is conserved. The truth is humans can only conserve energy forms. 

They peddle myths of energies called “renewable energy”, “waste energy” “green energy” and even “positive energy”. The truth is energy is energy. It is not to be confused with, for instance, renewable energy forms, sources and uses.

They talk of “energy crises”. The truth is energy is what we make of it. As a species, we may experience crises of spirit from our use of energy.

They allow and even cultivate the public image of themselves as “energy experts” and “energy analysts” and “energy consultants” when their expertise may be in trading mineral fuels or electricity consumption or evaluating thermal transfers in buildings.  They may have no expertise at all of how to cook a loaf of bread or when to plant the wheat for it. 

Their specialist area of energy use is energy to them. As a result they preach that a fuel such as oil or an electricity form such as electricity is energy. 

Their confusion of the nature of energy might not be so great if the “energy experts” only preached to each other. However the confusion they generate is exploited by the massively resourced PR industry. This powerful industry takes these flawed images and amplifies them through the media. They compound the confusion exponentially in the service of narrow interests of small sectors of society e.g. bulk-electricity generators. Teachers in our schools are ill equipped to counter this educative force.

I remind you that the scientist resides in us all. We each are able to ask questions, experiment, observe and draw conclusions. Without these abilities we could not, for instance, learn to use tools and symbols. A person may use these skills with diligence in the study of some manifestation of energy and amass considerable insights in that arena. This does not mean they are any more of a scientist than you. Their psychology may prevent them from applying those skills with the same vigour and integrity to other aspects of life. 

You may well apply science more ably across the spectrum of your experiences, even if you have never heard of scientific technique. You may well be of more inquiring mind, more open to possibilities and more honest and compassionate.

Take weather. This is something we all have experience and knowledge of to some degree. Certain “energy experts” called climatologists specialise in the science of Earth’s surface energy system. They attempt to communicate their knowledge of climate processes and balances using a range of symbols. In particular they attempt to communicate to us the impact of human activity on our climate using symbols such as ‘climate change”, “global warming”, “greenhouse effects”, “greenhouse gases” and “enhanced greenhouse effects”.

The scientist within each of us asks the perfectly reasonable question, “What proof is there that the communication is working?” The question may even be vital. If the climatologists use symbols that generate flawed images of energy, then they may generate a most maladaptive response in the wider population. 

The “greenhouse” image of Earth’s surface energy system is the most pervasive and potent image of our age. It is no coincidence the popular use of this symbol began in the advent of the Steam Age or the Machine Age in the 1820s. Its use has been unquestioned by most “energy experts” ever since. If you ask any climatologist in the world for the scientific evidence that the use of the “greenhouse” symbol communicates as they intend you will get three responses. 

The dominant response is the dismissive response where no attempt is made to answer the question.

The second response is dogmatic response. The top climatologists of the world respond by saying “there is nothing wrong with the greenhouse image of the atmosphere– it shows the energy transformations fine” and “ it is a perfectly reasonable concept and every one uses it.”

The third and most rare response is the scientific response. The climatologist admits they know of no scientific evidence and/or that they do not have time or funds to reflect on the question. 

Climatologists then wonder why their work is held in such low esteem and people dismiss it as lacking a scientific base. The problem is in the lack of science in their communication and their use of flawed images of energy. Why should we trust a person who is so patently unscientific?

In the case of the “greenhouse” image, it evokes sensations of a very uniform, rigid structure in which humans exert great control. Most of us experience the atmosphere as a very dynamic, non-uniform, finely balanced, organic structure in which we live a trace existence. 

This capacity to apply science in such an arbitrary and fragmented way is symptomatic of the flawed psychology of energy. The common result, as mentioned earlier, is a disassociation with energy. This enables us to divorce our knowledge of energy from our use of it. We blame energy for our problems.

Energy fails, not us. We have “energy crises”, not “energy use crises”. We are warned “energy is running out”, not  “fear and greed are destroying our imagination.” 

The daily and most desirable global warming of our planet becomes a threat to our lives. Ambiguous and ominous headlines warn us of “global warming”. It is a rare climatologist who evokes the real image: “human-induced climate change”. 

Similarly images of the natural fluctuations in our climate become charged with menace. We are not faced with “atmosphere abuse risks” but an ambiguous threat called “climate change ”. We have the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UNIPCC, rather than the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Atmosphere Use.)

Our confusion of energy is made even more complete when we do incorporate humans into our images of it. We use images of energy that place us as master of the planet even as we deny the impact of our use on it. The atmosphere is imaged as a human engineered construct in the form of a greenhouse, not as the atmosphere. To compound the confusion, the greenhouse image is most evoked by those who wish to warn of the possible peril of our negative impact on it. Even as “energy experts”, especially climatologists, are talking of the of extreme weather events we risk generating, they are evoking associations of stability, comfort, uniformity and human mastery of the dominions of the air.

Their message is further confused by their medium. Often energy experts are so dissociated from the energy system they speak of that they can justify traveling around the globe powered by large combustion engines in their efforts to “save the world” from the impact of these same engines. They emanate fractured images of energy at every level. 

Individuals for whom mind and energy are of each other are physically incapable of such use of energy. The layperson senses a more truthful vision of energy in these individuals.

Nowhere is the general confusion of energy more beautifully illustrated than in conventional Western systems of economics. 

Earlier I wrote of how one person will warm with an electric heater while another will warm with the sun. While both achieve the same end of keeping warm, conventional Economics measures only the energy use of the first person. It makes no measure of health and well-being. Indeed the second person is seen to threaten the Economy. The first person makes important political measures such as the GNP “rise” and “grow”, the second makes it  “fall” and “shrink”. What sane system puts a zero or negative value on a sustainable use of energy?


Bringing Sanity to Economics.

Attempts have been made to remedy this flawed form of accounting. A notable example is the work of Amory Lovens of the Rocky Mountain Institute. Some describe him as the world’s leading “energy efficiency” expert.

The units of electricity not used or “saved” by the person who warms by the sun can be measured by comparing their use of electricity with the person who warms by the heater. Amory calls the “saved” units of electricity negawatts and proposes that they can be counted and traded.

This attempt at making sense of the Market and making energy efficiency a positive force in the economy is admirable. It is also equally flawed as the above images of energy.

I worked for a couple of years for a small “energy efficiency” firm called Negawatt Resources Ltd. I lost count of the number of times I had to correct people and say it was not Megawatt Resources. The layperson cannot understand how a sustainable use of energy is a negative act. “Megawatts” is their attempt to make sense of a positive use of energy. Worse, the negative associations implicit in nega only compound the common association of “energy efficiency” practice with deprivation and loss.

The messages of negawatts were even more mixed in that most people associate watts with main-grid sourced electricity. We attempted to point them to the sun, to simple behavioural changes that use solar energy and to solar technologies that make effective use of solar energy. The more we pointed to the sun the more our banner use of the “Watt” symbol focused their awareness on electricity points and the bulk-electricity generators as the source of life.

The biggest flaw with the concept of negawatts is that it still fundamentally dissociates us from energy. It is assumes that something out there, in this case something called The Market, is wise and will make effective decisions for us. It assumes the negawatt trade generates more positive uses of energy. The “profits” will be reinvested in positive activities. 

Energy use is not that simple.

American states such as California instituted trades in negawatts. Soon bulk-electricity traders realised they could be paid for not using electricity they never intended using. They would simply identify a network that was loaded to capacity, book a use of it beyond its capacity and then get paid for not making that use. 

The short history of the huge trading conglomerate Enron is a lesson that energy use can never be devoid of ethics. Enron’s collapse seriously disrupted and reduced the lives of thousands of workers associated with it. It endangered California’s State budget and distorted its politics. The activities of Enron and its bankers and architects activities generated misery on scale around the globe.

Whether we like it or not, our every conscious use of energy is an ethical dilemma. The more we attempt to dissociate ourselves from our use of energy, the more misery we generate. If we are to know the true nature of energy, we cannot escape from awareness that Mind and energy are formed of each other. That is why I propose the mutual inter-evolving concepts of Bonus Joules and Junk Joules.

Our every use of energy is an ethical act in which we can choose to generate one or the other. We can choose energy uses that are efficient, low risk and serve wide-ranging interests (bonus joules) or we can choose energy uses that are inefficient, high risk and serve only narrow short-term interests (junk joules). 

We can never truly know which is which. We live in a flux. Both mind and energy are constantly transforming and being transformed. A use of energy that can be seen to generate bonus joules one day will be seen to generate junk joules the next day as new technologies and insights become available and our environment changes. Adaptive activities become maladaptive and vice versa.

Where there is the will, there is a way of measuring our use of energy. There is a growing realisation that we can make meaningful use of measures of personal, civil and environmental health and these may provide more helpful measures of our wellbeing. The limitations of conventional Economics are being exposed as wider energy systems collapse and people are realising measuring only taxable or tradable activities is insufficient.

If energy is what we make of it and if we cannot truly know if our use of it is for good or ill, then can the individual know to act? Surely this is a recipe for despair?  Does not it place us in such a predicament that we can absolve ourselves of responsibility for our actions? 


Transcending the Mess

The human predicament is not easy and the temptation is to dissociate from it. However we can transcend it if we know compassion. Compassion enables us to accept our own inability to truly know a bonus joule from a junk joule and to remain open to learning more effective uses of energy. We know kindness. This enables perceived errors to become learning opportunities. 

Compassion and its associated tolerance enables us to value others for their insights into nature of energy and so communicate our own insights. It sensitises us to the wider environment and makes us more aware of the impact of our uses of energy. It creates a more open feedback loop that enables more adaptive responses. 

A rationale for compassion can be drawn from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. A model for compassion exists in the lives of the great spiritual guides through the ages. Their powerful message is that in compassion, the nature of energy is most fully revealed. 

A person may have an immense knowledge of particle theory or of a weather system. Without compassion, they still live with a flawed image of energy. Their dissociation generates cynicism, possible arrogance and a lessened ability to understand the paradoxical nature of energy. 

A consequence of this flawed image of energy is that their images tend to portray entropy as a negative activity. They have difficulty with the notion that teaching that energy comes in bounteous forms will inspire their fellow humans to use valuable energy forms with care. Indeed they believe teaching the bounteous nature of energy will promote profligate and wasteful uses of it.

In denying the bounteous nature of energy to others and thus to themselves, they create a psychology in which energy is scarce. The sense of awe is replaced by one of fear. The wider perspective and deep sense of meaning is lost. They are replaced with an obsession with a narrow range of energy forms. Individuals become desperate and acquisitive.  They become easy prey for the cynicism of the PR industry. They lose the sense of balance and tend to use valuable energy forms as though there is no hope for tomorrow. The paradox the ‘cynic’ cannot understand is that those who live the bounteous nature of energy are filled with inspiration and hope. Their sense of awe suffuses their activities with care.

The use of nuclear energy as a weapon bomb was born of the great cynicism and its continued use is an act of despair. The nuclear physicists who created the nuclear bomb enabled its use. Its wider use has been limited by “energy experts” the world over – people like yourself who have a greater vision of energy and remain mindful that there are alternative, wiser uses of energy. Your sense of bounty, of something greater, gives you hope. You sense that life is too precious to be wasted.

If the nature of energy is that it is of the mind, then how can we transcend our seeming inability to experience mind and matter as one? Hints and glimmerings of possible ways are found in the revelations of the great spiritual leaders. They suggest simple techniques of meditation and reflection be incorporated into our psychology so we give linear time away for a few moments a day. These states enable us to transcend the barriers between mind and matter. They enable us to access the latent wisdom of our primal beings, that vast subconscious that minds our bodies in a million ways and thus leaves us free to ask such questions as “What is the nature of energy?”

These revelations all suggest that if we give all away than all will come to us. This is one of the great lessons that can be drawn from the act of breathing. Indeed the study of the intimate energy system of our breath is what led scientists like the Buddha to a psychology of mind and matter.  

It may be that act of giving all away enables us to experience the zero energy state, that state when “negative energy” and “positive energy” are equal in force, when matter and antimatter are in balance. In that state of release or timelessness we are able to know the creative force inherent in the energy fluctuation that drives our universe. We more fully realise our potential as reflective beings, more fully know the nature of energy and are more able to use it in more sustainable ways. 

It may well be that a person sitting under a tree observing their breath can know as much about energy as the person who can observe the effects of a neutron passing through the Earth. The one who most understands the psychology of energy can teach us most how to use it sustainably for they will be more intimate with it. And always each can learn from the other.


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To enable our children to know the nature of energy more fully, and in particular to respond to the challenge Human-Induced Climate Change may pose for us, I propose the following:

We teach of compassion as an aid to learning, as at least an adjunct to the Principle of Uncertainty and as the essence of Environmental Education.

We teach of our Thermodynamic Beings. Every act we make alters the thermal balances of Earth and we exist because of those balances.

We provide a vertically integrated set of learning activities beginning with simple hands-on experiences with thermal transfer. The aim is to develop and co-ordinate our visual-tactile senses. This enables us to more fully realise the insights possible from more advanced activities using thermal imaging technology such as infrared imaging. 

It has particular relevance for communicating how human activities impact on the thermal balances of the atmosphere and the ocean.

We teach of our Trace Beings.   We are “trace” beings in that our existence is enable by “trace” happenings. 

We provide a vertically integrated set of learning activities beginning with simple hands-on experiences playing with tiny proportions and leverage. Sample activities include counting out a thousand objects of which only one is different and counting the steps required to travel a set distance. This develops a sense of our trace elements in time and space.

These skills enable us to grasp the trace manner with which our planet resides in the vast reaches of the solar system, with which molecules constitute the air we breathe and with which the particles of the atoms that constitute us exist. All are mere traces of matter in space, little points with forces holding things together. The skills enable us to imagine how it is possible electrons are just probabilities except for a trace moment of existence and the universe is a random fluctuation in nothing. Trace elements in our food enable us to function. Trace differences in our DNA set us apart from each other and other creatures. 

The skills have particular relevance for communicating Trace gases in the atmosphere enable life as we know it –without some of them Earth would be 33°C cooler. 

We teach of our Invisible Beings. We teach skills so that we can ask what is not there and learn from it. We provide a vertically integrated set of learning activities beginning with simple hands-on experiences of the invisible. These include:

-          Drawing positive and negative spaces and developing the skill of determining how an object is formed by what it is not.

-           Working with invisible milieu such as air using all our senses e.g. touch to measure thermal transfers, taste and smell to measure molecular activity and, most basic, our breath to measure invisible matter.

These skills will enable more sophisticated learning activities - from detecting and identifying pollution of our images of energy by PR spin to detecting and identifying air pollution and unbalanced thermal flows.

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