Recently I was reading an interesting chapter from the book Energy at the Crossroads written by Vaclav Smil. The chapter is named Energy Linkages. In here I found an interesting study about Energy and quality of life.
Smil mentions that “all the commonly used measures of energy use are just handy indicators of the performance and the dynamics of processes whose aim should not be merely to secure basic existential needs or to satisfy assorted consumerist urges but also to enrich intellectual lives and to make us more successful as a social and caring species” (Smil, 2008). With this Smil suggests that the we, the society, should find ways to be less disruptive to the maintenance of irreplaceable environmental services. In addition, Smil mentions that high quality of life, physical and mental, is the goal; rational energy ise is the means of its achievement.
Furthermore, I got interested in how the author links and correlates critical measures of human well-being in 57 of the most populous countries. These correlations are based on nutrition, health care, and education. Each one of these countries analyzed had more than 15 million inhabitants, account for nearly 90% of the world’s population.
First, Smil studied the infant mortality and life expectancy. He found that during the late 1990s the lowest infant mortalities were in the most affluent parts of the world. For example, Japan showed only 4/1, 000 live births; Western Europe, Northamerica and Oceania 5 to 7 deaths for every 1000 persons; and the highest infant mortality was found in African countries with 100/1000 inhabitants. These findings were correlated with the amount of energy consumed by each region or country. The acceptable infant mortality corresponded to annual per capita energy use of 30 to 40 GJ. But in those countries were consumed 60 to 110 GJ were with among lowest countries with less infant mortality. The correlation was -.67.
In second place Smil related the Energy consumption and the Female life expectancy at birth. He found that during the 1990s the average female life expectancy in Africa was 45 years where most of the poor countries are located. In contrasts, in wealthy nations like Japan, Canada or European nations, the average female life expectancy at birth was 80 years. Here, countries with energy consumption of 45- 50 GJ p/p had female life expectancy of 70 years old. And, in those countries with average energy consumption of G0 – 110 GJ p/p were around 80 years old. The correlation was .71
In third place, I got interested with the correlation founded between energy consumption and average food availability. Here Smil states that “effective food rationing can provide adequate nutrition in a poor nation even as the variety of foodstuffs remains quite limited while high per capita food supplies in rich countries are clearly far beyond any conceivable nutritional needs and dietary surveys shows that as much 40% of all food available at retail level is wasted” (Smil, 2000 cited in Smil, 2003). He found that minimum adequate supply of food and good variety of 12MJ/day was on those countries with per capita energy consumption between 40 to 50 GJ.
These correlations make people think of the increasing disparity among nations and how energy is correlated directly to their quality of life. I believe that public policies of any country should be oriented to improve the quality of life of its citizens covering the basic needs. It also makes people think how fortunate they might be in comparison to others and how one person could start taking actions to save energy and help others as well.
Smil, Vaclav, Energy at the crossroads, The MIT Press, London, England, 2003.
Energy and the German Perspective