As I passed underneath a pileated woodpecker’s tap-a-tap-tap drew my attention to the base of the decayed off-shoot limb. She was chipping out small chunks of soft wood finding tasty morsels as she worked. About a third of the once-sturdy branch’s diameter had already been whittled away. At some point it’s destined to fall. That busy woodpecker is tipping the scale toward an inevitable major disruption of that tree.
COVID continues to be a terrible scourge and has upset almost every aspect of our lives. It too is tipping the scale toward a different major disruption – the inevitable demise of fossil fuels as our primary energy source. Coal and petroleum have been modern society’s go-to sources of energy for more than a century. But like that once-sturdy branch they are destined to fall.
Poppycock you may say, but consider:
- COVID is causing a dramatic reduction in transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the chief man-made heat-trapping gas emitted when burning fossil fuels. CO2 emissions have dropped 7% in 2020, the largest drop ever.
- Exxon, the petroleum giant and once one of the most profitable corporations in the world, was nudged off the Dow-Jones Industrial Average Index earlier this year.
- Coal burning worldwide peaked in 2013. Eight U.S. coal mining companies filed for bankruptcy last year.
- China, the world’s most populous country and biggest fossil fuel greenhouse gas emitter, recently announced a goal of net zero emissions by 2060.
- Clean renewable energy sources like wind and solar have been the least expensive way to generate electricity for over two years. And with increasingly efficient appliances and lighting the use of electricity is declining.
- Energy companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars in new energy sources such as “green hydrogen.”
Disruptions are quite unsettling, and 2020 was full of them. But they aren’t all bad. Our local “disrupter,” that pileated woodpecker, has been making frequent appearances in our neighborhood. Perhaps she’s a harbinger of hope for the brighter future that 2021 is sure to hold for us right here on the only home we’ll ever know where we’re all forever… Earthbound.