Our world is currently sliding down a slippery slope of fossil fuel usage – one that can only end badly. Fossil fuels are substances formed from ancient dead organisms buried underground. They include coal, petroleum – also known as crude oil – and natural gas. The current uses of fossil fuels are innumerable. These fuels, and the energy they contain, pervade every aspect of our environment. Although the link between fossil fuel usage and environmental degradation is not a novel one, there remains a curious sentiment held by many: that the continued usage of fossil fuels is possible.
Let us be clear. The idea that fossil fuels are not directly correlated to a multitude of negative environmental impacts is false and any attempt to purport this as science should be met with scepticism. The idea that a world with fossil fuels is realistic is one that we cannot afford to entertain. Fossil fuels are a limited resource, and whether or not we envision or plan for a world without them, that day will come.
However, it is important not to lose sight of who the real culprit is here. It is not fossil fuels, which are simply inanimate hydrocarbons but, rather, us. Fossil fuels are not inherently evil or damaging. It is how we, humans, extract, use, and dispose of them that is dangerous. More than anything, we need to realize that “saving the environment” really means saving ourselves. Humans are just like any other species and can only survive under a relatively narrow range of conditions.
Since it would be nearly impossible to live in such a way that would not require energy, the need for alternative energy sources becomes even more pressing. Alternative energy is used as an umbrella term that refers to any source of energy that does not have the current negative consequences of fossil fuels. There are many different types of alternative energy and while each has their flaws, they are important options that we must continue to develop.