Vol 3 No 2 Suppl. 1 (2019)

Sustainability and Energy Knowledge of the Past is Critical for our Future

Seth Rasmussen
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58108 USA

Published 2019-11-22

How to Cite

Rasmussen, S. . (2019). Sustainability and Energy Knowledge of the Past is Critical for our Future. Substantia, 3(2), 9–11. https://doi.org/10.13128/Substantia-691


Sustainability and Energy – two fundamental topics that are key to the past, and future, of humanity. Of these two, however, energy has long been the primary focus and the contribution of sustainability has been a secondary concern. Our preoccupation with energy via chemical means can be traced back to the initial taming of fire, dating to at least 500,000 BCE. By 300,000 BCE, mankind was beginning to use fire to cook their food and,
by 100,000 BCE, the use of fire as a source of heat and light had become well-established, permanently changing the future of humanity. Throughout these time periods, mankind was dependent on carbon as the singular source of fuel for energy production via combustion. As the carbon sources consisted of wood and other plant matter, this earliest energy technology could at least be viewed as renewable. As such, it could be considered sustainable, providing that the consumption of wood and plant matter did not outpace the regrowth of new trees and plants to take their place.