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“Earthly needs” by Livia Iacolare is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Devil is In the Logarithm

How we are consistently failing to see the true scale of some the biggest problems facing humanity.

We can think of Planet Earth as a living organism; mother Earth.

We humans have the honour of being the guardians of mother Earth.

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“Earth Day poster design” by Anikó Sváb is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Like any organism, Earth has always had to consume energy to survive.

The source of the energy she consumes is the sun.

In the eons before we humans came along, some of the sunlight she consumed was converted to energy reserves in the form of mineral coal, oil, and gas.

So it seems Mother Earth was receiving more energy than she could consume.

We can think of this as similar to the concept of fat building up in a human body.

We soon put a stop to that.

It was not long before we found various ways, applying a concept of “Profit”, to convert this “Fat” of mother Earth to something we call “Wealth”.

By those means, within less than a century and a half, we’ve consumed a large portion of those energy reserves, which took hundreds of millions of years of sun energy to create.

The fat of mother Earth is being burned infinitely faster than it can be replaced.

Also, we find in this process we are producing toxic waste products which are killing many of the other organisms who also inhabit mother Earth, and even ourselves.

So whilst we are stripping off the fat of mother Earth, we are also poisoning her with toxic waste.

We are making mother Earth poor, very poor.

And we are not stopping.

And yet, we have the technology to capture the relatively limitless energy of the sun, on the otherwise unused surface of Earth, all around the equator, and convert that to limitless wealth instead.

2.245 GW Solar Power Plant, Bhadla, India. Source:

But we blind ourselves to that simple fact, in the name of profit.

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“Anorexia Nervosa” by More Fernandez is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

As a result, we, the guardians of mother Earth, are her illness, which affects her as surely as anorexia nervosa affects a human.

Our eyes, as the guardians of mother Earth, are her eyes.

And our eyes are blinkered to the obvious disaster befalling her, and by extension, ourselves, by our own hand, whilst ignoring the obvious solution.

How can this be? What trickery is deceiving us from this simple truth?

If we used a millimetre to represent the wealth of a person with a thousand dollars, we need a kilometre to represent the wealth of a person with a billion dollars.

Similarly, If we used a millimetre to represent the 150 years it has taken to burn the fat of mother Earth, we would need kilometres to represent the hundreds of millions of years it took to put it there.

Obviously a diagram kilometres long is crazy.

So we use logarithms to scale diagrams, to show the difference.

Except it does not really show the actual, shocking difference.

Imagine, travelling kilometres, one millimetre at a time.

The devil is in the logarithm.


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