Before there was Greenpeace, there was Buckminster Fuller. Fuller was uniquely American: unafraid to challenge traditional thinking on design and its place in nature, and an inspiration to an entire generation of environmentalists.1 In his writings he was the first to describe our world as “Spaceship Earth”, and his thoughts on the role of energy in modern life are nothing less than unique. Fuller classified energy as either “capital”, “currency”, or “short-term savings accounts”.2 He thought of fossil fuels as capital, renewable energies as currency, and biomass as energy stored in short-term savings accounts. By providing a financial structure that quantifies different energy sources, Fuller was stressing the need to save capital, spend currency and keep a short-term savings
1 Fuller’s thoughts on the environment were undoubtedly inspired by the time he spent as a professor at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. Carbondale lies at the center of Little Egypt, a dry and dusty area of the country sandwiched between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Coal mining devastated Southern Illinois. During the early 1900s, immigrants from Wales and Ireland flocked to the area to mine coal, and many died from black lung disease later in life.
2 Tom Stanton, ‘Biomass energy: It’s not just for breakfast anymore’, Michigan Public Service Commission, 1995.