• Sarah Hyland

The Climate Problem is Mostly an Energy Problem.

Updated: Feb 10

And sheep are automated self-replicating biofuel harvesting machines.

These wethers and photovoltaic cells are pretty much doing the same job


1. Fossil fuels are a finite resource.

So we seek alternative energy sources. Indeed, given that fossil fuels are a valuable resource and handy for the manufacture of plastics and all sorts of other useful items, we should save them rather than just set fire to them.

2. We’re interested in the security of our energy supply.

So we certainly don’t want to make ourselves dependent on the whims of foreign nations.

3. Using fossil fuels changes the climate.

Climate change is blamed on several human activities, but it is clear that the biggest contributor to climate change is the thickening of the atmospheric blanket thanks to the production of carbon dioxide. Most of the carbon dioxide come from burning fossil fuels. And the main reason we burn fossil fuels is for energy. So to solve the problem of climate change, we need to find a new way of getting energy.

The climate problem is mostly an energy problem.


Why do we need energy? Well, for transport, heating, cooling, light, food, and of course - the ultimate energy sink in the developed world - stuff.

Small stuff starts out as 'goods', goes into the home and takes off its packaging where it transforms into clutter. After clutter, it changes to landfill whilst we are out buying more small stuff. Then we have big stuff to make and buy - like cars and houses.

Some rando stuff.

The reality is, of course, most 'stuff' we can quite easily live without.

Food and warmth, however, comprise the entry level basics in Abraham Maslow's hierachy of needs.

So, in light of this, consider the sheep.


Almost 75% of Australia is rangelands. Rangelands are where rainfall is too low or too all over the shop for growing crops. Rangelands are covered in native vegetation that uses solar energy and carbon dioxide to make its own food in the form of chemical energy.

Ever tried to eat vegetation? If you have, you might have noticed that you can chew it all day and it never breaks down. That's because it is made from cellulose which is the most abundant organic polymer on the earth.

Cellulose in all its glory. You need to put sunlight and water into a seed to make glucose. Then all the glucose joins up to make this.

It is an humongously long molecule and consists of hundreds and thousands of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Cellulose molecules are so large that we humans cannot digest it.

Cellulose is the main substance found in plant cell walls and helps the plant to remain stiff and strong. No wonder we use it to make clothing and paper.

Clothing made from paper. Don't get near a naked flame, ladies.


Sheep hang out very comfortably on the rangelands. You know, where we can't grow crops or eat the grass. They convert the chemical energy from the cellulose into chemical energy for human food.

But wait, there's more.

They transform the cellulose into energy used to grow biodegradable fibre with mindsnapping insulating properties.

Many leaders in sustainable fashion recommend spending coin on just a few items of high quality woollen clothing, caring for them and quite simply wearing the shit out of them.

Indeed, such ensembles may see you dressing en pointe like a laser.


Our rangelands can be thought of as maintenance free biofuel plantations.

And our sheep are automated self-replicating biofuel harvesting machines.

Every energy conversion system has losses along the way, but there is likely no better way of capturing solar power in the nonarable rangelands and turning it into tasty, nutritious, energy dense food and warm, swaggy threads.

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