Core Blog

“Food” – The Fuel That Feeds Us

December 16, 2017

Words Batul S.  
Digital Art Sakina K.


Batul S., bless her sweet soul, is a harbinger of peculiar muscle spasms. Bubbly, bouncy and of course, beautiful, the ‘B’ words that make her and her name.

Fuel is generally any material that reacts with oxygen to release energy in various forms. For the better part of human history, food was the only form of fuel. Food entered the body, was broken down by enzymes, reacted with oxygen in tissue and produced chemical energy that allowed early farmers and their cattle to plow their wheat fields. In turn, the wheat continued to fuel their bodies and on went this cycle.

From the late 1700s, however, food was a forgotten form of fuel. There was a new power in town – fossil fuel. Coal (a form of fossil fuel) drove the steam engines in Great Britain and everyone hopped onto the train leading to the industrial revolution. Factories were set up and human muscle was replaced with metal machinery. Tractors – instead of biceps – ploughed the fields.

In the mid-19th century, the discovery of drilling technology in oil wells to extract petroleum and natural gas catapulted humankind into the era of mass consumption. Cars, ships and aircrafts could travel hundreds of miles in a matter of hours. Rapid travel shrunk our world, so much so that city dwellers no longer needed to farm. Large quantities of fruits, vegetables and meat could be delivered to their local market. Presently, most of us are city dwellers and farms are but a holiday destination. We are wholly dependent on automobiles, which run day and night to bring us our daily fodder. Human fuel is now at the mercy of fossil fuels.

Fuel was also converted into a form of energy we are most familiar with today – electricity. Thanks to Edison, its use started out with a simple light bulb, but very quickly, it’s advent lit up an era of automation, the likes of which no one could predict. Every task, whether simple or complex could now be programmed onto computers and executed by machinery. Think reading a map and even driving a car. A driverless smart-car with GPS can do it all for you almost instantaneously. Communication, documentation, identification – all done with the programmed hand-held device you’re gazing at, this very moment.

It seems like magic, but the reality is far from magical. Our devices need to be kept fed and satisfied to ensure that they do not fail us. Panic ensues if we forget to feed our iPhone with its electric meal at least once a day. You can’t gobble up the UberEATS meal you planned to order if you don’t feed your phone first. Your fridge is not obliged to keep your fruits fresh, nor is your oven obliged to keep your bread toasted if it’s not kept on a constant supply of electrical nutrition. We work eight hours a day, five days a week (and sometimes through our lunch break) to ensure that we have enough money to keep the supply of electricity in our homes constant so that our devices, appliances and ourselves are always well fed.

We humans set ourselves apart from animals because instead of adapting ourselves to suit the environment, we adapted the environment to suit ourselves. It’s, therefore, an unfortunate irony that we have placed ourselves at the mercy of our man-made environment. It may seem as though we domesticated fuel, but fuel seems to have had the last laugh. This limited resource has domesticated us instead. We are herded into the confines of our imagined borders and never have to venture out in search of food. We are kept tethered to the walls of our homes by a narrow copper wire, and fittingly enough, we are powerless without it.


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