What is generally referred to as ‘energy’ today cannot merely be the material categories of wood, oil, plutonium, etcetera, but a network comprising also of people, cars, power plants – all objects of production, transmission and consumption are part of the processes of energy, and energy itself. As much as energy is the ability to do work, it is equally the ability to connect all things across space and time.
Energy plays a complex role in our social relations and also perhaps our most direct point of interaction with nature as well as the future. Decades ago, Buckminster Fuller evoked the concept of a global energy grid, where nations would be collectively responsible for the energy needs of all human beings. Into the 21st century, ways in which energy grids can play a significant role in re-organizing society in new and fundamental ways remains largely unexplored.
What if we stop seeing energy from industrial perspectives of work and scarcity and start seeing it as a network capable of connecting people, places and things in intimate ways? Could 21st century values of network culture such as participation, sharing, non-hierarchy, transparency and a general openness apply to how we use energy in our societies?
Democratically and collectively defining energy as a process rather than property, will free it from being owned or controlled. All people, at all times are born with a natural right to energy. We have yet to define energy from legal or constitutional frameworks so that its very process is a process of ethical relations. Within the 21st century, we could even begin to see ourselves as participants of energy, rather then consumers of it.