We often call dead dino squeezings — the oil, coal, and gas that powered the growth of our society — fossil fuels. An ancient material that was in hiding but needed discovery and refining before we could use it to stoke the fires of our wildest machines.

But when I’m filling the car, I always forget a step — the fun dinosaur one. All that Jurassic Park stuff: the T-Rex and Velociraptors hunting ‘Veggie-Saurus,’ the Brachiosaurus snacking on the leaves of an enormous tree. Prehistoric forests bathed in sunlight.

Wait a minute. The energy I’m pouring into the tank of my car is only ‘fuel’ when considered over a short timeframe; on much longer timescales, it’s like solar storage. A massive, Earth-sized battery charged by sunlight and biology over millions of years. An incremental process that transformed atmospheric carbon into dinosaurs and eventually the hydrocarbon fire juice that powers my car.

However, we’ve almost squeezed our giant planetary battery flat. It is long overdue for a recharge. We need to pull that carbon back out of the atmosphere and push it into the ground. The only problem? We won’t have millions of years to wait for biochemistry to be tickled along by the sun. We need to use alternative energy sources to power our society and explore industrial techniques for sequestering carbon.

The stuff we call fossil fuels is more like an ancient biobattery for sunlight - a planetary battery that needs its biodiversity recharged before it goes completely flat.

A photo of the sun sculpture by Tom Sachs deployed at space program 4.
A photo of the reverse side of the sun sculpture by Tom Sachs installed at Deichtorhallen, Germany

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Originally written for the Sachsian Syndicate.

Previously: TGIM 52 - Endurance journeys are what I love most about the Tom Sachs community. People embark upon these long-running projects, not for work, school, or any of that ‘business.’ We start these pilgrimages for fun, to see if we can.