On 11 February 1847, the American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison was born.
Today he is remembered for his invention of the lightbulb, but perhaps surprisingly, the man who set in motion electricity-intensive living was a progressive green thinker when it came to the use of energy.
More than one hundred years ago, Edison and many of his peers were already worried about the unsustainability of fossil fuels and the devastating impact its abundant use would have. As early as 1913, the Scientific American published an issue on energy problems, stating that: “The question of the possible exhaustion of the world’s oil supply deserves the gravest consideration. There is every indication that we are face to face with this possibility.”
Today, we know that this possibility has come a reality, with the delegitimisation of the fossil fuel industry well underway. This is due to scientists’ agreement that human activity is to blame for increasing global temperatures.
Over the last century, the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas has increased the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). This has caused, with almost complete certainty, the observed increase in Earth's temperatures, culminating in 2016 being the hottest year ever recorded! The need for a transition to clean, safe and renewable energy is therefore obvious.
But even back in 1911, Edison was already drawing up plans to couple windmills with electric generators, basically building the prototype of today’s Aeolian turbines, of which there are still far too few in the world. Edison also developed, together with Henry Ford, an electric automobile and wrote many articles about the necessity of harnessing renewable energies like wind, solar or tidal power.
Even though he died almost ninety years ago, his ideas remain progressive, a sign of both his visionary thinking and the slow progress that people make when it comes to shifting towards green sources of energy.
The fight against fossil fuels must still be fought today, and you can be part of it! We must pull our money out of coal, oil and gas companies, through a process called fossil fuel divestment:
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds. The global movement for fossil fuel divestment is asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations. It is the fastest-growing divestment campaign in history and could cause significant damage to coal, gas and oil companies.
Little did he know it, but Edison was actually a pioneer of this movement, having already said at the beginning of the 20th century: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
We’re already very late, but not yet too late to do something about climate change. Join the divestment movement, and let’s shift capital out of dirty fossil fuels and into green sources of energy.