Dear Umbra,

I am doing a big geography project at school on saving energy and recycling. My part is to comment on what will happen if we keep wasting energy. I know the basic information, but I am not sure what to write, as it is to be given out to adults (and I’m only 12!). Please send me some useful information because I am really stuck!

Heartfordshire, U.K.

Dearest Laura,

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There are a few things that happen as we keep wasting energy. One, we will run out. Two, energy makes a mess, so the more we use the messier the world gets. And three, we just plain waste a useful resource.

Those who can, teach.

It’s pretty logical that if we keep using something, it’ll eventually be gone. Like cookies in a jar: if we gobble them up, later there will be none. First, we’ll run out of two of the energy sources that keep our world running: oil and natural gas. Both of these are nonrenewable, as I’m sure you already know, meaning that we can use them up. Although you may not see the end of natural gas in your lifetime, some people believe you will see the end of oil, or at least affordable oil. And if there were no gasoline, you can imagine the trouble you might have getting to school to talk about your project. In fact, that might be a great, snazzy way to start off your presentation.

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With nonrenewables, running out is perhaps the easiest problem to understand. But there is also the problem of making a mess. Using any type of energy makes a mess. For example, we eat food to get energy for our bodies, but every time we eat, we have to clean up the peels, boxes, rinds, and dishes, and then take out the garbage, etc., etc. Then, to be really gross about it, the food our bodies can’t use gets disposed of in the toilet. It’s pretty much the same with using coal or nuclear, or even solar and hydro power — we just don’t see the mess or toilet waste in our own house, so we don’t think about it every time we turn up the heat. Coal is especially messy. Though it’s also nonrenewable, it’ll be a long time before we use it up, maybe 200 years or more. But a lot of air pollutants and global-warming gases result from burning coal, and we haven’t learned how to clean those up. So when we waste energy, we make a pointless mess for the whole world.

We all learn, as kids, how we shouldn’t waste something useful. We don’t pour the milk for 10 minutes and only hold the glass under the bottle for a few seconds; we don’t prepare four times as much dinner as we will eat. We work hard to buy and make our food, so we want to conserve it and only use what we need. We know we need to keep it around, because it gives our bodies energy and we cannot live without it. So if you look at it that way, wasting energy by leaving lights and televisions on when we aren’t at home, and running the sink while we space out and stare at our blemishes, and using the clothes dryer on sunny days, are just stupid. To speak plainly.

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar won’t run out, so it’s good to focus on getting more of those. They also make less of a mess. Even if our world can get more energy from these nicer sources, though, we still shouldn’t waste them. It would still be, basically, stupid.