In the quiet of summer, a couple of U.S. scientists argued in the pages of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that modern civilization has drained the Earth -- an ancient battery of stored chemical energy -- to a dangerous low.
Although the battery metaphor made headlines in leading newspapers in China, India and Russia, the paper didn't garner "much immediate attention in North America," admits lead author John Schramski, a mechanical engineer and an ecologist.
And that's a shame, because the paper gives ordinary people an elegant metaphor to understand the globe's stagnating economic and political systems and their close relatives: collapsing ecosystems. It also offers a blunt course of action: "drastic" energy conservation.
It, too, comes with a provocative title: "Human domination of the biosphere: Rapid discharge of the Earth-space battery foretells the future of humankind."