Embodied energy and socio-metabolic modeling
Many researchers quantify the immediate material and energy requirements of achieving various levels of human satisfaction, but less work has considered society’s embodied energies from the past and their requisite role in establishing present economic and biophysical stability. Country-level energy consumption accumulated over time represents an investment that establishes present material and social infrastructures which in and of itself contributes greatly to quality of life. Decades of unequal magnitudes of energy consumption between nations have generated ongoing economic and social structural disparities, for example, in the form of infrastructure development and social gains. We show that magnitudes of energy investment correlate with achievements in human quality of life proxies. For example, a country’s attainment of a cumulative energy investment (CEC) of ~5000 GJ/capita may ensure predictable levels of wellness across an array of quality-of-life proxies (Fig. 1). Nations that have reached this level of energy investment could potentially leverage these existing structures as an opportunity to scale down rates of energy per capita consumption to help reduce their biophysical perturbations.