Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime cover homage.
Buckminster Fuller - Invisible Slaves by Stuart McMillen
Buckminster Fuller looked to the gridlock... ...and knew he wouldn't be moving any time soon.
Buckminster Fuller was a polymath, dubbed “the Leonardo da Vinci of the 20th century”. But here he was, stuck in traffic like everyone else.
Bucky's antennae tingled to the humming exhaust pipe chorus. Gifted with an active imagination, Bucky thought about the 100-horsepower engines that encircled him.
Spontaneously, Bucky began picturing each car with dozens of harnessed horses bucking and stomping above the hood.
To Bucky, the gridlocked cars displayed both humanity's mastery of energy... ...and humanity's systemic wastes of energy.
Despite their expert engineering... ...the autos' potential was frittered in the industrial blood-clot.
Bucky thought more about the word 'horsepower' and how useless it was to a generation unfamiliar with farm animals. Then and there, Buckminster Fuller decided to replace 'horsepower'... ...with a unit using human beings as the common denominator.
It turned out that all energy could be equated into human terms. The U.S., Swiss and German armies had measured data on the work which could be performed by their healthy soldiers. Bucky learned that an average man could do approximately 200 kilojoules of work during an eight-hour day.
This 200 kJ was the surplus energy, on top of his base bodily metabolism, which a man could expend as work... ...by performing physical tasks, such as shovelling soil, or pedalling bicycles. Across a year of 250 eight-hour working days, the average man could perform 50 megajoules of work annually.
As the traffic began crawling forward, Bucky Fuller coined a term for this annual unit of work: the 'energy slave'.
Bucky surveyed the cityscape, and found himself surrounded by imaginary 'energy slaves' performing work in aid of humanity.
Cartoon of R.E.M. band members driving in car like Everybody Hurts video clip.
Slave gangs filled the streets and buildings. Their abstract toil powered everything from the very smallest of tasks...
...to the colossal jobs that would be beyond the limits of human physique.
Invisible slave gangs lifted, cut, drilled and stamped the construction materials at the building site.
An imaginary gym of treadmill-running energy slaves kept the lights and air conditioning working in the office tower. Bucky realised that energy slaves were everywhere in modern life.
Pulling into a fuel station, Bucky perceived the muscle-power of the volatile workers that pushed his car. When filled, each car's 60 litre fuel tank of gasoline contained 40 energy slaves.
In other words, a car's filled tank contained the energy equivalent of one man working for 40 years... ...or 40 men working for a single year. But Bucky saw that we typically burn our energy slaves at a far more aggressive rate.
Burnt during a single 9 hour drive, 9,100 imaginary workers are conjured from the fuel tank.
They heave their effort into propelling the speeding car down the highway. The nine thousand slaves' stored energy is entirely exhausted after the single nine hour drive.
Bucky Fuller reflected on the history of transportation, and humanity's gradual mastery of energy slaves. Travel had once been a whole body experience, with the kinetic power of movement coming from within the person walking across the land.
Without energy slaves for assistance, travellers were reliant on their personal fitness alone. Muscles were everything, and our bodies' impact on the environment was minimal.
Later advances harnessed the energy of animal-power and wind-power to propel human beings, and their cargo, across the Earth's surface. Work was still being performed under the command of humans... ...but the work was no longer being channelled through human muscles.
Bucky calculated the 'energy slave' equivalence of these upscaled technologies, charting humanity's magnified impact on the environment.
Engineers were harnessing superhuman forces of animal-, firewood-, water- and wind-power...
...but humanity was still living within the 'solar income' budget available through daily sunshine. Human ingenuity was simply redirecting solar flows from other parts of the ecosphere... ...and using technology to conjure energy slaves from the environment.
Fossil fuels were a supernormal exception to this historical state of affairs. Bucky saw that coal, oil and gas were batteries for ancient sunshine that allowed civilisation to, for the first time, live beyond its solar income.
Incredible numbers of energy slaves could be summoned by combusting fossil fuels. Human inventors now had the fuel for a new generation of revolutionary technologies.
Buckminster Fuller witnessed the rise of automobiles during his lifetime. Bucky observed that everyday-people now covered distances in minutes that would have previously taken days.
The cushy journeys were covered without the traveller even breaking a sweat… ...and were performed by the slightest push of a pedal, and turn of a wrist. Car trips progressively became the normal, default transportation mode. Each successive generation become slowly divorced from the muscle-powered transportation of walking, cycling and horses.
Bucky watched the hulking fuselage of a jumbo jet zooming through the sky on a Transatlantic flight. A dense cloud of energy slaves catapulted the jet high above the planet's surface.
By the time the 400 passengers arrived above Europe, the plane's jet engines would have burned more energy during the single flight... ...than the whole continent below did during the entire Stone Age. Humanity was truly 'living it large' with non-renewable energy slaves.
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This is a 34-page extract of the 84-page comic Energy Slaves about Buckminster Fuller that I will, publish in mid-2016.

When I publish the full comic, I will include a reference list, and explanations of Bucky Fuller’s calculations into the quantity of ‘energy slaves’ needed for daily activities.

  1. Leopardalis says:

    I am aware that we are using our nonrenewable energy sources up, and I would rather we save these sources for scientific and humanity-situation-betterment uses. My not-so-considered conclusion, though, is that we’ll just keep using it at the current rate or faster until it gets so expensive we change simply because it’s now scarce. Scarcity, not ethics, will reduce the use. When we finally are down to the last bucket of fuel-metaphor, it will be used to power a yacht and the rest of the world will have to figure out the next issue.

    Which will be nonrenewable batteries for the storage of renewable energy.

  2. Naras says:

    Lovely endeavor. Keep it up.

  3. liao says:

    nice work. but you should try to include arguments from the nuclear side of things as well.

  4. Emine Erol says:

    I find your work very well, hope it will be a blessed end! :)) I’m a europanian muslim and we have Ramadhan, a month where we fast, that will be the only one comic for this month.
    Have a good day. Blesses from Berlin 🙂

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  7. Jack Alpert says:

    here is some help

    see this moive.
    Losing Our Energy Slaves

  8. Bruce stephenson says:

    @Gia: Slaves have been a constant factor throughout human history. Skin color is only associated with the word ‘slave’ in recent North American history. The very concept of ‘race’ as associated with skin color is a modern North American thing. I suggest that, instead of declaring the word ‘slave’ as taboo, we North Americans need to let go of our historically inaccurate understanding of the word.

    It’s only very modern North American political correctness that tries to ban use of this descriptive and accurate word. Please let’s not do that. Please let us try to maintain a global long term historical perspective, rather than limiting ourselves to a local, short-term perspective.

    Besides, ‘energy slave’ sounds so much better than ‘energy worker’, and conveys the concept in a more accurate way.

  9. cat says:

    You are correct Gia and very clearly stated.

  10. cat says:

    Hi Stuart
    I must say I think Gia is right…
    Otherwise great work.

  11. Jerry McManus says:

    Great Job Stuart! Extremely important work you are doing and so vital to get this message out there.

    Please don’t concern yourself with the history of slavery, which has been a part of human culture for almost as long as there have been humans, but do please stay true to Bucky’s message. Thanks!

  12. Gia says:

    Hi Stuart, I’m a big fan of your work. Social justice comics are my thing. The “energy slaves” one really surprised and concerned me though. Keep in mind that Bucky was operating in a white supremacist paradigm where using the word “slave” and detaching it from the 400+ year painful legacy that white people have profited from, and continue to enjoy the legacy of, was probably acceptable. We know better. It’s important not to use the words “slave” and “worker” interchangeably. If you feel like you have to use Bucky’s phrase for historical reasons please write a note to clarify this. It’s especially troubling to see the “slaves” depicted in a sterile way as well fed, content, white men. It feels as though this erases the important context of the word “slave” which disproportionately victimizes people of colour and women. Is there an way that you could use the word “worker” instead? That seems to be the meaning Bucky was going for.

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