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Global Environmental History10,000 BC to AD 2000$
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Ian Simmons

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748621583

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748621583.001.0001

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An industrious world

An industrious world

(p.109) Chapter Four An industrious world
Global Environmental History

I. G. Simmons

Edinburgh University Press

The technological ability to release the energy embedded in fossil fuels has transformed every aspect of the globe. The starting date is about 1750 and the initial fuel was coal but the addition of oil and natural as to the energy repertory has enhanced all forms of impact. Again, scale is important since there can be a drastic transformation of the biophysical environment locally but slighter more insidious effects at a distance. A power station obliterates the farmland under its footprint and also contributes to medium-range acidification of rainfall and planet-wide increases in the concentration of carbon dioxide. The power conferred by access to such concentrated but not renewable stores of energy can be used to equip armies and send them round the world quickly and so enforce imperialism. It can equally be applied to medicine and reduce death rates. Then the knowledge gained by scientific procedures is in a race with the expansion of population. The whole acts as a confirmation of concepts of human conquest of nature experienced at the local level by the substitution of mechanical effort for human labour.

Keywords:   Fossil fuels, Industrialization, Transport, Imperialism, Population

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