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If we had continued in that fashion, the human population might easily be in the low millions and would be approximately in a steady state in relation to the environment.
These impurities are often toxic to our species (and other species).
Examples include the acidic sludge generated from coal mines and the problem of sour gas in oil and gas drilling (sour gas contains hydrogen sulfi de and carbon dioxide).
As more and more input energy is required per unit of output energy, we also need to do more work with more and more impurities and toxic waste.
Remember now that from our species standpoint the planet is a closed system with respect to nonrenewable forms of usable energy.
The associated rise in human numbers and our spread across the planet was also associated with the early use of coal, for example to make weapons.
But it is only with the rise of industrial civilization, and specifically and increasingly in the last 500 years, that we learned how to use concentrated forms of energy in industrial processes and to exploit various nonrenewable forms of energy massively for uses such as central heating, industrial processes, and the generation of electricity.Under the rules of the neoliberal market system, resources are provided to those who have the ability to pay for them.This is the kind of human behavior that an unregulated or weakly regulated market system rewards.In the material world, the process of the energy extraction from fossil fuels requires more and more input energy.And as extraction proceeds to more difficult sources, it is also associated with more and more impurities mixed in with the energy resources.Industry and Globalization The rise of our current global civilization was dependent on abundant and inexpensive concentrated energy from fossil fuels.All of this energy ultimately derives from sunlight, but as we learned how to use coal (replacing wood as fuel) and then oil and natural gas, there was little concern for energy conservation or for developing rules for limiting energy use.Our homes, our industries, and our commercial establishments from the supermarket to the stock exchange can work because they are provided with sources of usable power. These energy sources are classed as renewable or nonrenewable.The same is true for hospitals and medical services, schools, fire and police services, and recreational centers. For renewable energy (for example, wind, biomass, manure, and solar power), it is possible to refresh energy supplies within a time interval that is useful to our species.Up until the middle of the last century, and somewhat beyond, the typical discussion of energy would have linked usable energy with progress, as is the case today.The spirit of the presentation would have been celebratory, however, celebrating the daring risks taken and the hard work of miners and oil and gas field workers in dominating nature to extract resources.