I watched a great BBC documentary on the Industrial Revolution this past week. It is amazing how changes in technology, energy and transportation continue to be as relevant today as they were in the 17th century.
The documentary’s premise is the industrial revolution began in England, in the 17th century, and the main driving force was twofold: one was the discovery of an abundance of coal that was easy to access, and the other was the social/political climate in England versus other developing countries.
- Up until this time, wood was the primary fuel/energy source in the world.
- Coal was 3 times more efficient than wood.
- Coal was less bulky and easier to transport.
- Once the innovations occurred to begin to tap the energy potential of coal, through the creation of the steam engine, that new energy drove the industrial revolution and made it possible.
- Constant improvements in efficiency of steam engines provided the essential tool for constant innovation in the manufacturing of products and materials that drove the economy, and provided an opportunity for private entities to profit from the innovations.
There was a great deal of scientific research and understanding of the natural world around us during this time. Understanding our solar system and the universe, gravity, evolution, forces of nature etc., were being discovered, tested and proven. Religion often tried to sensor the scientific knowledge of the time because it felt threatened. It was hard to grasp that we (the earth/mankind) were not the center of the universe. We were not even the center of our solar system. And yes, the earth was round, not flat, and so on and so on, with discovery through all of recorded history. Science continues to discover new things and refine existing knowledge constantly. I do not see that as a threat to my beliefs any way.
I think about the forces trying to hang onto our petroleum-based energy economy until the last drop/lump is burned and inserted into the atmosphere.
Then I think about how much energy is delivered by the sun to every square foot on this planet - free renewable energy from the sky, evenly distributed to be used everywhere, by everyone.
Renewable energy can drive our economy and provide opportunities for the public and private sectors today.
I think of the changing climate and what the next less than 100 years is going to bring. It is OK to think the 7 BILLION + people on the planet can likely impact our environment and change the climate. How could that many people not affect this third rock from the sun?
The government of England in the 17th and 18th Centuries invested in the infrastructure of transportation networks, both toll roads to provide consistent access across areas controlled by different counties, and canals that made transportation much cheaper and easier to bring in raw materials and distribute products to market.
I think government still has a role to play today in getting us into the next phase of energy (renewable energy sources) and reducing the amount of carbon we inject into our atmosphere. The documentary does get into the differences between the government’s approaches in England versus France and how those polices affected the ability for those societies to innovate and advance.
I was reminded of the book, The Third Wave, by Alvin Toffler. I always loved that book. The 3 waves of society he write about are the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age, and the post industrial age, aka the Information Age. That is another whole discussion for another day.
Check it out the BBC documentary (it is only an hour long) for yourself at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhF_zVrZ3RQ
Renewable Energy and Sustainability
At Carlson Studio Architecture, our LEED Certified architects look at renewable energy and sustainable design as part of the greater "whole system." Everything is part of one Whole System. Ecological thinking means looking at living things in their whole context, while seeking also to understand the interconnections between all living beings and their environment. It recognizes that no living being — including human beings — exists in isolation.
We are happy to provide a complimentary eco-consultation to determine how your building designs can utilize renewable energy sources as part of your sustainability goals. Just click the button below to submit your request, and we'll respond promptly to schedule your consultation.