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close this bookDiversity, Globalization, and the Ways of Nature (IDRC, 1995, 234 p.)
close this folder9. Clean energy for planetary survival
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View the documentThe industrial revolution
View the documentThe use of hydroelectricity
View the documentThe age of petroleum
View the documentNuclear power
View the documentThe clean options

The industrial revolution

A dramatic change took place during the industrial revolution. Perhaps the most important element in the technological and social upheaval was the enormous increase in energy consumption. Industrial manufacturing required large amounts of energy to power the various types of engines that had been developed and spread throughout the rapidly expanding industrial world.

At the beginning of this period in Europe, energy needs were met by burning wood obtained from the many forests that covered the continent. Forests gradually disappeared from England, France, and

Germany, and rapid deterioration of the environment took place. Soils were eroded, gullies formed on the more vulnerable slopes, and catastrophic floods and alluvial sedimentation became commonplace (see Chapter 4).

Another, more powerful source of energy used from the beginning of the industrial revolution was coal. Large-scale coal mining began in the 18th century and expanded during the 19th century. Coal-producing areas, such as Wales and England, the Ruhr basin in Germany, the Moselle valley in France, and several areas in other European countries, became the main foci of industrial development.

The environmental impact of coal use was intense. Coal mining destroys the soil, and burning coal produces emissions of aerosols, sulphur compounds, and other associated pollutants. The widespread use of coal produced smog over the cities and acid rain downwind of coalburning factories. Although the industrial revolution allowed phenomenal productive growth, it transformed the main industrial areas into environmental nightmares.