The industrial revolution has been driven for the past two centuries by the burning of hydrocarbons, first by coal in the Age of Steam, and then by oil and natural gas in the Age of Petroleum; however, as the flow of these fossil fuels slows down as demand goes up, ever-more-intrusive and massive extraction efforts increasingly threaten the progress of industrialization and the civilization it has produced.
The catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the latest and largest of hundreds of such ocean spills, and the recent methane gas explosion in Massey's Montcoal mine was just another example of the continuing disasters, worldwide, which snuff out the lives of workers who labor in dangerous conditions to feed our fossil-fuel addiction.
All around the planet we live upon, the quest for hydrocarbons is threatening the ability of humans to survive in the degrading environment and to govern their own corporate-dominated societies.
It is not just the environmental destruction caused by the extraction of coal-bed methane in Wyoming and Montana, the "fracking" of deep shale-gas formations and the consequential contamination of fresh water aquifers and rivers in the northeastern United States, or the blasting away of mountain tops in Appalachia; it is the fact that these extreme efforts are facilitated by a concert of corporate and governmental corruption that erodes freedom and democracy in the United States and threatens human civilization around the world.
There is no hope for the recovery of earth's environment and the survival of human civilization as long as extraction decisions are governed by corporate greed. Public energy policy must be based on what is good for the people who vote for their representatives, not on what produces profits for the corporations who buy the votes of the people's representatives.
It may already be too late. The environmental destruction caused by the production and burning of fossil fuels may have already set in motion irreversible events which will ultimately spell the extinction of humanity. But, not to worry.
Our loving and forgiving Mother Earth will survive. It may take eons for her oceans, winds, and rains to wipe clean the crap we have produced, but someday, never fear, another of Gaia's children will learn to fly and will study the artifacts of our existence and will wonder of we and why?
There may be, however, a more sensible and realistic alternative which will preserve the environment and human civilization, and which offers a more exciting and rewarding future for our children, as they learn to fly throughout the universe and to explore its adjacent dimensions.