Part 12: Losing the wild
By Frosty Wooldridge
Before the Industrial Revolution, humanity existed by tilling the fields for crops, picking fruits and storing them in root cellars. Transportation included animals, ox carts, rivers and oceans. All limited and slow!
Diseases wiped out millions of people at the drop of a hat. Polio, cholera and Bubonic Plague ruled.
In 1900, the average American died by 49 years of age. Citizens kept warm by firewood and coal. As long as humans depended on solar flow, winds and currents, we remained sustainable within nature’s carrying capacity.
However, in the late 1800s, steam power burst upon the scene. With it, steam driven ocean liners and trains afforded swift transport across oceans and continents. With the advent of the internal combustion engine, the tractor and car made their appearance.
Whereas one farmer might feed 20 people with his labors, a tractor allowed one farmer the ability to feed 10,000 humans. Food canning guaranteed sustenance throughout the year.
With the advent of electricity, everything changed in America. Coupled with production and the assembly line, consumption became the driving force of capitalism.
Those technologies allowed Americans to overwhelm the natural world. In 1900, we numbered 76 million in America. At the time, our scientists had created 100 different chemicals. Today, we surpass 72,000 chemicals with an added 1,000 created annually. All of them outside the bounds of nature! All of them deadly to life forms including us.
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