Our Changing Environment

Beginnings of Industry

Early human intervention


The growth of agriculture meant that a group of people could be freed from the needs of mere survival and so other trades developed and society became more sophisticated as the use of metals, stone and timber for homes, furnishings, utensils and, not least of all weapons, grew. This created more competition amongt groups for resources and led to more conflict; inevitably the largest groups were triumphant both in warfare and in extracting a larger share of the available raw materials and so people gathered together more and more for the purposes of defence and trade - the first cities had developed. These created a need for transportation so that food and other essentials could be brought into the city and trade goods taken out and so rudimentary roads cut across the landscapes. Water had to be provided in large quantities and so canals and aqueducts were built. Waste matter had to be disposed of and whilst this was sometimes reasonably efficient it was not always so; many of the health problems that affected early civilisations were at least exacerbated if not actually caused by faults in basic hygiene.

Cooking and heating homes required fuel, a need which was at first satisfied by burning wood, charcoal and peat; working metals required much larger quantities of fuel and so and coal was exploited. The coming of the Industrial Revolution ushered in an era of steam power which raised the need to have even larger energy sources and then the development of the internal combustion engine created a growing demand for oil. The convenience of gas made from coal for heating was recognised early on and then the discovery of substantial deposits of natural gas made coal gas obsolete in many societies. Shortages of fuels and the costs of them led to the use of alcohol for mixing with petrol and the manufacture of this biofuel increased the need for yet more land to grow the raw materials on. The Earth's natural supplies were beginning to be severely depleted.


Beginnings of agriculture

Climate change

What can we do?



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