Significant Energy Events in Earth's and Life's History as of 2014

People on the edge of starvation will rarely if ever display enlightened activities in relationship to their environment or each other, as they battle for survival. Early farmers could see the effects of deforestation, erosion, and soil exhaustion, but gentle, sustainable practices were often defeated by market forces, imperial prerogatives, and warfare. What could be obvious to farmers was not evident to potentates sitting on distant urban thrones, merchants, or money-changers, and as the city conquered what became the hinterland, short-term economic plunder took precedence over long-term environmental management far too frequently.

Lebsock, Suzanne.  Richmond: The Virginia Women's Cultural History Project, 1984.

Darwin , but believed that natural selection primarily worked at the individual level. The idea of group selection has , if . Anthropologists and biologists see evidence of group selection, not only in social creatures such as , but also in the ability of human societies to survive competition with their neighbors. Hunter-gatherer societies eliminated disruptive members by , which has been argued to have been reflected genetically in eliminating uncooperative people from society. Those kinds of activities may have helped cull the human herd of “uncooperative” genes. When Europe conquered the world, it had the highest energy usage, by far, of any peoples on Earth, which was why it always prevailed. When high-energy societies met low-energy societies, the results were almost always catastrophic for low-energy societies. Hunter-gatherer societies have no chance in a competition with societies possessing domesticated plants and animals, much less industrialized societies. Whether they are species or human civilizations, the determines their viability.


c. 4.6 billion years ago (“bya”)

Today, people practicing the hunter-gatherer lifestyle are usually dependent on the production of nearby agricultural societies. Pure hunter-gathering, of the kind performed before the Domestication Revolution, has almost entirely vanished.


Concentrated application of muscle energy.

Earth's human population reached a billion people in the first decade of the 19th century, which was about on the eve of the Domestication Revolution, and 100 times Earth's estimated carrying capacity in the absence of agriculture and domesticated animals. Although , the median UN estimate as of 2010 is that Earth's human population will reach 10 billion people by 2100. Only industrialized farming methods , and estimates of Earth's carrying capacity after we run out of fossil fuels , particularly with . Humanity's fate, in many ways, rides on the energy issue, and almost everything else is of little consequence.

The most complex aquatic ecosystem appears.

Although , it began its institutionalization with Europe’s conquest of the world. For the first time ever, a person could board a ship in a land of people with skin of one color and disembark and see people with skins of markedly different colors. Also, since the people with non-white skin that Europeans encountered were always exploited, slaughtered, or dispossessed, their differing skin color became part of the abuse-justifying ideology of the conquerors. Racism reached its zenith in the USA, which in scale, intensity, and duration is . The racism always had an underlying economic rationale, which justified the genocide of Indians, enslavement of Africans, horrific treatment of East Asians, today’s agricultural labors of Latinos, and so on. When Europeans fought each other in the imperial age, they had a rather gentlemanly way of fighting and treating captured prisoners, but when the opponents were Indians, for instance, scalping them, making clothing from their skins, and the like was standard behavior. The “souvenirs” were in that they had white skin on them. That kind of behavior was evident from the , and during the USA’s theft of temperate North America, its . Intentionally onto the Indians was part of the British bag of tricks, and hunting Indians like animals was a favorite sport of both and .

Energetic basis for land-based ecosystems appears.

Capitalism radically changed the way that people worked. While court historians for capitalism glossed over the awesome human toll of industrialization, some dissent came from ignored corners until Marx. In the 20th century, histories that focused on working class struggles against the capitalists were in the great minority and never promoted by capitalist-controlled presses. The British had a working-class press , after governmental efforts failed to destroy it. The USA has never had a working-class press, and works such as Howard Zinn’s only appeared late in the 20th century. , including factory work as a boy and his father’s incarceration in a debtor’s prison, to write his great works.