Material Transitions

1 This kind of knowledge base and conduct code characterises those cultures previously operating on a subsistence basis and remnant now only within so-called indigenous tribes and populations.

2 See, for example, Debeir et al., In the Servitude of Power: energy and civilisation through the ages, Zed Books, London, 1991, Chapter 5.

3 See, for example, the discussions in C.More, The Industrial Age, Longman, London, 1989, Chapter 9.

4 Like the industrial revolution, the term 'capitalism' is also subject to different interpretations, but this one will do for our purposes. There is little disagreement on the principal elements of the capitalist system: the pursuit of profit, the development of a market economy, the private ownership of property, and the accumulation of investment capital (see More, Industrial Age, p. 416, for example).

5 Adam Smith—sometimes called the father of economic science—published his seminal work The Wealth of Nations in 1776. But his Theory of Moral Sentiments, in which he proposed the doctrine of the 'invisible hand', was published seventeen years earlier in 1759. And Smith drew considerable inspiration from seventeenth-century thought. In particular, he was greatly influenced by the mechanistic thinking of Isaac Newton, and strove to emulate for the moral universe what Newton had provided for the physical universe, a set of deterministic laws which governed and predicted social behaviour.

6 Mill's Principles of Political Economy was published in 1848; but the doctrine of utilitarianism on which it was based belonged to his father's teacher and friend Jeremy Bentham.

7 Of course, it was also present as the antagonist in Marx's celebrated attack on the capitalist system in 1860.

8 Debeir et al., Servitude of Power, Chapter 5.

9 Figures cited in this paragraph are taken from Debeir et al., Servitude of Power; from E.Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire, Penguin Books, London, 1990; and from figures quoted in W.Humphrey and J.Stanislaw, 'Economic Growth and Energy Consumption in the UK, 1700-1975', Energy Policy, vol. 7, pp. 29-42, March 1979.

10 This includes renewable energy consumption—about 20 per cent of the total—as well as nuclear resources and fossil fuel resources which amount to just under 10 billion tonnes of coal equivalent.

11 The term 'energy intensity' usually has a quite specific meaning, namely the energy consumed per unit of Gross National Product. In this context, I am using the term slightly more loosely to refer to the per capita energy requirements in different societies.

12 The exceptions to this rule are perhaps those domestic animals and agricultural livestock which enjoy some of the fringe benefits of anthropogenic energy surplus.

13 See Table 12.2 in More, Industrial Age.

14 The World Resource Institute's World Resources 1994-1995 (Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford, 1995) shows a slight decline in ore consumption between 1987 and 1992. But a significant increase over previous years.

15 This figure is taken from the authors own analysis based on data supplied by the World Bank's Industrial Pollution Projection System. It is essentially a very rough estimate, but provides some kind of lower-bound estimation of global toxic emissions.

16 The halogens are the chemicals chlorine, bromine, fluorine and iodine. Apart from the threat which these gases present to the ozone layer, halogenated organic compounds (i.e. compounds containing both a halogen and carbon) offer particular environmental threats in all media.

17 E.Goldsmith and N.Hildyard's The Earth Report 3: an A-Z guide to environmental issues (Mitchell Beazley, London, 1992) is a good starting place for the unfamiliar reader.

18 See Figure 13 in Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire.

19 Bernard de Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (1714), vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1966.

20 Cited in R.Douthwaite, The Growth Illusion, Green Books, Bideford, 1992, p. 36.

21 It has been argued by some historians that this process was only possible because of the massive demand created by overseas markets in which indigenous producers were overwhelmed and outclassed. In a sense, then, development occurred in the industrialised nations only at the expense of poverty in the colonies. The colonies were also crucially important, of course, for the provision of raw materials which fed the industrial process. Cheap material resources and cornered markets were the building blocks of economic growth in Europe. See R.Douthwaite's excellent book The Growth Illusion for a detailed critique of the economic and social history of industrialisation.

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