We began rapidly burning things. Luckily for the whales, crude oil was discovered. Or is it worse for the whales in the long run, because climate change fueled by non-renewable energy has changed all of earth? No matter how you look at it, the twentieth century increased our commerce, production, populations, and purpose.
To name just a few of the ground-breaking innovations, which destroyed, and/or enhanced lives on the planet in the twentieth century, one need only look to the device upon which they are reading this article.
Oil run motors, although known in the 19th century, really took off in the twentieth, they fueled automobiles, planes, and train engines, and more. Before too long we had fuel based rocketry, launched two world wars and a long cold war. We went to the moon. We were in awe, and rightly so.
By the sixties and seventies, cars were a routine part of every life, and two became the norm, rather than the exception, for an average household. Also by that time television, movies, VCR, and even the new kid on the block, computers, were rapidly gaining more power, broad band, and capacity at ever greater speeds, and smaller size. Birth control change how women managed their destiny on earth, and fortunately for most of us, has kept us from, as yet at least, major die offs of epidemics and climate change catastrophe which are driven by unsustainable overpopulation.
With the birth control pill, women could now enjoy careers. It is a debate as to whether having two income producing adults has driven our insatiable consumption, or whether it has led to the extermination of the middle class because innovation also profited billionaires disproportionately, even as impoverished people became more-so. Some blame birth control for the death of the nuclear family, although there is little evidence there ever was such a thing as non-working mothers. They just were unpaid, and non-voting, once upon a time.
In addition to birth control, we now have a drug for everything you can think of, and even drugs for the side effects of certain drugs. Profit makers always seem to know how to increase public need for more drugs, products, and coping mechanisms. There is also an illegal drug trade, and that one fuels the justice, incarceration, and cartel industries.
It seems for every marvel of the age, there is a cost, and a consequence. The Internet has created commerce, capital, and creativity. It also had lead to alienation, isolation, and things like cyber bullying. We are attached to our cell phones and modular devices, we cannot turn back, it seems.
We now have robots, increased agricultural yields, and the promise of algae, solar, wind and geothermal power. We have gadgets galore, and we keep making more.
What will the future hold? If we survive, the idea of efficiency and non-waste, non garbage resources will propel our success. If we mess it up, we can go through cycles of nuclear wars, climate catastrophe, and apocalypse of biblical proportion. Stay tuned to see if the next world war is fought with nuke missiles, or sticks and stones. Or if we really get it right, we learn to cooperate with living things, rather than killing them.