D. Industrialization and Energy Use

In this Chapter:

Industrialization has brought unprecedented prosperity in the U.S. and other developed countries, but it has also led to wasteful consumerism, exploitation of factory workers, widespread environmental destruction, and unsustainable use of fossil fuels. Less developed countries now aspire to comparable levels of industrialization, raising a variety of difficult questions.

Study Questions

  1. Rapid industrialization has produced a high standard of living in developed countries and enabled many people to live a long time. Does it make sense for less developed countries to proceed along this same path or is there another better path?
  2. What promising new technologies or social changes should be pursued to reduce energy use and environmental destruction?
  3. Does industrialization foster democracy and justice or does it exacerbate conflict and enable more destructive firepower?
  4. Have conflicts over natural resources been a major cause of war or have other factors, such as ethnic or cultural differences, been more important?

Overview Article D

7 pages total

“Briefing: consumption and consumerism,” by Maryann Bird, chinadialogue.net, July 14, 2006, 7 p.

Nations rich and poor need to reduce the impact of consumption on their natural resources. Uses the example of China. Broad overview, good questions, comments from several Chinese at end. I really think this will do.

Reading Set D1: Industrialization, Mass Production

58 pages total

“The Industrial Revolution: A Teaching Challenge,” by Peter Stearns, OAH Magazine of History, Organization of American Historians, Volume 15, Fall 2000, 8 p.

Raises big issues about Industrial Revolution, and all the ways it has impacted us.

“Chapter XIII: The Roaring Twenties,” from Slouching Towards Utopia?: The Economic History of the Twentieth Century by J. Bradford DeLong, February 1997, 20 p.

A critical history of the rise of mass consumption in the U.S., with an emphasis on the 1920s.

“Litterbug World,” by Ariane Conrad Hyde, LiP Magazine, April 1, 2005, 19 p.

An interview with filmmaker Heather Rogers whose film “Gone Tomorrow” examines the realities of planned-in obsolescence and waste-by-design in our market economy, and argues that our addiction to waste needs much stronger solutions than recycling.

“China’s Industrialization and Japan’s De-industrialization,” by Chi Hung Kwan, [Japanese] Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), October 11, 2002, 3 p.

It is generally accepted that a country’s industrial structure evolves from food production to industrial production, and then to services in accordance with an increase in people’s income (Petty-Clark’s Law). Mainstream perspective on stages of industrialization

“Globalization: Threat or Promise?,” by M.V. Naidu, Quarterly Journal of the Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, April-June 1999, 8 p.

Globalization is not the panacea for the contemporary world crises; globalization is deepening these crises. The remedy lies in the deglobalization of the dehumanized trade, investment, and aid schemes. Third world critique of industrialization

Reading Set D2: Consuming Natural Resources, Mining, Drilling, Logging

48 pages total

“Resources Worldwide,” Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+), 8 p.

An overview of renewable and non-renewable resources, how we are using them, and the relative danger of depletion.

“Environmental impact of mining in the rainforest,” 5 p.

One specific example of the environmental impact of mining in the rainforest.

“Forest conservation through the decades,” World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 5 p.

Forty years of increasing activism on forests.

“Reforming the Paper Industry,” Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), September 19, 2006, 1 p.

The power of consumer choice can help transform an entire industry from environmental bad guy to sustainable business.

“The Green Belt Movement: The Story of Wangari Maathai,” by Mia MacDonald, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2005, 9 p.

Wangari Maathai, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, recently won the Nobel Peace Prize. Her message: peace is founded in healthy ecosystems, access to natural resources, and democracy. (This one isn’t a tidy fit, but I’d hate to not include it somewhere.)

“Behind Gold’s Glitter: Torn Lands And Pointed Questions,” by Jane Perlez and Kirk Johnson, New York Times, October 24, 2005, 20 p.

Gold mining provides a good example of the connections between the mining industry, the World Bank, multinational corporations, and local economies and environments — both in the U.S. and in the global South.

Reading Set D3: Fossil Fuels: Coal, Oil, and Gas

68 pages total

“The oil in your oatmeal: A lot of fossil fuel goes into producing, packaging and shipping our breakfast,” by Chad Heeter, San Francisco Chronicle, March 26, 2006, 7 p.

Looks at how far the components of a simple breakfast traveled.

“Oil, Geopolitics, and the Coming War with Iran,” by Michael T. Klare, TomDispatch.com, April 11, 2005, 13 p.

While oil may not be the Bush administration’s sole reason for going to war with Iran, it is an essential factor in the overall strategic calculation that makes war likely.

“US Invasion of Iraq Was a Resource War,” by Melanie Gosling, Cape Times (South Africa), May 4, 2005, 3 p.

A short description of a talk given in South Africa by Richard Heinberg, author of Powerdown.

“Crude Awakening,” by Kevin Drum, The Washington Monthly, June 2005, 18 p.

History and current information on the petroleum industry. This is a long piece with good history and information on the industry — better than any of the others on this topic, I would say.

“Experts Warn of Oil Peak,” by Rik Langendoen, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2005, 2 p.

World oil supplies are about to decline, risking major effects on the world’s economy and politics.

“The Long Emergency: What’s going to happen as we start running out of cheap gas to guzzle?” by James Howard Kunstler, Rolling Stone, April 13, 2005, 14 p.

We don’t have to run out of oil to start having severe problems with industrial civilization and its dependent systems. We only have to slip over the all-time production peak and begin a slide down the arc of steady depletion.

“Apocalypse, not,” by Toby Hemenway, Permaculture Activist, Number 59, February, 2006, 11 p.

A critical look at peak oil catastrophism. Here’s the intelligent alternative point of view.

Reading Set D4: Nuclear Power

49 pages total

“Trends in the Nuclear Power Industry,” Cameco 2008 Annual Report, 7 p.

World statistics on existing and planned nuclear power reactors and the industry’s perspective.

“Benefits and Risks of Nuclear Power in California,” by Roger Dunstan, Assistant Director for the California Research Bureau, at the request of California Assembly Member Helen Thomson, April 2002, 70 p.

A fairly balanced analysis of the pros and cons of nuclear power.

“Nuclear Power Comparisons and Perspective,” by John K. Sutherland, Chief Scientist, Edutech Enterprises, October 8, 2003, 12 p.

Thoughtful argument in favor of nuclear power.

“Position Paper: Commercial Nuclear Power,” National Resources Defense Council, October 2005, 33 p.

Thoughtful argument against nuclear power.

Reading Set D5: Conservation of Energy, Solar Heating, Photovoltaic and Wind Power

31 pages total

“Time to Get Smart About Energy,” by Fran Korten, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2006, 4 p.

The debate regarding global warming and peak oil is moving into a different direction, from “is it happening” to “what do we do now?”

“Colorless Green Ideas,” opinion column by Paul Krugman, New York Times, February 23, 2007, 3 p.

California has managed to combine rising living standards with a substantial decline in per capita energy consumption, and managed to keep total carbon dioxide emissions more or less flat for two decades, even as both its economy and its population grew rapidly. And it achieved all this without fundamentally changing a lifestyle centered on automobiles and single-family houses.

“Renewable Energy Sources in the United States,” NationalAtlas.gov, 10 p.

An overview of renewable energy sources: hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass power.

“Tackling Climate Change in the US,” by Chuck Kutscher, Solar Today, March/April 2007, 6 p.

Leading experts find that energy efficiency and renewable energy can be harnessed to prevent catastrophic consequences — but we must act now.

“It Takes Energy to Make Energy,” by Doug Pibel, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2006, 2 p.

Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI): a ratio that tells how much energy it takes to create the energy we want to use — a tool to critically examine the different proposals about alternative energy.

“Wind, solar power paired with storage could be cost-effective way to power grid,” University of Delaware News, December 10, 2012, 1 p.

Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses.

Additional Resources


Next Reading Set Collection: E. Environment and Sustainability