Comparing the World Before 1900 to Today


For thousands of years before 1900, the population of the world hovered around one billion on the entire planet. In the short 120 years since 1900 the world population has “exploded” to the current 8 billion now living on this planet. What caused that quick growth from 1 to 8 billion?

Before 1900 most people never traveled 100-200 miles from where they were born. Life expectancy throughout Europe hovered between 20 and 30 years of age. Food shortages and insecurity were leading concerns in the 18th century, especially in Europe, and these were exacerbated by reduced harvests yields. Disease was another leading cause of death, with rats and fleas being the common carriers of disease, specifically plagues, during this era.

Questions pervade like:

  1. Why didn’t the world have electricity before 1900?

  2. Why didn’t the world have, a medical industry, electronics, communications systems, militaries, and transportation infrastructure like planes, trains, automobiles, trucks, and ships before 1900?

  3. Why didn’t we have more than >6,000 products before 1900 that the wealthier and healthier countries now use daily?

One answer is that it could be that electricity is a secondary energy source that we get from the conversion of other sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, and oil. These sources are known as “primary sources, but electricity itself is not a “primary source”. Like electricity, the products used in industries and infrastructures are all dependent on products are manufactured from “primary sources” of energy like petroleum.

The causation of the world’s population exploding to 8 billion may be as simple as the fact that those products that are now used in every modern-day infrastructure and economy CANNOT be made FROM a “secondary” energy source like electricity. Those products need a “primary source” of energy for the manufactured derivatives that are the basis of those products.

Today, we are inundated by the gross fatalities being caused by humanity induced air pollution. These numbers are very important, but pale to the many other causes of fatalities that are impacting the 8 billion on earth.

While the pandemic has accounted for more than 600,000 fatalities just in America, the numbers pale when compared to those poorer countries that are experiencing 11 million children dying every year. Those infant fatalities are from the preventable causes of diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth as many developing countries have no, or minimal, access to those products from oil derivatives enjoyed by the wealthy and healthy countries.

When you include fatalities of “other than children” the world numbers get even worse…

Read the rest of this piece at CFACT.

Ron Stein is an engineer who, drawing upon 25 years of project management and business development experience, launched PTS Advance in 1995. He is an author, engineer, and energy expert who writes frequently on issues of energy and economics.

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Interesting article but as nations grow, will they care?

Going from poverty to prosperity I think people in general as they move up the social ladder and become the have more's instead of the have less will think of themselves and not worry about a family in Uganda. Getting rid of fossil fuel entirely is not an option.

Aviation opened up the world for people, and we are decades if not centuries away from global air transport using electricity. In the 80's and 90's we used private aircraft at 250 MPH to teach and close sales on our civil engineering software that would be impossible to replicate if using car travel at 60 MPH with multiple hotel stops. At one time we had a few sales reps that serviced the nation by small aircraft (we paid for their flight training and plane rental). They did the production of many more employees covering regions and stopping at local airports. The extra income we enjoyed back then made the expense of the aircraft a non-issue. Surely there are jets that exist for a last minute trip to anywhere for the wealthy, but I'd bet, most of those private planes are used to cover business meetings that would be impossible to service on the major airlines going to far fewer destinations. So 'airline' aviation is not going to abandon fuel anytime soon, but I'd bet small aircraft soon'ish will become viable on small planes. Without that engine, an electric plane would not just be smooth and quiet, but far safer and cost a fraction to maintain (and I'd bet insure). The bigger issue is where is all that electricity coming from when ICE cars disappear?

In 1983 I built a Net-Zero 'earth-bermed' (underground mostly) home that got it's heat by the sun here in frigid Minnesota, and electricity from the wind using my 100' tall Bergey 10kW Wind Generator. Yep, I was saving the world from doom because there was a looming energy shortage and my self-sufficient 4,000 sq.ft. lake front home was going to be the model of the future and worth a fortune. Well, 13 years later at the divorce, the appraised value of the home came back as just a bit over what the lot alone was worth. In other words taking advice from all the gloom and doom experts made my 4,000 sq.ft. home pretty worthless. Nevertheless, the Bergey Wind Generator was pretty spiffy and provided a ton of power. My current home is dual Green Certified, a NAHB Gold, and Minnesota Greenstar (derived by LEED), but nothing unusual looking. It consumes a fraction of the energy of a typical new home and about 1/5th that of the neighboring older homes. I did nothing expensive, just common sense stuff. The problem is retrofitting older buildings is cost prohibitive with questionable payback, and that is where the energy savings could make a massive impact if someone could figure out that larger problem.

Better design matters. The developments we design have a demonstrated average 25% less street and utility main length than a conventional development without a density loss - so 25% less heat envelope, 25% less run-off, and 25% less fuel used to construct a site's infrastructure. More important is that the street systems we developed maintain 'flow' which means far less energy (and time) is consumed while traveling through the neighborhoods. Auto Companies spend billions to eek out a wee bit of fuel efficiency, yet the entire land development industry, which includes the consultants, cities, and university professors are not grasping the benefits. Perhaps it's because consultants charge a percent of construction costs, a very flawed business model, that more efficient patterns made possible by todays design technology ignore this. A smallish home can be made to 'feel' like a much larger home, which in theory could save energy. But most builders simply use yesterday's plan or hire a cheap draftsman who is unlikely to know the spatial magic tricks in their designs.

We do a bit of what I would consider development in third world countries. In most of the typical conventional developments I certainly would not want to live in them. For the developers that truly want to up the standards, often either the local regulations are too antiquated to do better, or in one case the 'union' workers refused to change from the crappy home construction they were used to. In Jamaica, a place where curved streets have straight segment property lines because apparently the land surveyors that plat the developments don't know how to define a curved property line (yet streets are curved), we volunteered through the various ministries of government to do a training for the consultants and cities to show how they could improve their standards - and do so at no charge. They were not interested.

It's hard to progress when governments don't care to change (an effort), or construction workers don't want to change, or consultants get paid most for the worst possible designs. Are we making an impact? Yes. But far too slow.

Lastly - it's interesting in the life expectancy. When I was about 6, my dad came home from a doctor visit and said he's going to live to be 160. So for many years I thought I had about another 150 years ahead to live. Boy was I shocked (about 1960) when I learned the truth... only 60 years? You gotta be kidding me. Boy was I depressed. Back then people in their 60's looked old. Now that I'm 69 and look at others my age I feel that I can't possibly be that old - scary, but sure glad I was born 1952 and not 1852.