Planet earth, along with all of its living organisms, are currently experiencing an immense period of change. Due to the relatively short span of human life, we tend to forget that humans have managed to sustain life on this planet for millions of years. Many of our current systems have become based upon the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas. These sources of energy are sometimes referred to as ‘ancient sunlight’. Fossil fuels come from plants and animals which died millions of years ago and got were buried, generally in seas and oceans, where they end up getting covered by layers of mud. This mud eventually hardens into rock which creates great pressure. Over long periods of time, this pressure, combined with the earth’s heat, converts these fossils into fuel.
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, the world entered into an era which came to be known as the ‘Industrial Revolution’. During this period, many of the manufacturing processes shifted from ‘hand production’ methods to those of machines. Initially, many of these machines operated on water or steam power, but with the discovery of fossil fuels, a new course of human history was set in motion. We have now reached the point where very few people can imagine a life without automobiles, airplanes, tractors, electricity, computers, cell phones, etc.; many—if not all—of these things currently being dependent upon the use of fossil fuels. It is important to keep in mind that the first successfully commercial oil well, known as the Drake Well, was drilled in the American state of Pennsylvania in 1859. This means that in just a little over 150 years, we have radically altered the way that people have lived on the planet for thousands of generations.