Railroads. For millenia news and articles of commerce could travel no faster than men, or their animals, could carry htem. The advent of the industrial revolution in the early nineteenth century, however, brought coal-powered transportation; railroads crossed the landscape faster and further than had been possible earlier. This dramatically accelerated commerce and the exchange of technologies among populations separated by large distances, improving the lives of the participants. Coal was also the fuel used in the growing iron and steel industry that permitted forging the rails, building the bridges, and providing the skeletons for new skyscrapers rising in cities. The force behind all this growth was the vision of the industrialists and architects who created these enterprises and buildings.
Automobiles. Human ambitions also led to the development of the gasoline engine and its use to power individual transportation, the automobile. This depended on newly discovered sources of liquid fuels, the petroleum deposits in
This spirit gave rise to
Electronics. A final example is drawn from the electronics industry. Over the course of the 20th century electronics moved completely from analog to digital circuitry based on solid state transistors. This transformation likewise was driven by forward-looking scientists and entrepreneurs. Its growth was highly dependent on creativity and resilience, since the pace of technological advance, and therefore the competition in the industry, was very intensive.
Optimism. These examples are cited to emphasize the "can-do" enthusiasm that has marked the growth of
Resisting change: Acid rain. In more recent decades, however, interest groups have opposed the need, based on scientific findings, for changes in their operations. In the 1970s forests in the American northeast and southern
The solution to this malady lay in desulfurizing the exhaust gases of the offending power plants or fuel switching to low sulfur fuels. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) imposed limits on how much sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides could be emitted by the power plants. The power companies objected vigorously to what they protested would be the great expense required to implement this remedy.
Atmospheric scientists Mario Molina, F. Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen showed that man-made chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), used in aerosol spray cans, air conditioners and refrigerators, can cause the loss of ozone when combined with the action of sunlight. (They were awarded the Nobel Prize for this work in 1995.) The scientists strongly recommended phasing out use of CFCs for refrigeration.
The growth of the
© 2016 Henry Auer