Open Access Peer-reviewed

Energy and Environmental Impact on the Biosphere Energy Flow, Storage and Conversion in Human Civilization

Thomais Vlachogianni1, Athanasios Valavanidis1,

1Department of Chemistry, University of Athens, University Campus Zografou, Athens, Greece

American Journal of Educational Research. 2013, 1(3), 68-78. DOI: 10.12691/education-1-3-2
Published online: August 25, 2017


The present review describes the role of different energy regimes throughout the human history and their environmental impact. The appearance of Homo sapiens and the development of primitive human civilization can be narrated by different energy regimes throughout the centuries. Getting the energy that humans needed for their needs affected directly the environment in many different ways. Some energy sources have a greater impact than others. Energy is lost to the environment during any energy transformation, usually as heat. Environmental historian can describe human history, from the discovery of fire (the most important human invention) by the primitive man and the development in four different energy regimes over the last ten thousand years. The first two divisions, gatherer-hunters (1.5 million to 10,000) and pre-industrial agriculture, cover many centuries until 1750. The third period deals with an industrial world up to 1950, and the fourth period covers the developments in the post industrial society, between 1950 and the 21st century. Energy usage divides periods of socio-ecological human history. In each period, human energy sources and consumption changed significantly, providing a point of no return. Until the 1700s, however, agriculture continued to rely on energy directly related to the sun and stored in organic systems. After 1750, humans developed new ways of thinking about nature, as well as new kinds of energy systems based on coal and the production of steam. New energy systems (petroleum, natural gas, hydroelectric) allowed a dramatic increase in human populations but at the same time polluted quite heavily damaging the environmental balance with nature. Those increases changed dramatically after 1950 and caused the doubling of the population and the multiple energy use for transport and electricity. Are nuclear energy and renewable energy sources the future prospects for a sustainable development in energy use by humans? Is the “Third Industrial Revolution” the future solution for global warming? These are hard questions with great implications on the future of the planet, its ecological balance and inevitably for the human civilization.


energy flow, use of energy, human history, human civilization, industrial society, human population
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