7. Evolution of Technologies
In the Bouri Formation in the highlands of Ethiopia fossils of Australopithecines and Homo-fossils were found. Insightful are the many indicators for the use of tools. Especially rasping and cutmarks on bone-fossils of animals testify tool-use for dissecting animal bodies. Furthermore, simple stone hand-axes were found, which probably caused the rasping and cutmarks on the bones. Such hand-axes are being called “Oldowan tools” named after the Kenyan Olduvai Gorge, where such hand-axes were found for the first time. Use of tools have also been described in our evolutionary relatives. Chimpanzees, for example use long sticks to draw termites from their mound. Even more distantly related monkeys, such as capuchin monkeys use tools, for example stones for cracking nuts. Our ancestors may also have used stones for cracking nuts or for opening animal bones, allowing access to alimentary bone marrow.
For most of human development history our ancestors were not at the top of the food chain, but rather ranking somewhere in the middle. So they often had to make do with residuals from top predators. Under these circumstances it made sense to scrape meat from bones and open bones for their content thus making optimized use of leftover carcasses. We also have to assume that Australopithecines used tools at least to an extent that we can observe in nowadays monkeys. A most remarkable cultural step is the establishing of specialized tools for permanent use. In the beginning this may have been a very well-shaped stone that our ancestors guarded at a certain place or which was even carried along. This would imply 2 cultural developments, firstly that of targeted use of tools for particular needs and secondly, the appropriation of artefacts as individual or collective property.
Around 1.75 million years ago, larger hand-axes of hominid ancestors (probably Homo erectus) were crafted, which nowadays are called “Acheulean” after Saint-Acheul close to Amiens, where these hand-axes were found for the first time. We have to assume that most of our ancestors’ artefacts were made from wood, fibres, bones, furs and tendons, which in contrast to stone artefacts do not outlast the millenia that lie between their use and today.
In Schöningen, between Lower-Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt around 320,000-year-old artefacts were found in an open brown coal mine. Remarkable are the well-preserved wooden spears, that were preserved from decay due to favourable geological circumstances (67). The Schöningen excavation sites can be considered as a palaeo-archaeological piece of luck. Even insect wings and egg shells are preserved. This was brought about by several favourable circumstances: The artefacts were lying embedded into sediments on the ground of waterbodies, thus permanently protected from oxygen and decomposing microorganisms. After finding the artefacts, they were taken out of their protective sediment bed and now have to be preserved from decay. In an area that is now protruding as a terasse into the large mining pit, excavations continue and interesting findings are being made. Around 320,000 years ago, modern H. sapiens did not exist, yet (or was in early developmental stages of the species). The Schöningen-artefacts are assigned to H. heidelbergensis that is regarded as predecessors of Neanderthals or even as the last common ancestor of H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis.
In maximal 300,000 years of exsitence, technical progress of Homo sapiens was small and slow. Shelters were built from available construction material, usually wood, stone, clay, leaves bones and furs. Every human individual had only few artefacts during lifetime and for a long time the concept of “owning” an artefact was hardly established. The most important developmental progress accelerator was the neolithical revolution (becoming sedentary farmers) and the energy revolution going along with burning of fossil fuels. The first humans that displayed this remarkable change of beahviour of the species Homo sapiens around 13,000 years ago lived in the Middle East, in an area that is named Fertile Crescent in history writing. The industrial revolution started in England in the middle of the 18th century.
Around 13,000 years ago, the Middle East, which is nowadays characterized by desserts and semi-desserts, was more fertile with more water than today. As everywhere in the world, scattered Homo sapiens groups lived as hunter-gatherers. They were roaming their habitats, in permanent movement seeking eatable plants and animals and often changing night camps, depending on where their food plants or animals could be found. In bad times they asumably spent every night in a different place. In good times or in good places they may have spent weeks or even months.
Domestication of Plants (Cultivation)
Apparently, there were inviting fertile places in the Middle East, 13,000 years ago, where our ancestors felt well and dwelled for longer. Probably such places were along rivers that attracted animals and supplied fish, and where bushes and trees were growing. Closeby were growing peculiar grass-like plants, whose heads contained seeds, which were a bit smaller than nuts, but available in abundancy and eatable. If protected from water, one could even store them and eat them later in times of need. When watered, it could happen that such a seed opened and a small sprout appeared. If our ancestors recognized these sprouts as those of a new cornstalk or simply happened to observe that grains sprout in places, where kernel had fallen on fertile grounds is something we probably can not know. However, we can savely assume that our ancestors somehow had found out that you can spread kernels from these odd grasses on fertile grounds to make these grasses grow at the same place slightly later. In the Middle East, wheat and barley were endemic and probably were the first grain species cultivated by humans. Cultivation as a cultural technique could expand well from East to West along degree of latitude with similar environmental conditions (climate, seasons, similar daylenghts over seasons) (36). The fact that Homo sapiens planted grass-grain species with long heads full of big, rich seeds, provided a selection advantage to these grain-species. Humans targetly favoured theses plants, spread their seeds and deliberated habitats from competitive plants. Humans have turned into farmers and grain-growers. One could also talk about domestication of Homo sapiens through plants. Simple grass had managed to make an ape work for its advantage all life. It made us spread their seeds (sowing), it made us prepare the grounds for them (plough), they made us eradicate competitors (weeding). To make a long story short: For grains we bent our backs and knees, we worked from dawn to sunset. We have submitted our life to grain (34).
For the longest time in human evolution, our ancestors were insignificant monkeys, somewhere in the middle of the food chain. We remember the Taung child, an Australopithecus africanus child, which probably was victim to a prey bird, a destiny that many small monkeys are still suffering today. When only regarding body traits, modern Homo sapiens is not mandatorily at the top of the food chain. In Yann Martel‘s novel „Life of Pi“ a young man finds himself shipwrecked in a life boat together with a tiger, a hyena, an orang-utan and a zebra. After the hyena had killed the zebra and the orang-utan, the tiger kills the hyena, so that the to top predators Homo sapiens and tiger are alone together. In the novel, the man manages to turn the tiger into a companion, to domesticate it.
The Domestication of animals
The interaction of men and dogs may have brought about signs of domestication long before the neolithic revolution. Alliance between humans and dogs or wolves may have been advantageous when hunting cooperatively long before sedentism. There even is a hypothesis that Homo sapiens’ alliances with wolves and the succeeding dogs may have conferred a competitive advantage over the Neanderthals (30, 31). However, we maybe should not only think in utilitaristic terms. Maybe the domestication resulted from emotional attachements between humans and wolves or dogs, thus exactly what makes us love dogs as companions nowadays.
Around 9000 years ago larger settlements, villages, emerged. Farming made it possible to produce surplus. Populations grew and required further increase of crops from the fields. By now, humans had managed to control other animals for their benefit. Domestication of cattle such as goats and sheep meant that humans controlled where they moved to, what they ate and how they reproduced. Domesticated animals could be controlled, utilized and exploited. Meat, milk, hair, skin, fur, bones and dung (as construction clay and fertiliser) were directly available in the backyard – no hard and dangerous hunt, no dragging of carcasses over kilometres to the lair. Humans now constantly had to herd, feed, foster and protect the animals. Previously, the wild animals nourished and took care for themselves until they were hunted. Formerly free humans were now bound to their soil and cattle. Who has domesticated whom?
The combination of plant and animal domestication created synergisms. Plants or parts of plants that were not eaten by humans themselves could be fed to animals, whose dung could be used for fertilizing the fields. Somewhere, somewhen, somebody had the idea to strain an animal (probably a cow or a donkey) in front of a piece of wood and then pull it through the ground, while man pushed it downwards. This was the invention of the plow, which triggered an agricultural revolution. More surplus could be produced and the population could grow. Animals could also serve as way of transport. On horses and donkeys man can ride. Consequently, humans did not only make use of the raw material delivered by the animals, but also of their muscle energy.
Consequences of geographically different pre-conditions for farming and cattle breeding
How come that some cultures are regarded as rich and “developed”? Or to quote the question that the Papua New Guinean Yali, posed to his friend, the American author Jared Diamond: “Why is it that you white people have developed so much cargo… but we black people have so little cargo of our own? “ (36). Only a few generations ago, aforesaid white people in Papua New Guinea, actually anywhere else in the world (Africa, America, East Asia) would have explained this with the superiority of the white race. With this alleged genetic superiority (racism), the white colonialists did not have to face the question, how to justify their power over indigenous people from an ethical and moral point of view. An additional confirmation of their own superiority was made up with a metaphysical-religious argument (Evangelization of indigenous people in order to save their souls). Albeit, both lines of argument will not withstand a critical examination of their rightfulness, they were very successful in the past.
Mechanisms of evolutionary selection are not ethically judging. Racism and religious mission apparently were strong mechanisms of enforcement and were selected for. By now their open use is banned. (The missionary concept is still alive and leads to the spread of religions, usually with few tolerances towards other religions).
The strength and persuasive power of an idea is entirely independent from it being right or wrong. To the contrary: Possibly, Homo sapiens subordinated the world through the ability to believe in non-existent, non-objectiviable entities (e.g. religion, nation, company, money). Scientifically objectifiable are neither racism nor the superiority of a religion. Nevertheless, they motivated armies to attack and subjugate other people and exploit their resources again and again. The underlying racism or a feeling of religious augustness did not only provide an instrument of (propagandistic) power to the agressors, but also gave them the legitamizing feeling to be entitled to take the resource of the subjugated people. A long-lasting subjugation and exploitation of other peoples requires a repression apparatus with military and secret-service forces and may be some thugs for rough action. In englightened groups, racism and religious superiority claims are nowadays regarded to be injust and reprehensible. Nevertheless, it remains possible to keep on exploiting other countries and peoples. The costly administration and military apparatus on site can be saved, if powerful international cooperations cooperate with small local elites, who personally benefit from the exploitation of their countries.
Racial superiority and religious augustness are not objectiviable, so there must be other reasons for technological development advantages in some countries compared to others. Jared Diamont claimed geographical differences and associated luck and destiny were responsible for the different developments.
From the Fertile Crescent, cultural techniques and sedentary farming spread on the Eurasian continent. Apart from the Fertile Crescent, there were only few other places on earth, where humans independently developed from hunter-gatherers to sedentary farmers. In China, humans started cultivating rice around 9000 years ago. In South, and Middle-America, around 5000 years ago, corn, pumpkin and beans were cultivated. Due to the geographical isolation of the American landmass, we can be sure that these cultivation techniques had developed autochthonously. In West-Africa and in the Ethiopian highlands sorghum and Yam roots were cultivated autochthonously. To many regions, however, farmer and herder lifestyle had simply spread from other regions. The conditions for such spread were particularly favourable on the Eurasian land complex, esspecially East-West-East spread along similar latitudes with similar day-and night ryhthms and similar seasons.
The individuals, who lived as farmers and herders were not necessarily living a better live than the hunter-gatherers. Nevertheless, the farming and herding prevailed nearly everywhere in direct comparison to the hunting and gatherering. Exchanging of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle with the sedentary farming and herding were driven by
adaptation (learning) of the corresponding lifestyle in groups living in the neighbourhood of groups, who already lived as farmers- and herders
Extrusion (invasion and population replacement) of hunter-gatherers by populations who were living as sedentary farmers- and herders.
Jared Diamond counts five factors that favoured the spread of farming and herding squeezing out the hunter-gatherer’s lifestyle.
Decline and extinction of wild plants and animals: The spread of Homo sapiens goes along with drastic changes of flora and fauna. Certainly, such drastic changes are not easy to retrace as there are hardly any written accounts of the process. (At best man-induced extinction events of the recent past as the extinction of the Dodo on Mauritius after the arrival of Dutch sailors). Nevertheless, the disappearance of large animals from the fossil record seems to be associated with the appearance of Homo sapines, for example the disappearance of the mammut on the Eurasian continent.
Increase and spread of domesticated/cultivated plants and animals: Targeted seeding brought about a competitive advantage for cultivated plants of farmers over wild plants for gatherers. At the same time the domesticated animals of herders had a competitive advantage over wild animals for the hunters.
Agrotechnological progress favouring farmers and herders over hunter-gatherers: Kumulating experience of farmers with plant seeds (dry storage) and the seeding process (opening up the soil and implanting the seed) inspired for further refinement of farming, which led to increased efficiency (systematic clearing, ploughing, seeding, fertilizing and watering). The increase of efficiency led to an increase of production and surplus, which was the fundament for another factor:
Rapid population growth in farmer-herder societies: The surplus production of food in farmer-herder societies led to population growth. Population growth in turn led to further increase of food production, which made farmer-herder societies taking more and more space, which led to the fifth (and ultmative) factor for the replacement of the hunter-gatherers by farmer-herders.
Replacement of population groups living as hunter-gatherers by farmer-herder societies:
As farmer-herder scoieties produced surplus, their socities grew, which made them more powerful in direct violent conflict.
In farmer-herder societies tasks were more and more shared with specialisation tendencies, which again led to superiority in violent confllicts, for example through superior weapon technology or specially trained fighters.
Farmer-herder scoieties may also without violence simply have „outbred“hunter-gatherer societies. Faster growing populations replaced slower growing or shrinking populations demographically.
At this point, we once more return to the basic questions posed by Yali to Jared. “Why is it that you white people have developed so much cargo… but we black people have so little cargo of our own? “ Farming in Papua New Guinea more or less did not change over thousands of years: No innovations, which looking back would have been seen as progress. Diamond argues that food surplus through farmers is a precondition that some members of a society can turn their attention to other tasks, once food supply is secured. In Papua New Guinea, surplus production was never really reached. According to Diamonds explanations, this was due to natural circumstances in Papua New Guinea and the available plants for cultivation. Archaeologists assume that humans on New Guinea do farming for around 10,000 years. Thus, they were among the first peoples, who changed from hunter-gatherer to become farmers. However, there were no easily cultivable plants in New Guinea as there were in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. The most important field crop in New Guinea, Taro, requires much more work and effort than for example wheat or barley. Taro needs to be planted individually plant by plant. For Taro, one has to dig a hole and manually plant the seedling, while grain seeds can simply be sprinkled on the field. Furthermore, New Guinean crops were not storable for long, so that agriculture remained a hand-to-mouth-farming over thousands of years and no surplus or stocks could be produced.
The production of surplus in farming was also playing an important role for enabling the Industrial Revolution. In the middle of the 18th century, using intensive farming techniques and machines, agriculture in England became more efficient and productive, which in turn led to population growth, which in turn led to increase in agricultural output, which in turn led to population growth, and so forth. Growth became a fetish for modern economists. More people need not only more food, but also other goods, especially clothes. Fittingly, the mechanic loom became a symbol for the Industrial Revolution.
A driving force for industrialization was population growth with its increasing demand for goods and workforce for their production. This went along with a transition from a (sustainable) level-holding economy to a (non-sustainable) growth-economy. A further driving force was energy. Until the industrialization, man used fire (combustion energy) for generating heat and mechanical muscle-energy (from animal and humans) for moving humans, cargo and earth (plough). The invention of the steam engine allowed the transformation of heat energy into mechanical kinetic energy, which for example was used for mechanical looms for the massproduction of textiles. Early industrial machines such as mills relied on water power of flowing rivers. Steam engines allowed the erection of factories independent from water power. Railways and steam ships accelerated travel and facilitated the transport of goods over long distance. This allowed the centralisation of mass production in factories. Local craftsmen, such as shoemakers and tailors could not compete with cheaply produced goods from the mass production facilities. Here is another driving force of the industrialization: The power of creative destruction and consumer capitalism (1, 68). The production was not determined by needs anymore, but the demand-dependant monetarisability, if and how much money could be gained.
Global „The winner takes it all“ Capitalism
In capitalism similar mechanism as in evolutionary natural selection are observable and accordingly it is not the best and functional technologies that prevail, but those that reproduce themselves and spread quickly. The so-called free market, however is not at all free from external forces and therefore does not make the best product, with the best price-performance ratio prevail. Especially in modern economies, where only sale may still take place locally, commercial and market power are fare more decisive than excellence and quality of the product. This has gone so far that nowadays a handful of global operating cooperations simulate a rest of competition or a single enterprise entirely dominates a segment of the market. The global dominance of companies such as Amazon or Alli Baba seem bizarre as they did not create a single product by themselves, but monopolized global distribution and sale channels and dominate the “platform economy”.
When a wildfire breaks out in the forrest or savannah, animals usually flee. This applies to hoofed animals, cats and surely also to monkeys. Predators may try to profit from the chaos and catch fleeing prey animals, however you will never see a cat of prey running towards the fire. Big fires will hinder an approach already through their heat radiation. Nevertheless, our ancestors somehow harnessed fire.
Fire can be used for erasing traces and due to this all-consuming character of fire, records of traces of fire are not as frequent as e.g. stone tools in prehistoric science. In Koobi Fora, one of the most important prehistoric excavation sites in Kenya, traces of ancient fire sites were found, which had been used around 1.5 million years ago, probably by our ancestors Homo erectus. The location of the traces indicates that the fire was in a small spot, probably a well controlled fire in a fireplace (69). Unfortunately, in the surroundings of this fireplace no Homo erectus bone fossils were found, only fossils from Paranthropus boisei, an Australopithecine, who had lived 2.3 -1.4 million years ago. Around 1 million-year-old fire-fossils were found in the Wonderwerk cave in South Africa. Here, burnt plants and bone residuals were discovered and elaborate hand-axes, which were associated with Homo erectus in the past (70). In the brown-coal mining pit in Schöningen in Lower-Saxony (Schöningen spears), indicators for fire use through Homo heidelbergensis were found around 300-400.000 years ago. However, these findings or their interpretation are being challenged (71).
If the predecessors of Homo sapiens really managed to ultimatively tame fire and use it in a controlled way is disputed. Controlled use would mean being capable to lit a fire according to needs or at least maintain fires over time. However, Homo sapiens surely was not the only human species to master fire: The widespread use of fire through Neanderthals is confirmed (72). Probably, the first steps in mastering the fire were due to happy coincidences: A small, accessible residual fire after a bushfire, a fresh fire after a stroke of lightning that was not so big that heat radiation drove away our ancestors. Without any doubt a very brave individual was needed, who could overcome flight instincts, approach the fire and take a burning branch. The next step was now to maintain the fire over time.
If only a single fire burns, the risk that this goes out is high. We can only speculate about the circumstances of the availability of fire for our ancestors. I assume that our ancestors were aware of the usability and the importance of fire. Once mastering fire, a group may have had several fireplaces that were guarded by subgroups, so that once a fire extinguishes, a piece of burning wood from another site could be taken to relight the fire. Maybe fire made neighbouring groups cooperate, even make first contractuals arrangement in the sense of backing up each other in helping out with fire in case of need. The cooperative element of evolution is often being forgotten, while competition seems to be self-evident (73).
Somewhen men achieved the capability to lit fire. With the 5200 years old glacier-mummy “Ötzi”, dry tinder fungus was found (a fungus which is very useful to start a fire) and traces of irone-disulphide indicated that Ötzi was using pyrite or marcasite (74). Ötzi lived in the New Stone Age, a time period that in evolutionary historical dimensions is only a blink of an eye from today. If Homo erectus was capable to lit a fire is under debate. Whoever, in younger years at the scouts tried to lit a fire without using matches knows that this is all but trivial.
The donwsizing of teeth in developing human species is often seen as an indicator for heating and cooking in food preparation, as the fire makes food more shew- and digestible. Unfortunately, this made humans more and more dependant on fire. We therefore may assume that fire became more and more important, so that a lot of creative energy was invested into the capability of liting a fire. Firestones and easy combustible tinder became part of the standard equipment of ancient humans, who otherwise did not carry along a lot of artefacts.
Most of the time, since mastering the fire, it was only used as a source of heat, light and for cooking. The main fuel was wood that had grown using the energy of the sun. If we burn wood, we release this “stored sun”- energy. The conversion of energy as an elaborated form of mastering fire also fueled industrialization. Pre-industrial craftsmen used wood and coal-fires, for example for baking bread, harden bricks and work metals (blacksmith) or simply for clearing a field. Furthermore water- and windpower were used for operating mills. The advantage of wood and coal is that they can be carried to their place of use and are independent from water and wind. During early industrialization, brown-, stone-, and wood charcoal were the most important fossil fuels. Steam trains used solid fuels such as wood or coal that were stored in a tender at the stern of the locomotive or in a tender waggon. To load this, muscle power was needed for shoveling the coal into the tender. Mineral oil was a fluid fuel, which could simply be pumped and could be stored and transported in tanks instead of tenders.
Fossil fuels contain a lot of carbon. Coal developed through decay of plants at the ground of moors in the absence of air. The decayed material sunk into deeper layers and over time was exposed to compression pressure and temperature forming densified carbon over time. Stone coal is very pure and dense, brown-coal is sulfurous, less dense, and less pure. This is why brown-coal is considered as dirtier and more pollutant coal.
Most minearl oil and natural gas that we extract today, developed around 150 million years ago (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) from decaying organic material from algae and microorganisms. Through sinking and overlay this carbon-rich organic recess reached deeper layers, where pressure and temperature acted, converting the sludge into fluid (mineral-oil) or gaseous (natural gas) substances. Natural gas contains methane. Methane is, if released, regarded as a potent greenhouse-gas. Nevertheless, natural gas is regarded to be a relatively clean fossil fuel, as it burns very efficiently with few releases of methane or other pollutants.
In contrast to wind and water enery, fossil fuels can be transported and stored and therefore can be made available at any place. Minaral oil and natural gas offer several advantages over solid fuels, for example they can be pumped through pipelines. In comparison to the sun, this advantage is less pronounced as the sun is accessible everywhere and since we have the technical capabilities to transform and store sun-energy in batteries, its energy can also be stored (e.g. for the night). The market dominance of fossil fuel companies may have hindered other technologies from emerging (wars are fought for oil!).
This chapter was headed with “Evolution of technologies”, implicating that mechanisms are at work, which resemble the mechanisms of natural selection. This may indeed often be the case, when good technologies spread and, in that way, reproduce. However, on markets just like in evolution it is not always the functional “good” (according to a neutral observer) that spreads, but rather what reproduces most. In a globalized economy, market dominance and monopolies have formed, which do not mandatorily rely on the advantageous features of the product for humans or mankind. Within the very short time of 200 years, mankind became absolutely dependend (one could say addicted) to oil and if alternatives emerged, these were smothered by the monopolistic power of “Big Oil”.
This economic phenomenone could maybe best compared with the “overgrowth phaenomenon” if one plant species suppresses all other plant species or when a single bacterial species overgrowth the whole gut-microbiom after antibiotic treatment.
The first oilwells in Pennsylvania were the fundament of the fortune of the oil barons, most prominent the Rockefeller clan. The family patriarch William Avery Rockefeller initially used oil as an ingredient of the numerous oils, lotions and tinctures that he sold as a quack doctor moving from town to town. However, already the early oil findings promised a lot of money, as demand for large amonts of oil emerged. In the middle of the 19th century, cities were lighted with blubber-oil lamps, that used whale oil. Due to overhunting of whales, especially sperm whales, whale oil prices increased. The mineral oil came just in time for replacing whale oil in lamps (and thus give some whale species a chance to survive). The invention of the electric light bulb had on a superficial consideration the potential to blow off the lights of the oil lamp industry. The oil industry was just at the beginning of its boom, also due to the fact that fossil fuels are used for producing electric energy (for example for the electric light bulb).
A year after the electric light-bulb had conquered mass markets, Carl Benz developed his motor coach, which used an oil compound for its engine. This motor coach became the first commercially sold car. If we look at the development of the first “horseless carriages” it only seems logical in rearview that the mineral oil driven carriages prevailed. There were alternative modes of energy provision and the electrical carriages could also have prevailed. At the end of the 19th century, London was full of electric taxis. If it were coincidences that made the combustive engine prevail over the electric vehicle?
The decisive impuls for enforcing the dominance of the combustive enginge were findings of oil in Pennsylvania around 1900, which made oil a cheap and apparently unlimitedly available fuel. The most popular technical argument for the superiority of the mineral-oil engine is the larger operating distance of motor-vehicles. But is it a fair comparison, if you compare nowadays mineral-oil driven vehicles, which look back on decencies of developments and improvements, with a technology that led a niche existence for the same period, like the electric vehicles? Who knows, which level of development electric vehicles would have reached by now, if their development would have had the same financial backing as that of the motor-vehicles or electric cars would have had a similar market position.
In this context one may want to also look at the car producer General Motors (GM), which was one of the biggest and mightiest companies in history. Many American cities had well functioning public transport systems with tramways. GM allied with oil companies and used economic power and monopoly positions, to destroy the tramway systems and replace them with cars, lorries and buses. This assured the profits of GM and also of the oil industry for decennies. What GM did, was to found subcompanies that bought tramway companies, only to demontage them and replace them by buses produced by GM. With “Greyhound”, GM founded an overland-bus line equipped with GM-buses. By political lobbying GM pushed ahead the transformation of American cities to car cities. This led to a separation of different areas of life for living, working, spare time, shopping and gastronomy. For living in such wide-ranging cities, one simply needed a car. Traffic increased and street took more and more space away from other use (75, 76).
Due to the oil addiction of the global economy, oil and gas shaped geopolitics of the last 100 years more than any other natural resource. The strategic importance became particularly obvious through wars. Oil production is measured in “barrels”. One barrel contains 42 US-galleons or 159 litres. As mentioned above, the first large oil boom took place in Pennsylvania in the North East of the USA. In the first half of the 20th century, rich oil pools were found in Venezuela and in the Middle East from the Arabian Peninsula over Syria and Iraq to Iran. The oil fields of the Middle East were exploited by English oil companies that also exploited the present people leaving only small proportion of the profits from this oil bonanza for the countries, where they took it from.
After the 2nd world war, when the geostrategic importance of oil had become obvious, the USA signed a contract with the Saud-Clan of Saudi Arabia, that assured primary access to the Saudi oil for American companies.
As a service in return, the Americans guaranteed “security” for Saudi Arabia, which de facto meant to militarily support the Saud clan to remain in power (mainly against the people of Saudi Arabia). The Americans guaranteed the Saud clan also 50% of all oil profits. In Iran, in contrast, the British denied the Iranians a similarly fair deal. President Mossadegh with support from the Iranian parliament and the Iranian people, nationalized the the oil wells. Operation Ajax was a cooperative putsch of the American CIA and the British MI6 against the Iranian government. In 1953 these secret services bought Iranian agents provocateurs and organized mass-protests in Tehran that ultimatively led to the turnover of the democratically elected government of president Mossadegh and the installation of the Shah, who de facto was an absolutistic dictator. Long time diffamed as “conspiracy theory” the opening of the files in 2013 revealed that operation Ajax was conspiracy praxis of British-American secret services (77).
“Big Oil” remains one of the main columns of the military-industrial complex and has causal partial responsibilities for wars, such as the wars against the people in Irak (2003) and Lybia (2011), both in violation of international law (78). In Lybia in 2020, Saudi Aramco (Saudi-Arabia), Tatneft (Russia) and Total (France) support the US-friendly general Haftar and confront the enemy camp around the Lybian prime minister Sarradsch with support from Eni (Italy), Wintershall (Germany) and Turkey with turkish energy companies.
In the long run, burning of large amounts of carbon in a very short time period may endanger the existence of mankind. The increase of greenhouse gases may lead to a greenhouse effect: The reflection of sun rays from the earth surface into space is being reduced by the shielding effect of accumulated greenhouse gases. The trapped energy leads to a warming athmosphere. The last time something like that happened was around 56 million years ago during the Paleocene-Eocene-Thermal Maximum (PETM). Back then the CO2-concentration of the athmosphere increased from 800 ppm to 2000 ppm and the temperature increased by 5-8 degree Celsius in a short time period of around 10,000 years. In 2019, the CO2-concentration lies over 410 ppm. Before industrialization, 200 years ago the CO2-concentration was at 280 ppm (79). The current increase seems to roll out faster than 56 million years ago. During the PETM, the planet turned into a green hell with dense plant growth and tropical vegetation. Can we therefore take comfort in the expected CO2-induced plant growth that may even improve the food supply on earth? And will plant growth not lead to more CO2-absorbtion and thus to compensatory decrease of CO2 ? Maybe, but unfortunately, our own species may hamper this compensation by simply cutting away the plants. Forest covered areas are on retreat, making way for urban settlement or areas of agricultural monocultures. Deserts and dry regions expand, so that water shortage could restrict farming in many areas of the world. Forrest planting campaigns in China and Africa may give a bit of hope.
Maybe the long-term perspectives of Homo sapiens are restricted. But maybe our species can have an impact on evolution for good or bad even beyond our own existence. The current mass extinctions taking place with a significant contribution of Homo sapiens should be considered here. But maybe, apart from nuclear waste, our species will leave behind something else, which may persist long after our extinction: Artificial Intelligence (AI).