Energy & Society

Not only does energy support life, it changes how we live in the world. It heats and cools our homes, powers our cars, grows our food, produces steel and textiles, fuels our factories and powers our computers.

Nothing changes without energy- including society and culture.

Past disruptive energy systems have changed our relationship to nature and each other, transforming society.

Centuries ago communities grew new grains that allowed us to tap the power of farm animals that could plow even larger fields for an Agricultural society.

The Industrial Age was launched when energy from wood was replaced by more powerful coal and steam combustion-based energy. Coal and Steam were agents of change.

Then at the dawn of the 20th century we harnessed the power of internal combustion engines and gave birth to the Automobile age. Liquid oil became the new agent of social change.

When it was first harnessed, electricity was seen as a mystical (and frightening) form of strange energy but it would shape the 20th century more than any other technology. Society evolved around the strange behavior of electrons.

In the 1950s we harnessed the power of rocket fuel and sent human beings above the planet – with cameras to reveal images our home for the first time. We launched satellites and laid a foundation for global communication. Rocket fuel made us a planetary society.

Then we tapped electrons to calculate 1s and 0s in computer chips and gave birth the Computer Age. Very strange indeed!

Our point?

We are not done yet.

Energy will continue to change in ways that might shock us today – just as the idea of a ‘mechanical horseless carriage’, cross-country network of ‘electricity wires’ or ‘rocket plane’ seemed strange to those before us.

What can we expect from energy in the 21st century?

We are ready to talk about new forms of energy and their implications for society and culture.