• Energy use in society
• Environmental impacts
• Sustainable development
• Negotiating interactions
This introductory chapter sets the scene by looking at the interaction between people and the planet, with the focus on energy use. The ever-increasing pattern of energy use seems unlikely to be environmentally sustainable, in which case we will need to try to negotiate a new way forward. To try to describe some key features of the human-environmental interaction, and how it might be modified, the chapter introduces an analytical model of the various conflicting interests, which is used throughout the book.
Human beings have developed a capacity to create and use tools—or what is now called technology. Technology provides the means for modifying the natural environment for human purposes—providing basic requirements such as shelter, food and warmth, as well as communications, transport and a range of consumer products and services. All of these activities have some impact on the environment. The sheer scale of human technological activity puts an increasing stress on the natural environment to the extent that it cannot absorb our wastes, while our profligate lifestyles lead us increasingly to exploit the planet’s limited resources.
Energy resources are an obvious example of limited resources whose use can have major impacts. Figure 1.1 shows the gigantic leap in energy use since the industrial revolution. Certainly energy use is now central to