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History of energy: the power through the Ages
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History of energy: the power through the Ages

April 30, 2023
How did it all start? How can we use different energy sources as the sun, wind, and water more effectively over time? The brief history of energy.
History of energy

Energy is the foundation of human development, everyday life, and modern civilization. How did humans gain energy throughout history and in what ways?

Our civilization, and even the entire living world on our planet, revolves around energy. Our electric devices, vehicles, lighting, and even to some extent, the functioning of our own biological organisms, are all provided by energy sources.

However, to sustain our development without making our planet uninhabitable, new solutions are needed. The following article will examine how we have come this far and where the road leads regarding energy.

Sources of power before the industrial revolution

Everything we see around us is powered by energy, whether the objects we use or the living beings around us. If we consider only the animal world, for individual animals to breathe, move, eat, and drink, they must use energy, and then convert the resources obtained through energy into energy again to acquire even more resources.

The same is true for humans, but with the help of modern science, technology, and civilization, we have successfully achieved the ability to utilize not only the energy released by our own bodies but also much more than that.

But how did we get here, and how did humans gain energy throughout history? As it will become apparent, the journey was slow and arduous. The future does not seem any easier, but if we are innovative enough, we can transform the Earth into a much more sustainable, livable, and natural planet.

Initially, humanity had to rely solely on its physical strength. In today's terms, this is considered very little energy, as it would not even be sufficient to operate the simplest household appliances.

The first major step forward came with the Agricultural Revolution when people gave up the hunter lifestyle and settled down. From then on, tribes of a few dozen people grew into farms, villages, towns, and eventually countries, but what was even more important from an energy perspective was that they began to keep domesticated animals.

Domesticated animals have much greater physical strength and endurance than humans. Later, people also realized that not only living organisms but also non-living energy sources could be used, as long as the appropriate tools were found, such as sailboats and windmills. It is no wonder that sailing was one of the flourishing areas of ancient times.

In terms of energy use, the next era was represented by water mills and windmills.

This was followed by the modern age, where the most essential stage was the Industrial Revolution. We owe the steam engine, the steam turbine, and later the internal combustion engine, which is still used today, to this productive period.

history of energy use by humans

The short history of energy after the industrial revolution

And thus we have arrived at the present day: nowadays, we primarily generate energy by burning fossil fuels, which include the following resources:

  • coal
  • oil
  • natural gas
  • propane-butane gas

Although their production, transportation, and utilization have become increasingly more superficial and more convenient as time has progressed, unfortunately, since they are non-renewable energy sources, they are running out: there is only approximately 50 years' worth of supply left.

Therefore, the future most likely lies in renewable energy sources, such as:

  • solar energy
  • wind energy
  • hydro energy
  • biomass
  • energy from ocean waves
  • geothermal energy
  • tidal energy

Although the latter is undoubtedly more sustainable, cleaner, and enables a more natural planet, there are still numerous obstacles in our way to using them as efficiently as fossil fuels.

In answer to the question posed in the introduction, the future will likely be about overcoming these obstacles and achieving sustainability. What is certain is that energy will always be one of humanity's (and the entire living world's) most important treasures.

Energy usage in modern times

The entire modern civilization is built around energy. We can only provide a complex answer to the question of what and how humans have obtained energy throughout history because each era has made different energy usage methods available.

However, to take another step forward, global cooperation and innovation are necessary, and we must not demonize outdated or less efficient energy sources. Fossil fuels are extremely important, so the solution is not to abandon them from one moment to the next, but rather to use them to facilitate a smoother transition.

We will provide more detailed information in the MET fYOUture section about how this will be accomplished, where we currently stand, and what dangers threaten us during the process.