Sunday, December 1, 2013

Labor day 3, Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to some time between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power and the development of machine tools. It also included the change from wood and other bio-fuels to coal. It began in England and within a few decades had spread to Western Europe and the United States.
The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., "For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth ... Nothing remotely like this economic behavior is mentioned by the classical economists, even as a theoretical possibility." -Wikipedia

Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions, or in the distribution of weather around the average conditions (i.e., more or fewer extreme weather events). Climate change is caused by factors that include oceanic processes (such as oceanic circulation), biotic processes, variations in solar radiation received by Earth, plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions, and human-induced alterations of the natural world; these human-induced effects are currently causing global warming, and "climate change" is often used to describe human-specific impacts. -Wikipedia

“All sorts of dung and compost contain some matter which, when mixed with the soil, ferments therein; and by such ferment dissolves, crumbles, and divides the earth very much. This is the chief and almost only use of dung. ... This proves, that its (manure) use is not to nourish, but to dissolve, i.e., divide the terrestrial matter, which affords nourishment to the Mouths of vegetable roots.” -Jethro Tull being wrong about crap

   Humanity has benefited enormously from revolutions, and it seems now more than likely it will perish by one of them sometime in the near future (100 to 150 years). 
   The first large scale revolution our species experienced was the Agricultural Revolution, or Neolithic Revolution, wherein man (and woman), transitioned from the nomadic hunter/gatherer lifestyle that had prevailed for tens of thousands of years, into one which cultivated plants and animals, and were able to sustain larger, sedentary populations with the advent of villages and towns, around 12,000 years ago. With the advent of villages and towns (and later cities) hierarchical social structures emerged as various forms of government.
   Some say the next great revolution occurred during the Renaissance period roughly between the 14th through the 16th centurys. Inventions such as the the printing press, linear perspective in drawing, patent law, double shell domes (domes with double shells, like the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, in Florence, Italy) and Bastion fortresses (fortresses designed to resist cannon fire which was the new siege weapon of choice. The fortresses were very flat structures composed of many triangular bastions, specifically designed to cover each other, and a ditch, in order to counteract cannon balls). 
   The period of agricultural development in Britain between the 15th century and the end of the 19th century, which saw an increase in productivity and net output that broke the historical food scarcity cycles is sometimes called the British Agricultural Revolution (unfortunately this revolution did not carry over to Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845, that lasted until 1852, wherein approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated out, with the total population dropping approximately 25%, and is viewed today by a number of academics as a form of either direct or indirect genocide).
   For example, Jethro Tull (2nd picture above) invented the seed drill in 1701, the horse-drawn hoe, and an improved plough. He was educated at Oxford, England where he studied law, the  flute, acoustic and bass guitar, bouzouki, balalaika, saxophone, harmonica, and a variety of whistles. 
   Tull’s seed drill would sow seed in uniform rows and cover up the seed in the rows. Up to that point, sowing seeds was done by hand by scattering seeds on the ground, a method he considered  wasteful since many seeds did not take root. Tull was part of a group of farmers who founded the Norfolk system, an early attempt to apply science to farming. 
   Modern manufacturing began with steam engines replacing animal labor. The 18th century saw the widespread replacement of manual labor by new inventions and machinery.
   The British Agricultural Revolution coincided with the First Industrial Revolution which began in England around 1760 (lasting until some time between 1820 and 1840), with the advent of the water powered cheese straightener. Up until that time cheese had to be straightened manually, taking thousands of man hours to produce a gross mass of straight Cornish Yarg.   
   In 1764, an uneducated  British carpenter and weaver named James Hargreaves invented a spinning jenny, a hand-powered multiple spinning machine that was the first device to improve upon the spinning wheel (the spinning wheel is an ancient invention that turned plant and animal fibers into thread or yarn, which were then woven into cloth on a loom). Within a relatively short time period inventions such as the flying shuttle, spinning frame, and cotton gin appeared. These inventions facilitated the handling of large quantities of harvested cotton.
   It is interesting to note that these inventions of course facilitated a greater demand for cotton. In the United States the increased need for cotton also increased the need for labor to harvest said cotton, which at the time was produced mainly in the South, which utilized slaves to harvest the raw material. The northern United States and European countries banned slavery and attempted to force the southern states to do so as well. On March 25th, 1807 the United Kingdom abolished the slave trade, but it wasn’t until the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 that slavery itself was abolished in Britain. The British actively patrolled the seas off the coast of Africa with it’s navy in order to apprehend now illegal slave ships, effectively ending the trade. Yet as in Great Britain, slavery itself did not end. Ironically as the textile industry in the North drastically increased due to more efficient production methods, the demand for raw products such as cotton increased, meaning an increase in the South's demand for more slave labor as noted above. This increase of  industry utilizing slave labor allowed the United States to become a world power in commerce and bolstered it’s own economy, at the same time making it harder for the North to end slavery in the South (today cotton is harvested with the use of mechanical cotton pickers developed in the 1940s). This conflict between the North and South of the country was not resolved until May 10th, 1865, when the American Civil War was declared to have ended, and the adoption  of the 13th Amendment on December 6th, 1865 (watch Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”), which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude (except as punishment for a crime).
   This situation is exceptionally analogous to our country’s present day dependence on fossil fuels in relation to global warming. 
   The Republican party typically champions the continued use of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) and ridicule those who promote so-called “green,” clean(er), renewable energy sources  (wind, solar, rain, tides, waves and biomass, hydroelectricity, and geothermal heat) in the face of  the continuing threat of human caused global warming. The Republican party is the party of climate change denial.  
   The Democratic party (yes Republicans, it’s the “Democratic Party” not the democrat party. There is no such thing as a democrat party, and it makes me cringe every time I hear a Democrat fall into the republican trap and call themselves a member of the democrat party. As a matter of fact, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and we democrats should start labeling the republicans as members of the “Republican Asshole Party,” or the Republican Sociopath Party,” or is that being too harsh? I don’t wish to be criticized like MSNBC host Martin Bashir, who prompted by Sarah Palin making an idiotic comparison of public debt to slavery, recounted how slave overseer Thomas Thistlewood once punished a slave who’d been caught “eating canes,” by requiring another slave to defecate into the mouth of the transgressor. He said, “When Ms. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance, she confirms that if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, then she would be the outstanding candidate.” So am I being too harsh as well... Yes! And delightedly so.”) typically accepts 98% of the scientific communities assertion that human caused climate change is real and needs to be dealt with to mitigate dire, irreversible, catastrophic consequences to future generations, mainly be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the adoption of renewable energy sources.   
   Yet both parties are currently addicted to large amounts of money in the form of legal bribes, in the form of campaign contributions, and now after some unfortunate decisions handed down recently by the Supreme Court (Citizen’s United, being one of them) are susceptible to threats from individuals and organizations who extort politicians with primary election challenges, as they can inject huge amounts of money into their opponents campaigns unless these politicians bend to their will.
   The result being that if Democrats sincerely wished to reduce green houses gas pollution of our atmosphere they are unable to do so due to pressure placed upon them by oil and gas producers, our economy being dependent on fossil fuel consumption, with any attempt at fundamental change being extremely difficult due to cultural inertia and cost, and the continued abundance of fossil fuels (although their extraction has become increasingly difficult and environmentally hazardous) .  
   In other words, as our energy needs increase, so will our dependence on fossil fuels, making the reduction of fossil fuel use more and more difficult, similar to the situation our ancestors faced with the use of slave labor before the Civil War. 
   Not to get off point further than I already have, here’s something for our Young Earth Creationists. Fossil fuels are fuels formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition (anaerobic digestion is a collection of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen) of buried dead organisms (including phytoplankton and zooplankton). The age of the organisms and their resulting fossil fuels is typically millions of years, and sometimes exceeds 650 million years.  These organisms settled to the sea (or lake) bottom (because they had died) in large quantities under anoxic conditions (depleted of dissolved oxygen), millions of years ago. Over geological time (millions or billions of years), this organic matter, mixed with mud, got buried under heavy layers of sediment (dirt). The resulting high levels of heat and pressure caused the organic matter to chemically alter, first into a waxy material known as kerogen which is found in oil shales, which Canada is currently trying to get rid of, and then with more heat into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons in a process known as catagenesis, which results in the formation of natural gas (mostly methane), coal, and petroleum. Fossil fuels are a nonrenewable resource because they cannot be replenished on a human time frame. This means two consequential things. It takes over 10,000 years to make the fossil fuels we depend on so much today. If the Earth and the universe were indeed only 6,500 to 10,000 years old, or thereabouts, we wouldn’t have any oil, or the gasoline which is derived from oil, or natural gas or coal, and we probably wouldn’t be experiencing the dramatic climate changes that we currently are experiencing, because we wouldn’t have released huge quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which is a major cause of climate change, or global warming. So in one sense it is indeed a pity that God didn’t create our world recently, thereby avoiding the effect of human caused catastrophic climate change.
   Yet there does remain the argument that some might make, which is that God could have created the world, the Earth and the universe, to make it look like the Earth and the Universe were much older than it really was. I mean God is capable of all things, and we all know what a practical joker he can be at times (floods, plagues, avocado pits, and so on).
   The second consequential thing that results from fossil fuels not being a renewable energy source is that they are finite, and one day will inevitably run out.
   This indeed will happen someday. We are by necessity already having to devise ways to extract fossil fuels using more hazardous and complicated techniques (deep sea, shale refining) because reserves are diminishing.
   Anyway, the Industrial Revolution required an increasing need for energy which was met mainly by burning coal, and other sources including whale oil. The discovery that kerosene could be extracted from crude oil increased the demand for crude oil as kerosene was used as a heat and light source. By the twentieth century petroleum had become the most valuable commodity traded on the world market, as it remains today.
   The Industrial Revolution is marked by the production and utilization of a variety of inventions, such as the first reliable steam engine invented by James Watt in 1775, the  first commercially successful steamboat invented by Robert Fulton in 1807, the telegraph, invented by painter turned inventor Samuel F. B. Morse in 1836 (and probably of greater modern practical importance, the forerunner to the modern International Morse Code).
   The first modern mechanical cotton gin was created by the American inventor Eli Whitney in 1793, and patented in 1794. It used a combination of a wire screen and small wire hooks to pull the cotton through, while brushes continuously removed the loose cotton lint to prevent jams. Whitney's gin revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States, but also, as we’ve noted above, led to the growth of slavery in the American South.
   Whitney is also famous for his advocacy of interchangeable parts (components that are, for practical purposes, identical, allowing easy and quick assembly of devices, easy repair of existing devices, while minimizing both the time and skill required of the person doing the assembly or repair, which in turn led to the concept of the assembly line (a manufacturing process in which parts (usually interchangeable) are added to a product in a sequential manner to create a finished product much faster than with hand-crafted methods).
   The Industrial Revolution set the stage for the advent of further inventions such as the sewing machine (invented by Elias Howe in 1844, and from which my maternal grandmother would spend a good part of her life using), the transatlantic cable (invented by Cyrus Field in 1866), the forerunner to the modern iPhone... the telephone (invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876), the forerunner to the modern Ipod... the phonograph (invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, and in order to see that iPod... I mean phonograph in the dark he invented the incandescent light bulb two years later. He was always an overachiever, that Edison), the induction electric motor (invented by Nikola Tesla (who can be seen in the film “The Prestige," via David Bowie) in 1888), the diesel engine (coincidentally invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1893), the airplane (invented by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903), and the Model T Ford (the first affordable automobile invented by Henry Ford in 1908, which was perfected by Ford’s utilization of the modern automated assembly line in 1913).
   There were lots of other inventions as well during this time period. And discoveries.
   In 1824 the French physicist Sadi Carnot published “Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire,” which historically established the thermodynamic principle which eventually became the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
   As any 4th grader knows the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the entropy (entropy is a measure of the number of specific ways in which a thermodynamic system may be arranged, often taken to be a measure of disorder, or a measure of progressing towards thermodynamic equilibrium, (like a refrigerator that is switched off. The temperature inside will eventually equalize with the temperature outside, increasing it’s total entropy)) of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems spontaneously evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium—the state of maximum entropy.
   And a system that is in thermodynamic equilibrium experiences no changes when it is isolated, in other words, the energy in the universe is gradually moving towards disorder.
   Carnot posited that the inefficiencies that are built into any system using energy can be described thermodynamically. This wasted energy means that the overall disorder of the universe,  its total entropy, will increase over time but at some point reach a maximum. At that moment in the far distant future, the energy in the entire universe will be evenly distributed and so, for all intents and purposes, will be useless. Cosmologists call this the “heat death” of the universe, an inevitable consequence of the unstoppable march of entropy (unless of course another universe pops up close to ours due to the inherent instability of our universe attributed to newly discovered  properties of the Higgs boson particle), and so the ultimate demise of everything was discovered in the midst of the Industrial Revolution.
   The factory system was a method of manufacturing first adopted in England at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 1750s which later spread throughout the world. This system replaced the putting-out system (a means of subcontracting work, also known as the workshop system and the domestic system). The main characteristic of the factory system was the use of machinery, originally powered by hamsters, water, or steam and later by electricity.   
   Some of the characteristics of the factory system include, a fundamental change from specialized labor to mechanized labor, factories produced their products on a much larger scale than the putting out or crafts systems (referred to as Economies of Scale), a reduction of total manpower used per unit of product, access to available transportation modes, workers and machines were brought together in a central factory building or buildings specially designed to handle the machinery and flow of materials... on and on.
   I once worked in a factory making transformers, which as any 4th grader knows, are static electrical devices that transfer energy by inductive coupling between its winding circuits. 
   I spent 8 hours a day either winding the little devils (I made small transformers, some are huge. Winding consisted of taping a specified gauge wire to a plastic core which was mounted on a spindle device which rotated the core which allowed me to wind the wire onto the core a specified amount of times, in flat layers) or laminating them (lamination consisted of placing interlocking sheets of metal through the wound core and around it which induced an electrical current... I think). 
   The job was fairly (very) repetitive, quite often requiring the worker (me)  to do the same thing throughout the entire day, or days, depending on how large the order was for a certain type of transformer. The job was okay at the time (I was around 18). I didn’t have to think much. I could smoke cigarettes while working (this was around 1973 when tyrannical smoking laws within the workplace were a thing of the future). I had friends nearby who I could talk to... some were girls. 
   I was not a member of a union, and didn’t make a whole lot of money, and had no workplace protections, and no benefits like health insurance. 
   But I never felt I was being abused while working there. 
   With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of the factory system, the exploitation of workers became endemic. 
   Professor Jane Humphries of Oxford, found that child labor was much more common and economically important during the Industrial Revolution than previously thought. Her estimates suggest that, by the early 19th century, England had more than a million child workers, accounting for 15 per cent of the total labor force.
   The Industrial Revolution was in part fueled by the economic necessity of many women who needed to find work outside of their home. For some, the Industrial Revolution provided independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living. For the majority, however, factory work in the early years of the 19th century resulted in a life of hardship.
   The working conditions in factories were miserable and harsh. Workers were often forced to work 12 to 14 hour shifts. It wasn’t uncommon that children as young as four to five years old were put to work in factories. 
   The factories, relying on coal to heat water to generate steam power for machines, caused a great deal of pollution, often blanketing entire towns in a thick layer of what we now call smog.  
   Factory owners built housing for workers but it was often overcrowded and as harsh and miserable as the factories themselves. 
   Soon cities such as London were overflowing with people who were drawn by the work to be found in factories. By 1851 half of the British population resided in London.
   A forerunner to unions, and The Fair Labor Standards Act in the United States, Factory Acts enacted by the British Parliament regulated the number of hours men, women and children could work. Imagine that happening in the present day United States. Republicans in Congress would rather gnaw off their own leg rather than increase benefits for the average worker (historically they are against any increases in the national minimum wage, and new laws are being introduced right now to deny payment for overtime work, and the reintroduction of child labor. Republicans given unlimited power, would negate all of the advances that have been hard won since the 1700s). 
   British workers dissatisfied with the social injustices of factory life quickly realized that there was great “strength in numbers.” Eventually these groups of workers began to rally and organize... organize themselves into officially recognized unions. The power of these trade unions increased over time, providing a strong and dedicated voice for the working class, in comparison to a government which may or may not have their best interests at heart. 
   In the concluding post to this series we’ll take a look at these unions, and the state of our national economy.

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