We live in a very interesting era. It is not without historical precedent, although it has its own unique aspects for at least two reasons - one not particularly important and the other much more so. The unimportant reason is the globalization of trade - trivial because in empires past trade was typically "global" in the sense of reaching all known parts of the world. The important reason is that the mines we plunder produce something of actual use and value, as opposed to being appreciated and sought after for its general rarity.
The Age of Oil.
Oil did not cause the industrial revolution - that was a matter of invention, and was driven easily by new ideas and water power. Steam produced by burning wood could have kept it moving forward, at least in terms of technical sophistication, if not in overall volume. It did not cause, and does not promote, our modern ideas about freedom, democracy, or even personal mobility. The only aspect of exploration it made possible (due to its concentrated energy) is that of outer space.
What oil has done is warped the "science" of economics. It has injected a steady, and steadily increasing, source of energy and wealth into many of the national precincts of the world.
Note: While I speak of oil only in this piece, please remember that I intend to mean the inclusion of all fossil fuels generally speaking - coal and natural gas being the two main others.
© Huw Powell