The painting in the middle of the exhibit is by J.M. William Turner (1775 - 1851) (Cat. Nr. 5). It is said to represent the end of England as a naval superpower: the Fighting Temeraire, a ship that had a decisive role in the battle of Trafalgar, is tugged away to be broken up. The painting is also said to represent the old age of the painter himself. Less known is the view that the painting represents the industrial revolution; the transition from a world based on handwork, wood and wind energy, towards a world of coal and steel, machines and smoke.
Burning fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas, gives us energy much in excess of what is needed to mine them. We use that excess energy to build houses, roads and cities, and to drive cars, fly airplanes, etc. This has undoubtedly lead to an enhancement of our quality of life. However the use, handling and spilling of fossil fuels leads to pollution of land and sea. Burning them leads to the emissions of pollutants in the atmosphere with acid rain and climate change as consequences. Securing their sources makes to world less safe. The costs to society of using fossil fuels have become significant, possibly threathening Man and the Planet itself.
It is now clear that humans have a power over the Planet which is similar to that of the natural cataclysims that have lead to the mass extinctions in pre-historic times. It therefore makes sense to call our times the Anthropocene: the epoch of the Anthropos, of Man. An epoch that might have already started with human’s cognitive revolution (50.000 yrs ago), or with the agricultural revolution (10.000 yrs ago), bur for sure with the industrial revoltion and its global impact on the environment and society.
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