First, a revolutionary transformation occurred in human use of energy. Until the nineteenth century, the energy basis of human society had been biomass energy, mainly the burning of wood to produce heat, plus human and animal muscle power. With Big Era Seven, the world entered the age of coal and steam power. The fossil fuel era had begun, and this is the era we still live in today. By the early nineteenth century, the joining of steam power enabled humans to massively multiply the energy generated from burning coal, thereby greatly expanding the amount of energy available to humans per capital, that is, to each individual. By 1914, petroleum, a second major fossil fuel, began to be widely used as well. Natural gas is the third important fossil fuel.
Second, first-time global population growth attended the fossil fuel revolution. In Big Era Seven the world's population more than doubled, definitively piercing the previous limits on growth.
In 1800, the global population stood at around 900 million, by itself a huge leap from the start of the previous era. By 1914, it stood at around 1.75 billion people. The great increase in human numbers is a sign that major changes were at work.
Third, an industrial transformation got under way. In the Industrial Revolution, humans-western Europeans at first-learned to exploit coal and steam energy to mass produce goods with machines and to sell them worldwide. The Industrial Revolution began with production of textiles and eventually spread to other areas of manufacturing, as well as to farming and food processing. In the later nineteenth century, industrialization occurred on a large scale in metallurgical, chemical, and electrical industries. Once begun, it could not be stopped. The Industrial Revolution greatly altered the distribution of wealth and poverty around...