In the 260 years since the start of the First Industrial Revolution, our world has changed dramatically. Of course, significant shifts took place in the centuries prior, but the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries brought with them such massive and rapid transformation as to alter humanity and our planet forever.
Machines replaced manual methods in almost every industry. New energy sources, such as coal, steam, electricity and petroleum, became commonplace. Factories sprung up overnight. Mass urbanisation led to the rise of some of the world’s largest cities. Global population growth became exponential.
The impact wrought on the planet as a result of these changes, and the many that have come since, was and continues to be immense. We have exploited our natural resources to the detriment of the environment; polluted our land, water and air; irrevocably contributed to climate change; and established huge disparities between people, both economically and socially. We have created a world that, in almost every respect, is unsustainable.
As we look to the future, it is clear that we need to use the advances of the latest industrial revolution, 4IR, to create a healthier, more sustainable earth. But how do we go about this Herculean task? The pages that follow may offer a glimpse.