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About pollution, wood and others in England in 1833 and 1847

Below Carbon Credit Markets selected a few quotes that appear in the book “The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson”, a collection of speeches and essays of this American philosopher who lived in the 19th Century. It includes a very interesting testimony about his visits to England in 1833 and 1847. Here they are.

About productivity

"The power of machinery in Great Britain, in mills, has been computed to be equal to 600,000,000 men, one man being able by the aid of steam to do the work which required two hundred and fifty men to accomplish fifty years ago.”

About the size of the global population

"The British Empire is reckoned to contain (in 1848) 222,000,000 souls - perhaps a fifth of the population of the globe ... Perhaps forty of these millions are of British stock ..."

About natural resources

“Then England has all the materials of a working country except wood. The constant rain - a rain with every tide, in some parts of the island - keeps its multitude of rivers full and brings agricultural production up to the highest point. It has plenty of water, of stone, of potter's clay, of coal, of salt and of iron."

About the environment and polution

“The only drawback on this industrial conveniency is the darkness of its sky. The night and day are too nearly of a color. It strains the eyes to read and to write. Add the coal smoke. In the manufacturing towns, the fine soot or blacks darken the day, give white sheep the color of black sheep, discolor the human saliva, contaminate the air, poison many plants and corrode the monuments and buildings. The London fog aggravates the distempers of the sky, and sometimes justify the epigram on the climate by an English wit "in a fine day, looking up a chimney, in a foul day, looking down one."

To put these quotes into perspective, consider the following:

  • the world's first oil well was drilled in 1859 in United States, i.e. after Emerson’s visits to England.

  • the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at that time was around 260 ppm. Current concentration is about 415 ppm.

  • as Emerson indicated, the global population then was estimated about 1,1 billion people. Around 1950, it reached 2 billion. And a few weeks ago, 8 billion. This means that the World population multiplied by 8 in the last 190 years.

Think if one of the items below also increased by 8 in the last 190 years:

  • the water availability ?

  • the speed of the water cycle, also called hydrologic cycle ?

  • the number of trees, or wood as quoted above ?

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Click on the image below to download some slides about this post.

20221126 Carbon Credit Markets & Ralph Waldo Emerson
Download PDF • 6.36MB


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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