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Industrial revolution issue

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Esudeath, Jun 2, 2019.

  1. Esudeath

    Esudeath Dreamer

    I was thinking if my world were on the brink of a industrial revolution how would they do it. But then stopped because all I'm thinking about is how badly it's affected our own world.

    If you could make one that doesn't have an environmental affect. How would you do it?
  2. MrNybble

    MrNybble Troubadour


    Seriously, there is no perfect model to prevent any kind of disaster using real world rules. Any choice has a positive and negative effects. It's a balance game of how much is wanted verses how much it will cost. In fantasy it's all up to the writer to make a system believable without sounding absurd. Share more details about this industrial idea and we can help iron out the wrinkles together.
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  3. Esudeath

    Esudeath Dreamer

    Where this happening these people don't have magic like the rest of the world, it's their way of catching up I think. The person who is pushing this industry is a man making mass weapons against magic users. Then I was thinking about solar panels and how we use hydroelectric powers, I just wanna avoid that whole smog crap .
  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

    Maybe you can have some kind of magically created fuel source? That could also lead to some interesting discussions further on.
  5. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Sage

    Every technological innovation is going to have benefits and detractions, but, if your asking how to try for an industrial revolution that has *less* ecological impact than today...you're asking about how an industrial revolution could have happened without the discovery of oil. Well, sadly, it very nearly did.

    Most fuel and mechanical energy for eons was
    1. Fire via Charcoal 2. Physical Expenditure via human labor / beasts of burden 3. Gravity and Fluid Dynamics and 4. The wind. Things like gears, cogs, chains, levers, hinges, augers, pistons etc make the conversion of input to output more efficient and more powerful. Electricity was obviously the exponential evolution, but not sure if that's how far you want to get to in your WIP.

    First major innovations were fire via charcoal harnessing pressurized steam to convert into rotational (turbine) energy. In fact, most modern electrical generation plants still burn things to capture steam to power electromagnetic motor turbines. Nuclear plants do they same thing by splitting atoms instead of burning petrols, coal or wood. The name of the game is steam.

    Steam energy is one of the most efficient mechanical inventions ever devised. Regulating it is rather complicated, but that's what engineers are for. We have never stopped using it once realized. So, if your WIP wanted to make the great leap to steam engines and motors, think of a better, more ecologically friendly fuel source than coal, fossil fuels, and trees.

    If you could feasibly substitute trees and charcoal derived from them for another plant... maybe something that grows prolificly like bamboos, clumping grasses or sedges, canes, rushes, etc, then you aren't clearcut deforesting the planet simply for fuel to burn. Your fuel would instead be a subsector of agriculture [ yes, land gets cleared of trees for modern farming, but mass deforestation isn't strictly necessary].

    All charcoal is, is organic matter burned in a lower oxygen environment. The ancient Japanese were particularly efficient at making near industrial levels of charcoal. (If you hop on YouTube, search for a PBS series called "Japanology"+"Charcoal" it's really interesting and shows the ancient low-tech process to make it.)

    So, we've gotten your WIP to a point in your industrial revolution where you have charcoal. With sustainable sources, you can make things like smelting furnaces for metal production, crucibles, glassblowing, kilns and stoking fuels for water tanks to pressurize steam. There's a plethora of goods and economy derived from that, but let's go further.

    Next, the internal combustion (or compression) engine. That takes us to biofuels, ethanol and biodiesel. Henry Ford was originally planning his Model-Ts to run on it, until the first oil boom struck. Will it release emmissions? Yup. But not nearly as many, and water condensate is a by-product of diesel compression/combustion. We're back to agriculture. They key to finding a good ethanol biofuel is rather similar to the fermentation process for brewing beer. You want something that has enough sugars to feed bacteria and yeasts to ultimately produce the combustible fuel. In the U.S., they've turn to corn which IMHO is completely stupid. Why? Because corn is very taxing on the soil, a 'heavy feeder' and rapidly depletes the soil biome and nutrients while demanding a lot of water to grow... It's simply not sustainable under current argicultural models and practices; add in the litany of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and you have ecological devastation in short order. Fortunately, native clumping grasses through clinical trials have exceeded the current ethanol combustion standard (corn is also a grass, by the way) so what this means is a plant that doesn't destroy the soil biome, is more drought resistant, and requires little intervention from humans to thrive. Oh, and it is divisible and perennial unlike corn, which is a one-and-done annual.

    For biodiesel, you're looking for a crop that produces lots of 'fats' that can be refined into fuel.
    Corn and vegetable oils leap to the front of the list, but I would think hemp oils might make more sustainable contenders in the future. Any oil from plants, fruits, vegetables or nuts could technically be processed into biodiesel, but you have to consider the ROI. If your WIP found a way to collect and utilize all used vegetative fats and fat byproducts, you'd probably come out ahead.

    If you could imagine a fatty fruit where the fats are easy to extract, like an olive, that grew quickly, produced abundantly and could thrive in a wide range of habitat, you have found the perfect biofuel. Which, as an added bonus, means you can skip over kerosene and whale fats for portable lanterns. Isn't that a happy thought?

    Now, the other thing that might be worth exploring is biogas, like capturing methane. Which, if your peoples have managed to build pressurized systems for steam, they can probably manage condensing and storing gas to later burn for fuel. This might mean that compostables are a really big deal and a resource. Interestingly, collecting what would otherwise be valuable for growing crops [finished compost] to turn into gas harvesting might be a good source of conflict... do you want gas lights and engines, or do you want higher crop yields? I would think engineers could produce both, but current models use anaerobic digesters to break down wastes and finished compost takes a while to collect. Back to Youtube... try searching for the Home Biogas or go to about the 3 or 4 minute mark in this video

    Last, water quality and conservation. If you want to do an industrial revolution right, polluting the water would be unthinkable. So, most industries that rely on water might have massive filtration efforts to try and clean the water after use. This could also include biological efforts to improve surface water quality through the utilization of riparian and aquatic plants. But, this also means capturing and reusing gray water (not human or animal waste.) I imagine harvesting rainwater would be the norm.

    This also takes us into ideas like urban planning. To keep it short: the more trees and green spaces, the better.

    Lastly, because every good idea needs a "what if"...
    I believe that permaculture has the answers to these questions and scenarios, but some thoughts to consider: If you need land to grow crops to feed a population AND to grow biofuels, how much land gets earmarked for agricultural industry? In your WIP, perhaps a staple crop, like rice, feeds the people and the non-edible waste from the plant becomes processed for biofuels. You'll save some real estate... but what if there is a drought? A disease? Dry grains and fuels can be stored, but how long until it's in short supply? What if this same drought makes it difficult to find water suitable for steam mechanics? Do you die of thirst, or refill the water tank to keep the machines running? Do you siphon water from the machines to sustain yourself?

    Now, I didn't touch on electrical or solar innovations, as that is a very specific genie to let out of the bottle. But, the last thing to consider is how a lot of what we call 'green' and 'organic' technologies were the norm not too long ago. Something to think about is the consolidation of industires into monopolies and monsopolies *cough*StandardOil*cough*. A lot of the ideas I mentioned are VERY decentralized. If you're making fuel in your backyard, why would you buy any made by someone else or a company? Perhaps, it's who manufactures the equipment.

    With every solution, there's an opportunity for abuse and exploitation. You could go for a well-working, daresay utopic realization of self-sufficient regenerating resources, but most readers are going to expect some neverdowells and conflict to arise.

    IRL and my own WIP, I've been tackling questions like this for a long while. I hope I was able to get you pointed in the direction you were hoping to go. Happy Writing!
  6. Esudeath

    Esudeath Dreamer

    Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful in trying to figure our what route I want to go down.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Industry isn't the only human activity that has affected the environment. The whole discussion is rooted in a very human perception: there's Mankind and there's Nature. If you posit that humans are just another organism on the planet, then our activity is no different from any other species--think invasive plants. The discussion is also rooted in a notion that Nature is somehow in stasis--a natural state, which would "naturally" exist if only outside forces (which can only be ourselves) would leave well enough alone. That hypothesis is, at the very least, debatable.

    Pre-industrial cities had significant impact on the environment. Humans cut down whole forests; some even burned them down. We've *always* clawed away at the earth. We may very well have muddled about to the extent that the effects are now planet-wide; I think that's probably new, but adversely affecting the local environment is not at all new.

    I just wanted to add that perspective. Night Gardner did a fine job of sketching out an alternate path for the Industrial Revolution itself.

    One issue that jumped out at me was the use of steam at sea. Steam generally means a massive use of coal, which is problematic, and there has to be some sort of limit on how much fuel one could burn to sail the big oceans of the Pacific and Indian. This, in turn, is going to have a big effect on the growth of international trade. A steam-powered airplane is probably right out, and even less likely is steam-powered space flight. This is going to affect not only the growth of a global economy, it will also affect warfare. Magic can fix all that, of course.
  8. Nomadica

    Nomadica Troubadour

    Geothermal energy will solve this problem. Have your society live near a hot spring. Where I live now some of the electricity is produced that way
    Night Gardener likes this.
  9. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Sage

    In New Zealand nearly all our electricity is hydro-electric, geothermal or wind. We have hydro-electric dams that date from the 1880s that are still used.

    Coal and other fossil fuels were used in the English Industrial Revolution because they were readily available and cheap. Think of the sort of industries that may have emerged if hydro-electricity and wind power became the major sources of generating power rather than coal. Would copper, steel and iron production have developed the same way as in our world?

    Just a few ideas I tossed in.
    Night Gardener likes this.
  10. No matter what humans do, we will be impacting the environment. Solar farms light birds on fire, hydro electric dams hurt the snail darter and fish species and plant life that rely on a flowing river. Concentrations of people pollute water just by pooping. These are all things to keep in mind. I think the easiest sell, and one with interesting story implications, is to have a naturally occurring "magic" fuel source that will fuel industry.
  11. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    Primary nation (Solaria) on my primary world is undergoing an industrial revolution hat kind-of sort-of touches on this. Gets into the nature of the world itself.

    Several tens of thousands of years ago, the planet was a near lifeless ball of rock and water, apart from microorganisms. The 'ancient aliens' terraformed it, making the air breathable and importing advanced lifeforms, creating an ecosystem. They also imported primitive sapient races as servitors and test subjects, many of whom were organized into puppet states. To be useful, the denizens of these outposts needed manufacturing ability, and the aliens were loath to allow overmuch access to their super-tech.

    No coal - that's the result of long geological processes requiring millions of years. Some oil - from the ancient microorganisms - but not all that much. Two of the most obvious and potent means of generating heat for industrial activities off the table.

    Where possible, the aliens preferred biological or natural solutions. 'Chem-lights' made by mixing certain types of fungus with pulped bugs. Near miraculous medicinal plants. And for metal work - solar forges - smelting metals via focused sunlight (something known possible here for thousands of years and catching on big time) and 'fumar trees.' Fumar trees grow in 'contaminated' or 'metal rich' soils. They grow fast, reaching maturity (40 foot / 12 meter) height in a few decades. Pretty much quasi-metallic bark around a semi-solid syrupy core. Cut one way, a single fumar tree can burn hot enough and long enough to smelt metal for a day or more. Cut another, it can heat a modest house through a winter. Solar forges and fumar trees are how metal has been smelted on this world since the dawn times.

    It does pose some challenges for an industrial revolution: Solaria's massive fumar plantations were almost extinguished during the Traag War. True, they recovered in time, but fumar tree availability does put a crimp in going the steam-punk route. Solaria does find and make use of a couple oil deposits, but those are limited. Stationary engines can be fired via the solar concentrates, but that's a daylight thing. Essentially, they have to make the jump straight from 'experimental steam tech' to electric, with the juice coming from hydro-power and solar focusing devices, with fumar engines for backup.. Means steam engines and internal combustion engines are going to be scarce, little more than curiosities. Means going a 'grid' route from the outset. Been toying with the idea of a story or five set in this period.
    Esudeath likes this.

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