Alternative History

The Environment, in a broad sense, is the combination of Earth's lifeforms, resources, relief and climate. This includes, but is not limited to: plants, animals, minerals, water, atmosphere, plate tectonics and the position of everything relative to humanity. Human effects on the environment, termed anthropogenic effects, are major factor in the evolution of the life and geography of the planet. The ability of people to transform their world both deliberately and accidentally is astounding. The prosperity and preservation of the environment has become the duty of human beings to manage ever since their industrial power allowed them to shape continents and modify the atmosphere.

The natural path of the Earth was maintained for billions of years, chaotically shifting from a burning rock to a tropical paradise to an Ice Age and back and forth between the latter two. Until the 20th century, natural forces determined the length and form of these shifts but the last ice age saw the emergence of an intelligence that has come to mold the planet to its own wishes, as diverse and conflicting as those are. This page outlines the reciprocal influences of humans and their environment, including natural resources, biospheres, terraforming, disasters and the broader context of human activity.

Natural Resources[]

Hydrocarbon Fuels[]

The two primary organic compounds that were extracted from the earth human use are petroleum and natural gas. 4000 years ago crude oil was used for the first time by the Babylonians in the creation of asphalt and the fuel for oil lamps. This usage expanded to other civilizations and by the time of the Empire in Rome, the province of Dacia had become the main producer of what the Romans called Picula. The main use for picula at the start of the Roman Empire was for lighting, which the rich made extensive use of, and for the production of their own version of asphalt ( asphaltum), which they hardly made.

From the IVth century onwards, the Chinese drilled the first "oil wells", making it easier to remove oil to burn in order to evaporate brine for salt. By the 1000's and 1100's, petroleum (Shíyóu) was in extensive use by the upper class in Asia and the market for the exploitation of this resource, as well as natural gas, was an extremely lucrative one. In the Middle East, oil was even more important than it was to the Babylonians, and was being extracted in the gallons by Arabs to make the highly flammable compound naphta. The naphta market with Rome was highly lucrative from the VIth to XIth centuries, particularly during the Imperial Civil War. Unbeknown to the Arabs, the naphta that was sold to the Romans found a use in a weapon called Greek Fire, and it was a required ingredient in the long range "jet" version of the device.

The components for Greek Fire were a closely guarded secret for centuries, though historians now know that its primary ingredients were crude oil and several of the substances that could be produced from it, such as naphtha. Following the improvement of the technology in 647, its use became even more widespread by both the Navy and the National Guard. Eventually the Arabs/Turks discovered the secret of Greek Fire, in exchange for lifting trade embargoes with the Roman Empire, but even then petroleum could be extracted in as large a quantity as was necessary.

In Columbia, the Mayans discovered crude oil in 777, and characteristic of their ingenuity they immediately developed a use for it. Within only a few years it was being used for lighting in the homes of the rich and in the temples, and the government quickly developed the technique of extracting the substance with wells. By the 850's, per capita use of petroleum by the Mayans exceeded the Chinese, and a vast infrastructure of pipes had been built to transport the resource as it was exploited. The next nation after the Conglomerate and Rome that built pipelines for oil was Japan. It used them to transport its meager natural gas reserves for use in salt extraction from brine and of course in lighting. The Romans had only built theirs in the Balkans, where they were used to transport petroleum to the coast for use with the Greek Fire weapon. Extra crude oil taken to the coast was loaded up in ships for circulation around the Empire for commercial use.

In 1242 the Turks ramped up production suddenly after a prominent middle-class merchant popularized kerosene lamps in shops when he started keeping his stores open all day and all night with the use of that technology. Within 12 years, nearly every major shop in the Muslim world was using cheap kerosene lamps to stay open later, and people were already starting to use it in their homes as well. Back in the Conglomerate, the Mayans had already discovered kerosene in 940 (albeit a century after the Muslims) and were already putting it to heavy use in the public sector within a few years. All army generals used kerosene lamps to light their tents and in 1074 the first kerosene street lamps came into use in the city of Teotihuacan. These street lamps, which greatly resemble the ones in use by the Mayans today, were small aesthetic stone columns just about a meter tall. A gas chamber below was filled before it got dark and expended over the course of the night. Glass covers prevented people from touching the flame, unless they tried really hard to get around them.

In old world oil lamps started to rise in popularity following the age of Mongol conquests, and per capita use in Asia was reaching around an 8th of a liter per day. By the year 1600, this had risen in Asia to a quarter of a liter, and in the Conglomerate to half a liter. Coal, another hydrocarbon material, was also in common use throughout history, especially in Europe and China. Although it was rather useless for lighting, the invention of tube heating (central heating) by the Romans in the 700's made coal an important commodity throughout the Empire's northernmost provinces. The technology for central heating eventually spread East in the 900's, but wasn't used in the Mayan Conglomerate until modern times.

The invention of the Mayan steam engine in 1412 created the most distinctly practical use of fossil fuels yet. Although the first steam engine was not used for anything other than study until 1419, oil production was already increasing in anticipation of the new technology. Eventually it found use in small scale rail transportation, but it was not until 1478 that it came into use in industrial production. Two years later, the first steam powered train ferried goods from the coastline to Chichen Itza, a distance of less than 100 km. Middle-sized railways like this one were built between 1480 and 1543, at which point the first long-distance railway was completed, connecting the Mayan capital of Teotihuacan and the industrial center of Mayapan.

Railway construction continued until the last major State was connected in 1586. For the next 100 years the Mayans improved the technology, allowing it to work efficiently with any flammable material and inventing the first steam-powered personal vehicle. Victory over the Mayans in the First World War brought steam technology into the hands of the Khmer, Inca, Romans and Japanese and although the latter two never made large scale use of it, the Inca and the Khmer underwent industrial revolutions of their own throughout the mid to late XVIIIth Century. The Inca Empire for instance completed its own railway network in 1759 and the Khmer completed theirs in 1783. By the turn of the century global oil production had nearly reached 95 million liters per day, half of which was being produced in the Mayan Conglomerate.

Industrialization eventually arrived in other nations, reaching the Ottomans (1791), the Danes (1829) the Muscovites (1844), the Zulus (1857), the Mongols (1864) and finally the native Columbians (1889). By the year 1900, oil production around the world was peaking at 4 billion liters per day, or approximately 50% of OTL production in the 2000's. The major differences here were that both the Romans and the Japanese were exclusively using electricity and renewable sources where other nations used fossil fuels, and even half of electricity production in the Conglomerate was generated from renewable sources.

In modern society, oil and coal consumption has been on the decline. Only the UCC, Khmer, Vinland and Zulus still use fuels to power their vehicles, whilst only those same nations, in addition to the Mongols and the Danes, make use of fossil fuels in the production of electricity in power plants. Currently, consumption sits at 2 billion liters per day and is going down by about 2% per year due to Roman efforts to reduce the need for its use in the former Platonist countries. Major oil producers are the Mongols, the Mayans, the Ottomans and the UCC and although the Ottomans and the Conglomerate have virtually exhausted their reserves, the Mongols and especially the Columbians can most likely continue producing with no worry for at lest the next century.

Another major producer, accounting for about 23% of global production, is the Roman Empire. Although they use none of what they produce for their own fuel needs, about half is exported internationally. The other half is used in chemical processes to produce plastics, sulphur and other materials. Unlike every other nation, three-quarters or so of Rome's production is not derived from natural exploitation of resources but instead from a technology they developed that converts carbon gases in the atmosphere into hydrocarbons. This is part of their effort to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. Roman scientists have found a positive correlation between global temperature and these gases, and have also taken note of their poisonous effect on people over long periods of time.

Mineral Deposits[]

Industrial resources are minerals that are required to sustain a national economy, and nearly all resources of this type are metals. The amount of metals that a country has access to depends on two things, its stock of metallic resources and the amount of metals that it can extract over any given period of time. A countries stock of metals comes from any that it may have in storage, usually valuable metals like gold and silver, and any which it has currently in use, such as the iron in swords or the lead in bullets. Usually though it is the income of metal resources that matters most to an economy, and this is completely dependent on its access to mineral deposits and its ability to exploit these deposits through mines. The geographic location and size of a nation was therefore very important in determining how much of these resources they could have access to.

The civilizations of West Africa for instance, particularly the Mali Civilization (a rich Christian kingdom), existed on top of rich deposits of gold. The same thing went for the Axum Civilization, and so for the few centuries which they existed (1230-1500 and -100-550 respectively) they were powerful trading empires that grew wealthy from trade with Rome. Ultimately this wealth was their undoing as although it bolstered their economies it didn't do enough in the way of improving their ability to defend themselves and they were easily conquered by the foreign powers of the Mayans and the Romans.

Iron on the other hand was, and still is, an important mineral for military and industrial purposes. Civilizations with a large access to iron were usually the most well-off nations in the event of war, and this is the case even in modern times. Iron, and eventually its derivative steel were used to make weapons, vehicles and armor for war and vital tools and kitchenware for the population, vastly improving their productivity per capita. Two early civilizations which prove the importance of iron, or at least industrial metals (ie copper, zinc, tin) were the Mayans in Central Columbia and the Bantu of Middle Africa. Since non of their neighbors understand more than the simple metallurgy required to process gold or silver, they completed dominated their home region, and now Bantu and Mayan Nahuatl are the most widely spoken languages on their respective continents (next to Latin of course).

The power of the Roman Empire especially was influenced by metallurgical prowess. Since the IInd Century the Romans have owned virtually all of Europe and North Africa, a larger and richer area than almost any contemporary state. The writer Pliny the Elder once noted how widely used iron was used to help "construct houses, cleave rocks, and perform so many other useful offices of life" in the Roman Empire. The iron mines in Noricum were especially well known in the early Empire as they were mined in order to make primitive steel weapons. Eventually the great scientist Archaedavincus invented a new method of producing iron weaponry and inadvertently discovered a process for making high-quality steel. As only the far off Indians had steel of such high quality, this gave the Romans a huge advantage in both war and commerce.

When the Mongols emerged as the victors in their war against Song China, they found themselves in possession of all of China's great resources. Ghenghis' successor Gur-gri Khan worked hard to improve Yuan China's industry, expanding upon currently existing mines and building roads to ease the transport of goods and commodities in his empire. The enormous inflow of metals from these projects allowed his own successors to prosper, despite failed invasions of Japan and unsuccessful wars in Indochina against the Khmer. Many historians attribute the success of the Mongol Empire to its focus on industrial development, thereby allowing it to support its sedentary populace and nomadic armies both at once.

Currently, the two largest extractors of iron ore are the Mongols and the Romans, who process 1.3 and 2.5 billion metric tons of terrestrial ore per year, well over 10 times more than any other nation on the planet. Copper production on the other hand is much more evenly distributed, as the top three producers are the Inca, Maya and Mongols, at 8.5 million, 2.9 million and 1.1 million tons of copper produced each year. The next leading producers of copper are Rome at 0.9 million tons from terrestrial ore and the Khmer with virtually the same quantity. Aluminum, a metal which has only been a significant resource for the past 250 years, is another unevenly distributed resource. The Romans and Mongols, who produce 8.2 and 11.5 million tons per year respectively are well above their nearest rivals, the Mayans and Columbians, who both hold production rates around 3.5 million tons every year. Lastly, gold production is a heavily contested international field, with most nations holding a roughly equal position. The Zulus currently have the lead with 650 tons per year, but the Mayans, the Romans and the Mongols are all close behind with roughly 500 tons per year each. After them come the Inca at 400 tons and then the Khmer at roughly 200 tons. Historically speaking though, the Inca and Mayans were leading the world by several strides until the 1800's. Public buildings of both civilizations are characterized by overuse of gold and silver in their construction, a prime example of this being the Tower of Ahau, which has its entire exterior fully gold-plated.

Recently though, the Romans have "theoretically" advanced well above other nations when it comes to the mining of metal resources. Since the 1970's they have been exploiting asteroids in outer space to exponentially increase their mining capacity. Unfortunately for them, that big of an increase in the supply for those commodities would terminally crash their respective markets, bringing the prices of iron, copper, silicon and even gold down to astronomically low levels. The Roman government has therefore been required to limit not only the amount of each metal that is brought onto Earth's markets but also the knowledge of the amount that they are mining in space as well. Therefore, the below numbers on annual space mining production are unknown to anyone except for the people in charge of the process.

Annual production figures of 1999:

  • Iron : 24,000,000,000 tons
  • Nickel : 8,400,000,000 tons
  • Silicon : 900,000,000 tons
  • Aluminum : 500,000,000 tons
  • Titanium : 420,000,000 tons
  • Manganese : 150,000,000 tons
  • Magnesium : 1,400,000 tons
  • Cobalt : 200,000 tons
  • Silver : 190,000 tons
  • Gold : 90,000 tons
  • Platinum : 50,000 tons

As you may have noticed, these values are well above the aggregate figures for worldwide production of those metals. Even their production of iron is ten times the amount that their rivals the Mongol Empire are producing through their efforts on Earth. The values for platinum are even more impressive as the annual production constitutes more of that mineral than had even been mined in all of human history up to the late-1900's.