|From Robert Hargraves book|
Thorium, Energy Cheaper Than Coal
Women and Energy
On Thursday, April 30, Howard Shaffer and I were guests of Bill Sayre on the Common Sense Radio program of WDEV. Near the end of the program, Bill asked me to comment on the role of energy in improving women's lives.
| Image from|
Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
In a poor country, there's not much room for education (or even time to rest quietly) in women's lives. When a country becomes richer, energy use goes up and women's lives improve.
(The chart above comes from Hargraves book: Thorium, Energy Cheaper Than Coal. I wrote more about that chart in my post that reviewed the book.)
Men and Energy, Starting with Ice
As I mentioned, I was on the program with Howard Shaffer. After I talked about women's lives, Shaffer spoke about men and energy. Before the use of fossil and nuclear energy, the world relied only upon renewables. In those days, a high percentage of men had very dangerous jobs.
Shaffer spoke specifically about an industry that grew in New England, until electricity became common: Ice Harvesting. Men would go out on the New England lakes in winter, cut ice and cart it into large ice houses, where it would be protected from the summer heat with straw. Later the ice was shipped to cities, where dairies, hospitals and restaurants used great quantities of ice to keep food and drugs cool. "Ice boxes" at home prevented food from rotting during the hot days of summer. Shipping lake ice from New England was big industry, though it had some competition from manufactured ice, usually made with ammonia. Needless to say, you didn't put lake ice in your drink, unless you wanted to get sick. Ice was only used for keeping things cold. You didn't eat it.
That industry ended as energy became more common and less expensive. The first home electric refrigerator was sold in 1913. This marked the beginning of the end of the lake ice trade of the 1800s.
Harvesting ice was dangerous work. It was probably not more dangerous than other occupations of the time (my husband's family were miners), but it was definitely hazardous. Men died harvesting ice.
But let's talk about something really dangerous. Log Drives.
Rumble rumble rumble….oh…that's just the log train going by….
|Log Drive near Sharon, VT|
Before logs were shipped by train, there were log drives on the river itself: the Connecticut River Log Drives. Logs were harvested, rolled down to the river, tied up into rafts, and poled and shoved down the river by "shantymen." The log drives on the Connecticut River started in about 1865, and only ended in 1918. Men guided the rafts. Men fended off log rafts that threatened the bridges. They frequently died at this work.
Railroads, whatever their problems, are much safer than log drives.
I first heard the song "The Jam at Jerry's Rock" when I was in high school. The version I heard was set in Canada. The version I have on this post is set in Michigan. Log drives were dangerous…all over.
It's a short song, and worth listening, in my opinion. If you go to YouTube, you can see comments on its history.
Men and Energy
As Shaffer pointed out, you can get ice from the local lakes and store it all summer. That's what men used to do, before electricity. The ice was limited in both usefulness and availability, and it cost men's lives.
Similarly, you can float logs down a river, or you can ship them by rail. Before abundant energy, the cost of shipping logs by water was considered cheap. It was paid in men's lives.
Abundant energy enables women to live healthier lives with less drudgery and more education. Abundant energy enables men to have jobs that allow them a better chance at living to an old age.
All hail to abundant energy! (And of course, nuclear is my favorite kind!)