By Jonas Odocha
The Biblical account of creation is a manifestation of the awesomeness of God, the Creator. It is indeed amazing that our environment is a complex co-existence of plants and animals, surroundings of land masses and bodies of water, intimidating mountains and deep valleys, and then the intricately embedded rocks and minerals.
Mother-nature has endowed mankind with all these gifts from above and instructed man to take dominion over all of them. The ability of man to utilise these resources has led to what we now refer to as growth and development, glorifying the handiwork of the Creator.
But there is a driving force behind the success of man, knowledge. The earliest known relative of modern man or wise man [homo sapiens] is believed to be Cro-Magnon man, who walked upright [homo erectus] unlike the ape-like man that walked on all fours [both 2 hands and 2 legs]. Cro-Magnon man has been described by anthropologists as having generated body heat to withstand inclement cold conditions by rubbing both palms of his hands together, the ensuing friction giving him enough heat to keep his body warm. It is also believed that his diet consisted mainly of vegetables, fruits and captured insects and rodents and birds which were eaten raw.
In the evolutionary trend of the development of man we are made to understand that Cro-Magnon man was followed by the more familiar-looking Stone-age man, whose nomenclature is linked to his ability to fashion stone tools for hunting animal prey.
It is interesting to learn that it was in the course of sharpening his stone implements that he encountered sparks of fire by accident. It is likely that these sparks must have raised some fire around him that he realized he could resort to fire as a means of providing warmth to keep his body protected and for the roasting of his insects, rodents and even nuts and all. This scenario is a rather simplistic way of describing how man evolved from eating raw food as other wild animals did, to cooking his own food for a better taste and for more nourishment. This in a nutshell explains how quality of life can be improved by using knowledge to harness what mother-nature has endowed mankind with.
Today advances made by mankind towards improvement of life and general wellbeing can be attributed to technology, which in turn derives from the knowledge base of man. The veritable tool that has driven technological advancement is credited to energy, which is tapped from some of these resources of mother-nature which when properly utilized generate power. But then these resources had been in existence since the creation of man. This only shows that as the knowledge base of man continues to improve so also does his capacity and capability to develop the resources within the confines of his environment.
Literature dating as far back as 450 BC describes the occurrence of seepages of a foul-smelling liquid in Carthage, the present-day Tunisia and some other parts of what we now call the Middle East. In Genesis 6: 13-14 we read as follows: “And God said unto Noah ….. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” These references to the foul-smelling liquid and the pitch Noah was instructed to use, they are all about the resource we now know as Petroleum today.
In ancient times the use of petroleum was mainly for medicinal purposes, as it was proclaimed to be a cure-all for any ailment then; ranging from external skin diseases to stomach aches and fevers. It was also used as a water-proofing material in its solid form of asphalt and bitumen, as illustrated in the instruction to Noah to use it in making the ark water-tight. There are illustrations of how crude oil [liquid petroleum] was hawked in the streets and markets in the 14th and 15th centuries in the continents of the world where these seeps of petroleum occurred. It is pertinent to note that as a young well-site geologist in the 70s we came across requests from some colleagues for samples of crude oil to take home to their relatives in the village. Our curiosity revealed that the villagers also believed in the potency of crude oil in curing all sorts of ailment including convulsion of babies and arthritis of the older people! As at today there are still people who can vouch for the potency and efficacy of this wonder-drug, petroleum.
Petroleum has remained the predominant source of energy since the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century when it displaced coal as the dominant resource. Its utilisation has continued to add value to the economic growth and development of nations because petroleum is more efficient and more environment-friendly than coal. The search for this resource has continued to be intensified and its exploitation has accelerated the industrialization of the world.
But all these have not occurred without some negative consequences to our finite environment; as we have since observed the negative impact of environmental degradation consequent upon our petroleum industry activities. In some instances the search for petroleum has led to the clearing of vegetation which may lead to deforestation and reduction of biodiversity. Production of the crude oil along transmission lines may be exposed to spillages which in turn pollute farmlands and water bodies, leading to loss of means of livelihood and insufficiency in clean potable water and concomitant ill-health.
These obvious challenges are however addressed through environmental impact assessment of the consequences of these activities and other environmental studies to reduce to the barest minimum the potential negative impact of these human activities. This journey thus far highlights how man has been able to utilize God-given resources for the growth and development of mankind. It is important that man must continue to add value to life and where there are challenges, must endeavour to overcome such. This is only possible as a result of our God-given wisdom and knowledge!
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