The Economic Environment

heat, energy, life, force, light, human, physical and muscular

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A few of the forms in which physical energy appears are of sufficient importance to justify a fuller examination of their relation to human welfare.

Heat may be regarded as the primary reqni site of plant and animal life. Not only is heat an absolute condition of such animal and vege table life as we know, but it would seem to be essential that we receive almost precisely that amount of it which we do A few de grees in excess of highest summer heat would destroy vegetation over a large part of the earth, and a few degrees less than our winter tempera ture would render a still larger part uninhabi table. The sun's heat is used directly in count less processes of agriculture and manufacture ; it is an element in the formation of winds and ocean currents ; and by raising water from the oceans in the form of vapor it permits the circu lation through the continents. Stored up in beds of coal it becomes one of the most highly prized agents of industry, and again, in its more direct form, it is the source not only of that high degree of physical vigor which is essential to human enjoyment, but of life itself.

Light, like heat, is indispensable, and as in the case of heat, the chief supply of our globe is from the sun. We may, perhaps, conceive a society existing without light, but its activity would be very different from our own. Almost the whole of our work presupposes sight on the part of those who direct and perform it. With out light, dangers to life would be multiplied, 1 Shaler, Interpretation of Nature, p. 66.

and countless sources of enjoyment would be destroyed. The dependence of human welfare upon the continued presence of a certain amount of energy in the form of light is therefore obvi ous. But it would be difficult to obtain a full measure of its contribution to our economic life. Color is as important in industry as in art, and both art and industry fall within the field of economics in so far as they contribute to human welfare. A faint illustration of the extent to which light enters into the environment may be found in the economy of time and labor result ing from the use of books and newspapers.

Gravitation is a third form of energy which demands special attention. No force is more familiar in the mechanical processes of every day life, and it is all-pervasive. We rely upon it for the weight of the hammer, for the flow of water, and for the stability of objects when placed in position. Gravitation holds ships and railway trains in their courses. It draws the ripened seed and the withered leaf to the ground, and causes the circulation of air and of water for which preparation has been made by the action of heat. Because of its very familiar

ity it is easy to underestimate the important part which this silent force plays in the life of man.

Among the various forms of physical energy, muscular force, and especially that exerted by human beings, has usually been assigned an unique place in economic texts. For certain branches of our discussion it will be of advan tage to distinguish, in the total energy expended in any given industrial activity, that part which may be attributed to man's labor ; but for our present purpose it will be simpler and entirely accurate to regard muscular force as one among many forms of energy, all of which, like muscu lar force, even if not in the same degree, are under human direction. Muscular force may be regarded as the highest form of physical energy, for the reason that the relation between the directive will and the energy to be controlled is here most immediate. It is not necessary to invent intermediate mechanism or device, or even, in many of the muscular processes, to make conscious calculation of means and methods. Action follows will with incredible swiftness. The natural force which has been generated in muscular tissue is nevertheless a product of other forces. It has a natural origin in the food by which man is nourished, the heat and light, and the biologic forces upon which his existence and health depend.

The forces of nature, some examples of which have now been given, are capable of acting only upon matter. The transformation from one sort of energy to another takes place by the process of moving material objects. It is a commonplace of economics that man's part in industry is confined to the moving of things, but it is also in this manner that all physical forces act. Heat and gravitation cause the formation of clouds, the fall of rain, and the flow of rivers. It is everywhere the moving of solid, fluid, or vaporous matter. There is likewise no other manner in which directive intelligence may assert its will. By a series of motions, ores are mined, goods ex changed, and nutritious food transformed into bodily tissue. These motions are largely within the scope of familiar observation. By a series of motions somewhat farther removed, moun tain ranges were thrown up, glaciers carried across the face of the continents, soils made from disintegrating rocks, and animal and plant forms adapted to the various regions of the earth.

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