Alexander Graham Bell has earned his place alongside a handful of other geniuses from the past who have had bold and somewhat cynical predictions for what lies in the future of mankind, and who have also been shockingly accurate in their predictions.
Just as George Orwell’s 1984 is now being referenced almost daily as we continue to learn that the American government has been spying on its citizens for a long, long time, Alexander Graham Bell described a world where humans had used up almost all of its limited fuel resources, much to the detriment of the planet.
He also described a solution. And amazingly enough, it included renewable energy technologies such as biofuels and solar panels--things that many people believe to be the answer to the energy crisis we are faced with today.
Bell’s great-grandson, Edwin S. Grosvenor, would eventually co-author a biography about Bell, in which he describes how his grandfather was among the first scientists who reasoned that the Earth would become hotter due to more pollution in the air, rather than becoming colder.
"The few scientists who thought about [air pollution in 1917] were convinced that dirtier air would mean that the climate would cool as the Sun's warming rays were blocked. Bell reasoned differently," reads the 1977 biography.
“While we would lose some of the Sun’s heat, we could gain some of Earth’s heat, which is normally radiated into space,” says Bell according to the biography.
"I am inclined to think we would have some kind of greenhouse effect... The net result is that the greenhouse becomes a hot-house."
Bell’s speech to the graduating class of the 1917 McKinley Manual Training School in Washington, DC, would later be revised for *National Geographic, adding that he predicted humans would not stop using coal and oil until our supplies had literally disappeared.
"In relation to coal and oil, the world's annual consumption has become so enormous that we are now actually within measurable distance of the end of the supply. What shall we do when we have no more coal or oil!"
He then goes on to discuss tidal and wave-powered forms of energy generation and “the employment of the Sun’s rays directly as a source of power.”
"Every town or city has a vast expanse of roof exposed to the Sun," said Bell. "There is no reason why we should not utilise the roofs of our houses to install solar apparatuses to catch and store the heat received from the Sun."
"Solar heat, like the heat passing up a chimney, represents a waste product. We have it, but we do not use it; and then we call out against the price of the coal bill."
So, there you have it. 100 years ago, Bell predicted the future almost exactly as it would be. Now, the question is: what are we going to do about it? As the old adage goes, an error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.