The dinosaur- and tree-fern-filled swamps of the Carboniferous period, which lasted from about 360 to 300 million years ago, bequeathed us the massive oil and gas deposits that fuel modern industrial society.
A major oil company once ran a clever cartoon ad showing a dinosaur transforming into black gooey oil, which was sucked out of the ground and pumped into a car.
With a growing shortage of partly decayed Carboniferous dinosaurs and tree ferns, we are now devoting ever-increasing percentages of our current landscapes to automobile fuel production. Picture this: woodlots, hedgerows, birds and butterflies replaced by endless fields of corn, which is harvested, refined to ethanol, and mixed with the gasoline provided by your local filling station.
Oil is the source of so much pain in the world. Around the globe, wherever oil is extracted, people suffer a constellation of injuries, from coups and dictatorship to pollution, displacement and death. Pipelines leak, refineries explode, tankers break up and deep-sea drill rigs explode. The thirst for oil disrupts democracies and the climate. Not far from the burgeoning fracking fields of Colorado, Frederic "Rick" Bourke sits in a minimum-security federal prison. His crime: blowing the whistle on corruption and bribery in the oil-rich region of the Caspian Sea.