In 1859, Edwin Drake drilled the first oil producing well in Pennsylvania, and the world was changed forever. In addition to being used for fuel, oil was scientifically studied, and the many chemicals composing petroleum were gradually isolated. New substances that didn’t previously exist in nature were made, like plastics and “modern” paints. A 100,000 year old tradition for making natural earth paints began to slip away.
Producers of these new paints convinced people to change from traditional natural paints by promoting the idea that their new products were more durable (despite the fact that ancient earth paints have lasted thousands of years) and modern. And even though these new paints were more expensive in the beginning, people were persuaded to buy them, and most painters changed their practices soon after.
With this new growth, change, and wealth in the twentieth century, people went through great changes in their relationship with the natural world, in terms of its resources and our spiritual connection with it. Consumerism arose with its insatiable and unsustainable consumption of our planet’s raw materials. I believe we’re now on our way back to the way our ancestors related to the world around them. We’re becoming more aware of the source and properties of our products. To everything there is a reaction, and cultures do change. Let’s take responsibility and act accordingly.