In this Introduction we have explored the development of technology from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. At the same time we have traced the increasing impact our industrial societies have had on our environment, and the role that science and technology has played in this. We have explored some major global environmental issues, in particular our dependence on the exploitation of fossil fuels, and have outlined some of the fundamental constraints on the ability of the environment to absorb the resultant emissions and waste products.
I have used three studies of refrigeration to illustrate some of these points and also to explore the breadth and complexity of their interactions. You could argue that our current use of cold appliances affects more than the home, that they are inextricably tied in to our use of supermarkets, town planning, globalisation of food and transport. As actors in this story, engineers, designers and technologists increasingly have to take a broad view of their role, while policy makers and the public need to be able to question decisions, and the assumptions that lie behind them. Whatever your expertise, as a concerned individual you now have the opportunity to explore in more detail some of the issues raised here.