The Environmental Impacts of the Industrial Revolution
Europe and America witnessed massive developments during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this period, European states adopted the Agrarian Revolution that marked significant developments in agriculture through revolutionizing farming tools and techniques that led to increased food production. The Agrarian Revolution increased food production. Surplus agricultural produce was exchanged for other commodities. Increased production and commercial activities increased trade and movement of people from farms to urban centers. Population growth in urban centers created the need for new commodities. Moreover, it led to the diversification of economic activities across Europe and globally. The Agrarian Revolution paved way for the Industrial Revolution. Since the Agrarian Revolution, scientists continue to invent new technologies to improve the quality of life. Factories and industries soon began to spring up in Europe and spread to other parts of the world.
The Industrial Revolution began in the 18th Century. Scientists invented power-driven machines to replace human labor. Since the inception of the industrial and technological revolution, the universe has made tremendous strides to improve the quality of human life. The Industrialization era saw the development of factories and subsequently improved the quality of human life. Despite the positives, the industrial revolution has also affected man and life on the planet negatively. The development of industries contributes largely to environmental degradation. Major developments were marked in the transport and manufacturing sectors which are the largest contributors to climatic changes.
The Industrial Revolution brought about massive developments in productivity, but at the expense of the environment. Concerns about the impacts of industrialization on the environment increased with the exploration of new sources of fuels, urban centers, and production factories. Anthracite coal was mainly used to power the revolutions. It was used for furnaces and steam engines for boats and locomotives (“Working with our environment: an introduction”). The massive exploitation and consumption of coal and other fossil fuels contribute largely to the soaring environmental pollution. Industrialization has raised concerns over the non-reversible destruction of the environment. Currently, global organizations are championing for better and safer energy forms to protect the universe from further dilapidation. Developed and developing nations have increased their efforts to mitigate environmental pollution by adopting clean energy and clean air agendas.
The Industrial Revolution relied on coal and other fossil fuels as the main sources of energy. Developers engaged in mass extraction of coal and other fossil fuels without regulations to prevent the over-extraction of natural resources. An American geophysicist, M. King Hubbert warned about the depletion of fossil energy hence challenging developers to explore alternative forms of energy. He argues that unregulated mining activities would lead to the depletion of non-renewable resources. He also warned that the period after the 20th Century would record reduced fossil fuels production, especially oil. According to Hubbert, when the production of oil nears its peak, the world will be in a crisis to cater to the growing energy demands (Inneh, 2018). The environmental issue creates sharp divisions over the adoption of alternative clean and sustainable forms of energy to end the over-dependence on fossil fuels. Environmentalists are championing for the adoption of clean energy to end the overreliance of fossil fuels. Some are advocating for green energy while others suggest the adoption of nuclear energy.
The Industrial Revolution increased the extraction and processing of natural resources such as metals and oil. Unregulated extraction of natural resources from the earth’s crust invites new challenges to the environment. The continued use of crude oil and coal has contributed to the increased atmospheric carbon content. The last two centuries have witnessed higher concentration of carbon dioxide (McLamb, 2011). The development of industries and urban centers also caused the encroachment of forested regions. Deforestation activities cause an imbalance in the atmosphere with declining diversity and increasing global warming. Concerns exist over the depletion of natural resources which might impact negatively on global economy.
Among the main challenges facing the ecosystem is pollution. The development of industries in America and other parts of the world has increased human activities on natural inhabitants. Commercial growth and activities have led to the disruption of the general climate. Pollution is a by-product of the economic development marked by growing industrialization (McLamb, 2011). Water, air, soil, and aquatic life suffer contamination from industrial and domestic effluents. Global warming and the greenhouse effects have increased exponentially with industrial development. The permanence of environmental contamination has negative effects on global commerce as well as human life. The contamination of the environment is responsible for the loss of human, animal, and plant life. Pollution is also associated with a variety of health issues.
The establishment of more industries has contributed to growing global warming and greenhouse gases emission. The continued contamination of water, soil, and the air compromises on the quality of human lives. Due to continued industrialization, humans have become vulnerable to harmful pollutants. The contamination of soil and water increases with the establishment of production and manufacturing industries in developed and developing nations (“Impact of Industrialization on the Environment,” 2018). The concentration of nitrogen in the atmosphere has increased significantly since the last half of the 20th Century. Increased concentration of nitrogen due to human activity creates an imbalance in the ecosystem. The combustion of fossil fuels and other industrial activities have increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Global warming and increased carbon emissions are responsible for the extinction of some plant and animal species.
Another negative impact of industrialization on the environment is poor waste management. The development of industries has increased manufacturing and production of new materials such as chemicals and other plastics. Most of the waste materials are emitted from factories into water sources. Recent reports about the climate indicate high levels of infiltration and contamination of the environment. Scientific research indicates declining rates of environmental absorption of industrial and economic waste. Rachel Carson raised the concerns over the increased use of DDT, organophosphates, and organochlorine compounds in America (Wiener, 2012). Carsson further indicates that the increased toxicity and persistence of toxic compounds in the food chain poses adverse effects on man, animals, and plants (Wiener, 2012). She further explains the effects of chemical compounds on human life development (Wiener, 2012). Research indicates the growing resistance of organisms to chemical compounds as the case in malarial mosquitoes. Industrial chemicals account for 40% of toxic emission in the environment.
Plastics are a big menace towards the environment and conservation efforts. Plastic pollution involves accumulation of plastics that alters the ecosystem. Plastics are cheap and durable which makes them the preferred material for different purposes. The chemical structure of plastic makes it resistant to natural degradation processes. Plastic pollution afflicts aquatic life, especially marine animals (Laura, 2018). Ingestion of plastic waste and exposure to chemicals with plastics interferes with the animals’ physiology. Evidence suggests that plastics can alter various hormones in the human body. Governments and multinational agencies have embarked on plastic pollution reduction programs by enforcing regulatory policies on the manufacture and application of plastics.
The Industrial Revolution has modernized the world with the adoption of new scientific and technological developments to improve human life. The revolution increased cross-border interaction and commercial contacts, as well as stimulated the development of industries and development of urban centers. Industrialization has also created employment opportunities for skilled and unskilled labor. Despite the associated benefits of industrialization, the concept presents dire consequences that require global efforts to resolve. Industrialization has created more negative effects on the environment than positives. Moreover, the Industrial Revolution has significantly disrupted the environment by disruption various down ecosystem processes.
Impact of Industrialization on the Environment. (2018). Retrieved from http://environmentinsider.com/impact-industrialization-environment/
Inneh, I. (2018). Negative Effects of Industrialization. Retrieved from https://www.cleantechloops.com/industrialization-effects/
Laura, P. (June 2018). “We Depend on Plastic. Now We’re Drowning in It”. Retrieved from NationalGeographic.com.
McLamb, E. (2011). Impact of the Industrial Revolution | Ecology Global Network. Retrieved from http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/18/ecological-impact-industrial-revolution/
Wiener, G. (2012). The Environment in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
Working with our environment: an introduction. Retrieved from http://www.open.edu/openlearn/nature-environment/the-environment/environmental-science/working-our-environment-introduction/content-section-7