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Environmental Impact of the Industrial Revolution
Transcript of Environmental Impact of the Industrial Revolution
A large-scale shift of society from rural and agrarian to urban and industrial that began in Britain in the mid 1700s.
Environmental Impact of the Industrial Revolution
What Caused The Industrial Revolution?
Growth of the iron and textile industries, a slew of new inventions, including improvements made to the steam engine, and advancements in communication and transportation.
Large-scale manufacturing and industrial operations increased the air pollution levels, as they required massive sources of energy, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels. They released gases, vapors, and particulates into to the atmosphere.
Facilities were concentrated geographically, which led to intense local and regional air pollution problems
Smoke + Fog = Smog, which was an issue especially in Britain.
Soot from coal powered plants filled the skies, engulfing cities in a thick, black smoke
This air pollution was dangerous as it impaired vision, caused respiratory issues, and even death, and greatly accelerated the greenhouse effect
In 1873, 700 people were killed in London after experiencing a week of smog
First discovered in the 1850s, acid rain also created many issues as it harmed plants, fish, soil, and damaged man-made materials like statues and buildings. It is caused by the release of human-produced sulfur and nitrogen compounds into the atmosphere by coal-powered plants
Photographs of the Industrial Revolution are characterized by tall smokestacks releasing large amounts of horrendous dark material, sprawling cities, and booming industry.
Factories commonly released pollutants directly into rivers and streams
Water bodies were often used as a receptacle for all human waste, both domestic and industrial
Runoff of nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers and phosphate from animal wastes due to increased food production caused cultural eutrophication in lakes and rivers - algal blooms that starve water of oxygen and kill aquatic plants and animals
Until the mid-1900s, solid sewage was dumped into the sea
Agricultural irrigation led to salinization and water resource depletion in urban areas
Wood was in great demand for use in industries, so trees were cut down quickly and without being replaced
This lack of trees damaged the environment by uprooting native animal populations, degrading habitats, and disrupting the carbon cycle
Trees play a major part in the cycling of carbon through the environment, as they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen through the process of photosynthesis
Less trees meant less filtration of carbon dioxide, which was already increasing due to industrialization, so with the cutting down of trees, the amount of carbon in the atmosphere significantly increased
The effects of deforestation in Europe can still be seen today
However, through secondary ecological succession, vegetation has been able to regrow in some previously deforested areas
The Industrial Revolution has also brought about several cultural changes, including population growth, consumer culture, and economic division
Beginning in the Industrial Revolution era, global population began to rapidly increase, bringing several challenges such as how to feed, and raise the living standard of all people. It is often argued that this challenge has not yet been met.
As goods became mass produced, the consumer culture was introduced, wherein people feel the need to purchase massive amounts of goods. This led to the idea of credit, and purchasing items one cannot actually afford.
Both consumerism and high population have led to a giant wealth gap between developed and developing countries, and also between people within each country. Poverty is a reality for millions of people, and as population and the desire to consume continue to grow, the issue will only worsen.
Unfortunately, the harmful effects of the Industrial Revolution can never be undone, however, there are a few things that can help.
Many environmental scientists frown upon the human tendency to focus on clean-up rather than prevention to deal with environmental issues, including those spurred from the Industrial Revolution.
Government regulation of pollutants (and their quantity) released by industry can help. However, until these measurements are not self-reported, it will not be very effective. Using a cap-and-trade approach is also smart, as it allows companies to buy and sell pollution allotments from one another, discouraging high pollution, and encouraging innovation to create solutions to emissions.
Current Policies in Europe include: Seventh Environment Action Programme (7EAP), Birds and Habitat Directive, and river basin management programs.