Environmental Issues and the Industrial Revolution

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Industrialization stands out to be among the greatest contributors to change in the way the way people handled things. Right before industrialization, mankind went through the agrarian revolution, a time when people opted to find better ways to produce food. Living standards were raised, and food security was easily attainable. Industrialization took us a step further, in line with the mass production of everything we needed. This marked the era where mankind was being introduced to machines. During the same time, people started fully exploiting the availability of steel industry, and hence even the way construction was done differed. To a larger extent, every activity ended up being supercharged. The industrial revolution started in Britain, back in the 1700s. It did not take long before it was adopted in regions like America and the world at large.

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Mans drive to fully exploiting these new inventions came at a cost. Some of the areas that were adversely affected included the use of natural resources, most of which were not renewable. The rise of industries encouraged increased use of chemicals and hence elevated disposal rates. River and water bodies suffered tremendously. Air quality was threatened as a result of the smoke and soot that was being produced. The industrial revolution also saw a boom in human population. In order to have a better understanding of the situation, all these elements are discussed at length below.


Industrial revolution ushered us to an era where people could find employment in the industries that were largely in close proximity. Being that most people, if not all solely relied on agriculture for food and extra income, this new revolution introduced a time when people could be paid more in an area away from farming. Masses were attracted to these centers and hence urbanization. These areas were not well planned for the fast growth that came during the industrial revolution. Urbanization meant faster exploitation of natural resources including wood and steel for the construction of houses. Water around these areas was now overly exploited to support the industries, as well as the people living around. These industrial cities replaced the farmland, being that the farmers had already been replaced by machines. People traveled for miles to come to look for employment in these areas. Humans saw a rise in comfort in these cities and hence the number of children started increasing. In the long run, we moved from an era where we had too many natural resources, to one where we could see the demand surpassing supply. More food had to be grown and more natural resources had to be exploited in a bid to sustain these cities. The increase in population had diverse effects on the environment being that everyone had to exploit nature, in order to survive.

Air pollution

Coal and timber were among the elements that were mostly exploited during the industrial revolution. At this point, technology did not allow for any sort of air purification measures. Areas around the industries could be market by heavy smoke from the industries. Most of the buildings were covered in soot and the numerous wastes that came with burning wood and coal as primary sources of energy. Pollution was worse in iron and steel industries as a result of the enormous amount of wood and coal that had to be used during the processing of these elements. Noxious gasses were emitted in large quantities without any restriction. Air pollution triggered a steady rise in pneumonia based illnesses. This was not only common among the people who worked in the industries, but also among the entire population of people living in the areas surrounding the sources of smoke. Hygiene and cleanliness ended up being compromised as a result of the heavy soot that covers almost all surfaces. Statistics show that apart from the soot, these regions were subjected to heavy fog, and in 1873, more than 1,150 deaths were reported when a killer fog swept through the area. This was in a span of three days and was triggered by severe air pollution, resulting from the burning of coal. Air pollution was so intense during this period to the extent that when hair samples from people who lived during this period were taken, they contained high traces of mercury and antimony. Some of the personalities studied included Napoleon Bonaparte and Isaac Newton and in both cases, their sampled revealed high toxicity.

Rail and natural resources

These two elements were considered to go hand I hand when it comes to studying the extent of their effect during the industrial revolution. Trains were used as the sole means of transporting natural resources to and from the industries and where they were sourced from. As a result, of the incorporation of trains, large amounts of trees had to be cut during the process of laying down the rails. More had to be cut in order to process both steel and iron that was used in the construction of these railway lines. As if that was not enough, these machines heavily depended on either coal or timber when it came to firing up the engines.

Trains connected mines to the industries and allowed for easy transport. On the other hand, this also triggered an increase in the number of mines that were being exploited. In a span of approximately four decades, the tonnage of coal being mined increased more than ten folds. During this period, other inventions including safety lamps and ventilation systems further encouraged mining of this natural resource.

Iron was the next natural resource that was fully exploited during the era of industrial revolution. In the 1700s it was the preferred material used for making tools and equipment. This changed later when it was gradually replaced by steel. Sourcing for both these resources took a lot from the environment.

The human population encouraged the depletion of natural resources including wood and food products being that their population increased rapidly, and they had to exploit these resourced to get shelter. The machines used in the industries were a key source of air pollution being that when they were fired up, large amounts of smoke had to be emitted into the air. Trains allowed for further exploitation and transportation of natural resources including coal and iron. At the end of it all, mankind was still with the help of these processes.

In January of 1970, Congress was the need to implement the National Environmental Policy Act. Through this, all federal agencies were compelled to compile a report on the impact their activities to the environment. This was largely driven by the public who wanted accountability and control of pollution after the oil spill that took place in Santa Barbara. During the same year, the automobile industry was numerous changes, including the elimination of lead from the petroleum used in the cars, this was headed by General Motors in a bid to reduce the emission of deadly fumes. President Nixon was recognized to be among the most enthusiastic leaders when it came to the ushering in the earth day. This was geared towards creating awareness on the benefits of better treating our environment. The first earth day saw a total of 20 million participants advocating for better standards when it comes to industrialization. This, in turn, leads to the establishment of the environmental protection agency, giving citizens and the government a platform to draft environmental laws. Industries were put in the spotlight and hence were compelled to change their mode of operation. Measures had to be taken to ensure that they were accountable for their use of natural resources. The clean water act was used as an arm to control the extent to which industries could dispose of their wastes into water bodies. Measures and disciplinary action had to be taken into account during this process. By the year 1972, elements including DDT were banned from use in America. One year later, Congress passed the Endangered Species act in a bid to not only protect flora but also include fauna. This included fish and wildlife protection measures. The energy supply and environmental coordination act was signed by President Nixon in a bid to balance energy use to environmental expectation. Numerous legislations have then been included in the fight to protect our environment, shielding us from going back to the dark days when the industrial revolution was initiated.

As a result of the numerous acts and legislation signed, we are now in a much safer and cleaner environment. Industries operate in an environment where they know they are accountable for each and every action. In order to improve the quality of our environment, we ought to support initiatives including the green movement.

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