The Industrial Revolution and Its Impact on Our Environment

Industrialization began in the 1700s in Great Britain. Since that time, a variety of environmental problems have been documented throughout the world. Both developed and developing nations are now attempting to implement a variety of solutions in order to preserve Earth’s delicate environment. In the 200 years since the Industrial Revolution began, the environment has been significantly altered as more nations industrialize and increase their manufacturing capacity to meet consumer demands.

For example in 1997 according to World Watch, carbon dioxide emissions in developed nations reached three tons per person, while developing nations produced half a ton per person (Document 2). These emissions can produce smog in concentrated areas, such as Mexico City, one of the most polluted cities in the world. Carbon dioxide can also form acid rain which can affect areas far removed from the source of the pollution. For example, pollution from areas of the United States has been carried into southeastern Canada causing acid rain which is detrimental to ecosystems and drinking water.

Carbon dioxide has also been linked to global warming which can affect global weather patterns. Again, polluting nations can have an effect on other nations as shown in the political cartoon labeled “Nature’s Equation” which illustrates that the devestation caused by Hurricane Mitch can be attributed to global warming, most likely caused by nations other than Honduras (Document 4). The modern development of nuclear energy has also had an impact on the environment. In the 1980s, a Soviet nuclear power-generating facility in Chernobyl had a meltdown.

The prevailing winds swept the nuclear fallout across all of western Europe causing great concern for the health of the people in those nations. The nations and corporations of the world have recognized the detrimental effects of pollution caused by industrialization, and are taking steps to address it. According to newspaper reports published by World Watch in 1997, British Petroleum announced that it should increase its investments in solar energy as an alternative to dependence upon oil. Denmark has also investigated alternative energy sources by using wind power and the combustion of agricultural waste (Document 5).

Greenpeace, an international environmental and conservation organization, has pioneered the use of Greenfreeze as an alternative to traditional refrigerants. In 1997 Greenpeace disclosed at an environmental meeting in Montreal, Canada, that Greenfreeze has proven to be ozone- and climate-safe, and is being readied for use by factories in India, Russia, and many other countries (Document 7, Selection 1). Recycling efforts have also increased in many nations, reducing the need for new consumable items, thereby decreasing pollution. The global use of the automobile has also caused a dramatic increase in environmental pollution.

Newspaper reports published in World Watch state that the Japanese auto company Toyota has developed a hybrid gasoline electric car that is more fuel efficient and produced half the amount of carbon dioxide as a conventional car (Document 5). In the 1970s, the United States mandated the use of catalytic converters for automotive exhaust systems, and other nations are now following suit. These converters, when used in conjunction with other emissions-control devices, limit the amount of pollution produced by a vehicle. Consumers demand products which stimulates factories to produce them.

During this production process a variety of harmful pollutants are emitted, in addition to the pollutants created by energy-producing plants to provide the electricity that powers many consumer items. Smog, acid rain, global warming, and other easily observable forms of pollution have caused nation to seek a variety of different solutions designed to limit or eliminate the pollution caused by industrialization. As developing nations industrialize and catch up with developed ones, it is more important than ever that these solutions be adopted in order to preserve the Earth’s environment.

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