The industrial revolution can be described as the economic transformation that began in northwestern Europe in the 18th century through the 19th century, and spreading into the 20th. It spread worldwide characterized by many diversions for war and socialism (McCloskey, 1981). This period was mostly agrarian by nature. Rural societies in both Europe and America eventually became industrial and also urban. There was a shift to use of more sophisticated machines, to set up of factories and resulting to mass production. Industrialization led to an increase in the manufactured goods and also improved living standards. Unfortunately, it also led to unemployment and poor living conditions for the poor and the working class. This paper seeks to discuss the negatives effects of the industrial revolution, how this has affected the environment and how this situation can be improved.
Global warming is perhaps the greatest negative effects of the industrial revolution and an increased use of fossil fuels. Globally speaking, the last 40 years have been the warmest in the globe over a period of the last 100 years where accurate data has been recorded (Houghton & Firor, 1995). Over the last 200 years, activities by human beings such as burning of fossil fuels, coal, oil and gas and also deforestation have caused carbon dioxide gas to be emitted into the atmosphere in increased amounts. This carbon dioxide acts like a blanket causing the globe to be warmer than it usually should be. The gas methane is also released into the atmosphere as a result of human activities causing the globe to be warmer.
Another negative effect of the industrial revolution is chemicals and fuel use by factories ending up in increased pollution of environment. Any chemical can be classified as a pollutant. However, some chemicals are identified in regulation by international agreement as priority chemicals for control this has been through some criteria that includes chemicals that are toxic at low concentrations, those that are bio-accumulate, carcinogens and those that are persistent (Peters, 2002). Climate change alters both human and natural ecosystems patterns of resource availability thus affecting their livelihood and general health (Houghton & Firor, 1995).
Water can either be found on the surface in lakes, rivers and oceans. We also have underground water stored in aquifers. Pollution affects both surface waters and ground water resources. Dumping of plastic waste and leakage of chemicals from industries into water sources also cause pollution. When water is polluted, it means that people cannot access clean drinking water. Air pollution is caused by any alteration to the atmosphere whether physical, biological. Air can be said to be polluted when it has harmful gases, dust, smoke gets in the atmosphere that make it impossible for plants and animals to continue living.
The water hyacinth is seen as another environmental effect of the industrial revolution. It was introduced into Florida from South America as an ornamental plant in 1884. It was accidentally released into the nearby river from where it spread extensively into other states crowding out other native plants and clogging rivers and lakes due to its high multiplication rates (Chiras, 2016). Water hyacinth can now be found in many other water bodies in the world including Africa. The clogging has greatly reduced the fishing activities which are a major source of economic activities for the locals. The story of the water hyacinth illustrates how the disruption of the environment by a seemingly innocent human activity can have severe ecological repercussions (Chiras, 2016).
The environmental movement began in the 1960s with a newfound interest in environmental conservation. Environmentalism then became a mass social movement, borrowing a lot from political activism and civil rights and antiwar movements. Many people including the young and middle-class got engaged in environmental politics. The first Earth Day was held on 22 April 1970 whose objective was to draw the attention of people on the problems affecting the environment and the threats to the environment. Environmentalists mainly advocate for the sustainability and stewardship of the environment by adopting changes in behavior by individuals and of policy. Some environmental organizations promote policies that exclusively protect the environment while others are concerned about human health and safety caused by environmental degradation (Obach, 2004).
Most countries of the world have environmental laws meant to prevent or completely stop the negative effects of the environmental degradation. Despite the presence of laws and regulations, human activities continue to negatively impact the environment. Of key importance is not the presence of these laws and regulations but their enforcement by each country. Without proper enforcement, the laws do have much help in environmental protection.
The Kyoto protocol is one of the most familiar of the international laws. It is an international treaty signed by most nations of the world in Japan in 1997 though it only came into effect in the year 2005. The nations signed the treaty with the objective being to reduce global warming by reduction or elimination of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere to low levels that do not interfere with the climatic system. The effects of the treaty are yet to be fully realized.
Elimination of pollution is considered to be insufficient. Precautionary measures against pollution are therefore preferred. One of the ways to improve the environmental situation is through waste reduction. Waste minimization or reduction involves measures that greatly reduce or eliminate waste. This is a preventive rather than a curative measure of eliminating the need for toxic chemicals or reduce their output altogether. Waste reduction will greatly reduce the cost of waste treatment as it reduces its output into the environment and the overall harm caused by pollution (Chiras, 2016).
Controls have concentrated on handling the largest point sources of pollutants and introducing strict requirements and regulations on discharges to water and sewer (Peters, 2002). These controls are at the international level. The use of eco-friendly fuels as an alternative to fossil fuels can also greatly reduce pollution. Some of the eco-friendly fuels include biodiesel oil made from vegetable oil. Other sources of green energy include: solar power, geothermal power, hydropower, wind power, and biofuel. These sources of energy are renewable and don’t produce carcinogenic emissions into the environment.
Though the industrial revolution brought with it many blessings and technological advancement, their negative impact especially on the environment through human activities have to be put in check to avoid total destruction of the ecosystem. This paper has discussed the industrial revolution and the negative effects to the environment. It has also highlighted was of reducing the negative effects including use of some laws and treaties all aimed at reducing harmful emissions in to the environment.
Chiras, D. (2016). Environmental Science. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Houghton, J. & Firor, J. (1995). Global Warming: The Complete Briefing (Vol. 2). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kawaji, M. & Banerjee, S. (2015) Global Warming Causes. Retrieved June 13, 2017 from: https://www.briangwilliams.us/kyoto-protocol-3/renaissance-of-nuclear-energy-in-the-usa-opportunities-challenges-and-future-research-needs.html
McCloskey, D. N. (1981). The Industrial Revolution. The Economic History of Britain since, 1700.
Obach, B. K. (2004). Labor and the Environmental Movement: The Quest for Common Ground. MIT Press.
Peters, A. (2002). Pollution: Causes, Effects and Control: Edited by Roy M. Harrison, The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2001.
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