Environment Changes due to the Industrial Revolution

Analyze changes and continuities in the environment due to the Industrial Revolution.

Rober Koehler's painting The Strike shows realism in during the Industrialization.  The sky is portrayed as gloomy and polluted, showing the  environmental damage that existed due to the Industrial Revolution.(Deutches Historisches Museum, Berlin)

The Industrial Revolution caused severe changes in the environment, such as changes in the ecology, the economic environment, and moral environment, yet peoples’ response to these changes still lacked a motivation to improve the conditions of their surrounding environment. As the need for factories and other establishments rose, the need to alter the environment to exploit their resources and potential investments also increased.

The environment underwent several changes during the Industrial Revolution, yet the way people treated the environment continued to be mostly the same. As people industrialized over time, they increasingly used up natural resources such as coal, established factories, and cleared land for development.  The effects of these actions were increased pollution in the ecosystem, which devastated the land, enlarged the mortality rate, and caused global warming.  While the environment had changed, most peoples’ response to the changes was unchanged, as they still continued to use too many resources for their own profit. One such example is the practice of agriculture on the land, for people needed to clear lands for pastures and fields. This not only affected the ecosystem of various animals and their habitats but it also contributed to the increasing usage of materials. The new factories and same agricultural necessity contributed to the continuing effects of pollution and abuse of the environment, leading to diseases such as cholera, due to water, air, and noise pollution.

While people were basically disrupting the ecosystem, another change during the Industrial Revolution was the changes in the economic and social environment.   The establishment of factories caused the development of the middle class due to the job opportunities that were available and the working class which consisted of people who were constantly working to take care of themselves. The classes reestablished the roles of women and children by forcing them to work in order to support their families in the working class while in the middle class, women were bound to housekeeping and following the rules of etiquitte and children were to receive an education later in the time period. While owners and the wealthy benefited from the Industrial Revolution, the lower class remained treated poorly, and the middle class remained subservient. The poor living conditions of the lower classes were mostly caused by the effects of pollution and continued to prosper for many generations to come.

The Industrial Revolution provided a way for workers to have more jobs.  The picture depicts workers tending to a steam hammer. Outside, one can see the smoke rising out of the chimnies in nearby factories, and the polluted air in the sky. (Science Museum Library, London/Science and Society Library)

The moral environment was affected in some aspects during the Industrial Revolution.  The root of the changes in moral environment was in the lack of motivation to change or fix the pollution that was caused by the heavy industrialization. People continued the practice of deforestation for agricultural land and space for numerous buildings such as factories, tenements, businesses and other components of large cities. There was an increase in crime and the need to control it thanks to the moral and mental effects of epidemics such as noise pollution.  However, the people still showed little concern for the environment, and the rate of pollution and mortality continued to increase.Throughout the time period, however, scientists such as Louis Pasteur and Rudolf (Carl) Virchow, continuously sought to improve the medicine and health of the people of the industrial Revolution, representing the first continuous attempts at changing the polluted land.