Did The Rise of Industrialism Lead To The Fall of Environmentalism?

It seems like today everything is about the latest gadget, the next big thing to help us and make our lives even easier and more convenient. Everyone loves innovation and we love making our lives easier (who doesn’t?), but it seems like something was sacrificed in the process.

With the rise of the industrial revolution in the 18th century, the production of goods went from people’s homes to massive factories that presumed to produce bigger quantities and better quality goods. As the population increased, there was a bigger demand for goods and the demand that those goods be delivered faster and in a more timely manner. The industrial revolution was also touted for bringing about a better standard of living for a lot of people. People that before had lived off the hard work of their farms and scraped by were given the chance to move up in life and make their living in factory work or in other industrialized manufactories.

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In the process, there was a mass exodus out of small farming towns and into rapidly growing urban areas. Hundreds of thousands of people left generations of farm work to pursue their dreams of making big bucks. And if current generations didn’t, their children certainly did. As soon as the industrial revolution was in full swing, those coming of age lost the appeal for farm work and were romanticized by the glint of the new, shiny factories. And of course, by the promise of better lives, more money and less work.

To an extent, financial means did increase, although slowly, which changed the landscape for the type of food produced. Before the industrial revolution, the largest bulk of the population lived at the base of their means and thus food sources consisted of cereals and potatoes. Meat was rare and considered a delicacy and a luxurious item. Once people were able to afford more food and more expensive food, meat suddenly was in more demand than ever before. Livestock production increased and more farmland was taken up for the production of livestock food and the livestock themselves. As a double whammy, the demand for food from large urban areas forced farmers to find other means of producing food in higher quantities. They were able to use more fertilizer (from the quantities of manure of neighboring urban areas) and thus were able to cut down on or even eliminate the time that farmland had to stay fallow. This was very helpful in helping farmers to produce larger quantities of food and was instrumental in fueling the industrial revolution. To be truthful, the industrial revolution spurred the change in agricultural practices and the change in agricultural practices fueled the industrial revolution further.

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So what’s the problem? What’s my problem with the industrial revolution? Well, nothing really. I mean, I love the advancement of technology as much as the next guy, but I feel that in the advancement of technology, there were some side effects that we’re just now feeling. The one that concerns me the most is the downfall in natural, organic food production. I mean, before the industrial revolution, everyone grew their own food (or a little extra to sell) and their primary concern wasn’t to maximize their production or create the biggest produce. Sure, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but farmers didn’t go to the lengths that modern day producers do to raise a crop.

They also didn’t have the resources that modern day farmers do. They didn’t have the chemicals to spray on their crops to keep bugs at bay. Nor the enhanced fertilizers to create bigger crops and less failures. Nor the genetically modified seeds resistant to disease and drought.  No, things were simpler then.

It seems like in humanity’s quest for bigger, better things we’ve lost the one thing that is the most important to our survival: healthy food. But not only that; we’ve lost our sense of sustainability and of working with the environment and nature around us instead of against it and despite it. We’ve gotten to the point where we are more concerned with making a profit than we are with working in harmony with everyone and everything around us.

We pollute the water and earth, arguing that we need the chemicals to protect our crops and food supplies. We destroy entire ecosystems because we need the lumber to build our structures. We don’t pay our workers fairly because we can’t afford to lower our profit margins. We’re content to eat food manufactured in a lab and scoff at the “high” prices of organic food. When did the world become so backwards?

Maybe the industrial revolution is not to blame. Maybe we would have gotten to this point without it. Would we have? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is time to swing the pendulum back. To get back to our roots and to the organic, natural food that our ancestors ate so many generations ago. To come to back to relying on the earth to provide for us and to give us the food and health that we need. And to combine that with the advancement in technology to build an even better world. To do what we should have done in the first place.

To combine technology and good practices, organic growing and to put them all to use for the betterment of all men, women and children — not just the rich. We need to put technology to good use to find ways of providing clean water to everyone around the world, to grow organic food and make it accessible to everyone, to be able to produce goods in an ethical manner and to also build up our ecosystem back in the process.

It’s time for the environmental revolution.

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Sources:
http://www.history.com/topics/industrial-revolution
https://dge.carnegiescience.edu/SCOPE/SCOPE_32/SCOPE_32_1.4_Chapter4_79-109.pdf

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