Friday, September 5, 2008

Industrial Revolution, part I

Industrial Revolution, part I: step forward or step in the wrong direction?

As we have discussed in class, historians relate the Industrial Revolution to that of the Neolithic Revolution, when humans became an agrarian community versus nomadic (Tate & Smith, 1986, p. 219). There is no doubt that because of the Industrial Revolution we have benefited from its many inventions, advancements and improvements. Without it, our lives as we know it would be non-existent. As a person that belongs to middle class society, I would not have had the opportunities which I enjoy today if it were not for mass production and technology. In addition, very few individuals would know and understand the same comfort and luxuries we expect today. Still, history shows that the ancient Romans (before the fall of Rome) were a very advanced society and had invented many processes and materials to make life easier and more secure. Unfortunately, these methods were lost or forgotten with the fall of the Roman Empire. It took many years before these techniques were revived and improved upon. However, these “improvements” employed different methods than what was originally utilized, and since 1850 we now have 35% more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (CBS evening news, August 2007). Sooner or later our idea of “comfort” will have to become compromised in the interest of the world’s future. The effects of this change are sure to bring about a new revolution; one that is perhaps more healthy for our environment, but (as some feel) could be detrimental to our way of life.

Considering global warming, do you believe that the Industrial Revolution, specifically the discovery of coal and other fossil fuels, was a necessary step forward or a “misstep” in the advancement of modern man? Do you think we would have found the same quality of life if we had continued to develop the technology we were already using (such as wind and water mills)? Explain your answer.

20 comments:

A-Dub said...

This may seem radical (or to others it may seem predictable coming from me...) but I consider the Industrial Revolution a misstep. I think when we talk about the comforts we enjoy now what we really mean is what we are used to. If the Industrial Revolution had never happened we wouldn't be sitting around wishing it would, we would be used to (and comfortable with) a different way of life. I think the Industrial Revolution was extremely short-sighted.
I don't wish that it had never happened, I just think that it was harmful to the earth's population because of what it made us accustomed to. Now it is ever so painful to ween ourselves off coal and petroleum because we were born into a world already addicted to it.

Veronica said...

Although I hoped we hadn't had to use coal in the first place, I am afraid I have to say that without coal (or petroleum) we could not have developed our society.
If we go back to the Neolithic Revolution, we could realize that without the important contributions that agriculture and settlement had brought, people could not have made it as easily as they did. More food and the breeding of animals allowed people to settle and from that point on to create new things to improve production, like the plow.
Now if we think about the Industrial Revolution we can clearly see that as people stared to move away from rural areas into the city, new contributions were made to our society, time allowing. People went from hand-made products to machine-made goods, from wood to iron and to steel for building, from wind- and water-produced power to coal-produced power.
I believe that the change from wood to iron and later on to steel for building structures was inevitable. People always try to get what they want in the easiest and the fast way, even if this may not be the best way. Coal allowed the production of more power that could be used for the development of industry and for the general development of modern society. It may not have been the best way to get more power, but it was for sure very efficient in order to give power to such a large amount of people, and help develop society and all that concerns it. Looking at China now, we can realize that what is happening now there, is exactly the same that happened during the Industrial Revolution in Europe.
Global warming is for sure one of the worst phenomena that is affecting our planet, but I do not blame the Industrial Revolution for it.
As mankind develops and as mankind improves technology, I think we will be able to "get out" of this problem.
we went from hunting to agriculture to industry; from wood to iron to steel; from wind and water to coal and petroleum. I believe that technology will find a way to stop global warming as our society advances through time.

gnjones15 said...

I believe the Industrial Revolution was harmful to our environment in the long run. However, I also think that if those discoveries were not made at that point, it would only have been a matter of time until those means of energy were harnessed. I do believe that the developments of the Industrial Revolution got us to where we are today as a society and provided us all with the way of life that we enjoy. I also believe that these mistakes needed to be made as a learning experience. We now know today that coal is bad for our environment and we can make the steps towards using cleaner energy sources (i.e. water, wind). After all history repeats itself right?

Parahita Rachmani said...

I realize that our society has been spoiled with technology and the Industrial Revolution was what initiated it in the first place. As much as its use of coal had caused pollution and started the whole global warming to be put into effect, the Industrial Revolution played a major role in shaping our modern society as far as lifestyle and our way of thinking. People began to develop deeper knowledge on how to improve their lives and solve their problems. For example, after its production during the Industrial Revolution, people had become more dependent on transportation, such as automobile and locomotive, to easily move from one place to another. People began to come up with more and more ideas to make their lives easier. Nowdays, we are so reliant on cellphones and computer for instance.
Global warming is perhaps one of the worst events that can happen in our lifetime. I am sure that even if the Industrial Revolution did not occur, the global warming is probably meant to happen eventually. People along with their technology only expedite the process. However I believe that if we could find a way to start something, then we should be able to end it. I am not referring us to banish technology and everything that comes with it, but I believe that if the industrial society found solution to their living problems, then our generation will come up with the solution to at least slow down the global warming, especially that more people have become more aware with its deadly effect.

nicoLe said...

As I pondered this topic, I came to the conclusion that the industrial revolution was unnecessary. I do believe that in order to have the knowledge that we do today, it was imperative to have developed the way we did with items like coal, petroleum, factories, etc. However, without these inventions and discoveries, the world would be just fine. It is hard to miss something that’s existence is unknown to you. At some point in the future we will be forced to retort back to the "simple" power sources of wind and water. It is possible, for if it once was it shall be again. So step in the wrong direction, yes..but we learn from our doings and mistakes and as the design process goes, we work and RE-WORK a design until the final solution is the best solution. In essence, that is what the world must do.

It is mind boggling to wonder where we will be years from now. What will fuel our planet,is there a perfect solution to this design problem?

Jessica Brake said...

After reading the discussion and responces I'm not really sure where I exactly stand on this topic anymore. I see and somewhat agree with both sides (if that's allowed haha). It has made me really think about the Industrial Revolution in a new way. Before reading this discussion I would probably have said that the Industrail Revolution was completely necessary in order to advance forward with technology and power, even if it did hurt the environment,and in some cases I do think that's the case. For example; the way we build structures. Wood can only hold so much before it's not durable, and with the increasing population that took place in the cities achitects had to look at building upward instead of out, which made them search for new materials. Which then lead to new machines and the need for stronger power (coal and oil)to run these machines. It all seems like one huge domino effect, one new advancement leads/causes another one, good or bad. While I can agree with this and the necessity of the Industrail Revolution, I also understand the point of "you can't miss what you never had". If the pressure of technological advancement was never put on us introducing us to "newer" and "better" ways of living then we would be content with the "simple" ways of life, in turn living in a healthier environment. Water and wind power would be all we know of and I believe we'd be okay with that. In a sense though, we're kinda already taking a step back in that direction. I mean everyone's "going green" now a days and people are finding alternatives to gas and oil and electricity by using solar power and water. Maybe it's our way of trying to fix all the bad things the Industrial Revolution left behind.
Although I'm still not exaclty sure where I stand yet, I do have a strong feeling that no matter what the Industrail Revolution was bound to happen sooner or later.

Julie said...

The Industrial Revolution was bound to happen. Life couldn't progress on with people being stagnate and not trying to enrich their lives. Every cause has an effect whether it may be positive or negative. I have to argue that it was good. Even though it caused pollution and harm to the Earth look at all the benefits it has created for us. We would not be sitting here today writing this blog if it weren't for the steps toward tecnology started during this time. I feel that for as much as we did damage to the earth we still improved equally enough that those effects can be prevented and fixed later on down the line. We are still on the path of discovering new things and wanting more but once we get past that point and realize the damage we have done the focus will be put on rebuilding and contolling ourselves.

Katie Bluhm said...

The Industrial Revolution happened – that’s a fact. We cannot go back and change it, misstep or not. Do I think we misused those power sources? Yes, and now we have many problems that seemed unrealistic hundreds of years ago. When fossil fuels and coal were discovered, our ancestors did not research the effect that they would have on the environment. Maybe they did not think the environment would start to fail as soon as it did. Nonetheless, our ancestors misused earth’s products and now we are paying the price. I think it is ironic that the industrial revolution moved society forward in many aspects, and today we are about to start a revolution to go back to using resources that we used before the industrial revolution. Not only are we finding new ways to use water, wind and other natural resources, we are trying to repair the damage done in earlier years. We are trying to find ways to replant trees to absorb carbon dioxide, thousands at a time. We are trying to bring cold fertile water from the deep ocean to the surface, to increase the number of carbon eating plankton. We are trying to cover the icecaps with sun-reflecting blankets to prevent them from melting. Basically, we are trying to rebuild what the industrial revolution destroyed. Do I think we would have found the same quality of life? Do I think we would be as wasteful and selfish? That’s what the quality of life is today. We worship technology and waste things that can be reused. Our lives revolve around cell phones, ipods and the internet. If the industrial revolution had not happened, we would be outdoors more often, find beauty in nature and live off the land more. We are a greedy society, absorbed by money and technology. We abused what we had, and now are trying to piece it back together with scotch tape.

Carrie said...

All facts aside, as normal people from the past, present, and future, we all create and design. The people from our past time thought the Industrial Revolution was a great idea and I’m sure it was at the time. The Industrial Revolution brought many great things like advancements in medicine and gave more people the opportunity to enjoy things that once only the rich or elite did. I’m sure that the people of the past didn’t know that burning coal and other natural resources could hurt this great earth. I feel that the Industrial Revolution in the long run was a misstep in the wrong direction as far as taking care of mother earth. But, the people of the past didn’t know that. What to say that these Bio-fuels will be harmful in the long run? We have more technology then we did then but you never really know what the effects could be. In my opinion we might not have reached the same quality of life without the Industrial Resolution but wind and watermills are coming back as sources of energy. Who knows 100 years from now we might live “green” not using natural resources and live only by the earth’s renewable resources.

Kelsey said...

The Industrial Revolution is what has made my experience here at Kentucky possible, through books and libraries, the development which allowed for the invention of cars which allow me to drive to and from school, ironically it even allows our major Interior Design to be possible, through textiles, etc. So I think it would be ridiculous to argue that the Industrial Revolution has not been a positive movement in our history. The Industrial Revolution opened humanities eyes to a world of possibilities and information which before that time would have never been possible. I believe without the foundations set in place by the revolution, today’s way of life would not be possible, which I am sure no one can argue they aren’t comfortable with.
All that being said I am not arguing that the Industrial Revolution has not caused problems for the world, yet we all continue to be here. Through plagues, and loss of habitats and environments, we are all still here. Life goes on and we find ways to adapt. Humans intellectual capacity and ability to think, adapt and grow is what separates us from animals.
Also, whether one agrees or disagrees on the positive or negative impact of the Industrial Revolution, its done, and now the most important thing to focus on is how to relieve some of the stress caused by that time. In the past couple of years there has been a dramatic increase in the awareness of sustainability and green design, which becomes incredibly important to our field. In order to reverse the effects of a movement which made us so comfortable with our cars and internet, we must research and develop new methods which limit the effect on natural resources and sustain our fragile environment.

maggie clines said...

FIrst of all i think that the industrial revolution was not a misstep but rather the greatest turning point in cultural history. Without it, our profession would never have come about. I do believe however that with the industrial revolution, also came moral and ecomomic concerns. It changed the way that the average person ran their life; this included the development of materialism which in turn created the consumeristic culture of today.
Without the industrial revolution we would never have the privliged life we lead. And personally i dont think I would do well without airconditioning or diet cokes. I deffinetly see how it can be considered as a misstep but wihtout it our lives wouldnt be the same including our career choice.
I also feel that because of the resent increase in global warming, our country and soon the whole world will hopefully realize that we need to change. I believe that the revolution that will soon come, will be of the same magnitude of the industrial revolution. I believe that we are witnessing history in the years to come.

maggie clines said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Chaffin said...

Whereas the Industrial Revolution brought about drastic changes to the way our country works today, it also brought about drastic changes in our environment. It sent us on a downhill slope, so to so, while also advancing us technologically.
If left with just using the original sources of power (wind and water) I don't think we could have ever reached the point we have today. Sure, those two sources provide power, but not at such a force that fossil fuels and the steam engine did at that time.
One can think of the Global Warming situation as a win-lose situation. If our forefathers wouldn't have taken a step forward in technology and the advancement of industries, who knows when that could have come about? We could just now have seen what they first brought (steam engine, light bulb, electricity, etc.) I believe either way that the advancement would have gone would turn out both good and bad for everyone. All we can do now is try to improve what we have and try to change what has been done.

carrie w said...

The Industrial Revolution in my mind was definitely not a misstep. I could not even imaging the lives that we all would be living if it were to have never happened. I am not saying that we would be living in a horrible society where everyone hated lives. I am simply stating that we would not be doing any of the same thing we are doing today if it were not for the revolution. Just picture it we would not have this blog to be responding to, the clothes you are wearing right this second would not look anything like they do, even the meal you had for dinner tonight would have been worlds apart from what they could have been had it not happened.
I can see almost everyones sides while reading the other responses. I agree with some and disagree with others. But i do think that we are abusing the gifts that the Industrial Revolution has given us. And like maggie said, i too believe that there will be another revolution, and i believe that it will take place during our lifetimes. It will not be another industrial revolution, it will be one that is geared to saving our environment so that our children and their children and even their children after that will have just as good lives as we have today!

Amy Clark said...

If one looks back over human history, it is evident that people, from ancient societies onward, have continuously developed new tools, methods, technologies, etc. to make life better for themselves. The Industrial Revolution was a period that exploded with new discoveries and inventions. The progress made during that time has greatly impacted our standard of living today, in my opinion, for the better. For example, I can't imagine life without electricity. The Industrial Revolution lead to many positive advancements including improvements in the textile industry, literacy/education, and emergence of the middle class. So yes, I do feel that the discovery of coal was a necessary step forward in the advancement of modern man. I don't believe that we would have acquired the same opportunties or quality of life if we would have continued using the technology already in place (wind and water). I would think that the people who were inventing machines (steam engine, etc.) would have explored the possibilities of these resources.
As I've mentioned the positive aspects of the Industrial Revolution, I also have to acknowledge the downside. Obviously, pollution has created big problems within our environment, specifically, global warming. I believe a challenge such as this will spark the creativity of current and future generations. We will develop new methods and technologies that will slow down and hopefully, one day stop global warming.

Moore13 said...

I agree with Carrie when she says back then they couldn't have know about the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution. What they saw was the economy booming, because of that it only makes sense they would continue forward with the new habits created. I don't think I could say it was a misstep, it's a lesson learned and something like it was bound to happen.
The important thing now is that not only do we realize the harmful effects on our environment but we are taking huge strides to improve and possibly undo what has been done. Right now we are in the mist of our own revolution, and soon all of us will have our own little part designing to make our world a better. We are now being given the opportunity to go down in history as taking part of the "Go Green Revolution". This is an exciting time for design Im just happy to be living it, instead of reading about it.

J_Ayares said...

Although it may have been an unfortunately necessary step towards easily producing energy through the methods most commonly used today, I do not believe that the use of coal or petroleum was necessary to the overall technological/industrial advancement of society. In my opinion, it was a misstep. After seeing the effects and the cost of using such fossil fuels for so long, many are now returning to more traditional energy sources and finding new ways to implement these. Could humanity still have further developed different ways to use these resources (wind, water, sun, etc) without the added step of harmful fossil fuels? In my opinion, advancements would still have been made regardless of whether or not fossil fuels were discovered. If they had never been used I am very confident that we would currently be further along in the advancement of "greener" resources, due to the increase in scientific exploration during that time.

Molly Rowland said...

After reading this blog I was not sure of how to express my opinion of the Industrial Revolution and its affects on the world today.

I do not view the Industrial Revoltuion as a mistep, nor do I view it as a step forward. I believe that the way things are today were unavoidable. I believe the use of water and wind for energy would have brought about other energy explorations weither it was during the Revolution, or 100 years later.

Overall, throughout history, society has improved due to experiment and failure. The only way we can progress is if we make mistakes first, and without mistakes, there would be no learning. Global warming became present in the world, and therefore, our mistakes have been brought to our attention. It is now time to figure out how to fix it.

Kayla.E said...

The industrial revolution was in my opinion a "misstep", but we can't changed the fact that it happened. The discovery of coal and other fossil fuels was a huge step in the advancement of our technology. Do i necessarily think that it was the best step, no. I think that there was/is a better alternative, possibly the technology we were already using such as wind and water mills. These forms of technology might not have been as advanced but i think that over time they would have been a smarter choice, both for us and the environment. If we would have continued to use the wind and water mills our quality of life might not be as "booming" problematic and there would be less than half the pollution therefore the ozone would probably not be an issue.

Christa said...

There's always going to be some good and bad results with anything we do as a society. But I beleive that it is generally better to take action because it urges society to progress and learn more as a whole. Yes, our decisions may cause problems along with solutions but this will in turn force us to come up with further solutions leading to further advancements and investigations. When looking at the grand scheme of things, I beleive it is ultimatelly better to take action that could produce positive results even if it means dealing with problems later because what is our alternative...doing nothing? not investigating? not creating? It is better for the world to be in a constant state of probem solving than in a state of inactivity. Everything will end up coming full circle again anyway, might as well keep it interesting. Don't misunderstand me though, I am all for making the world ecologically sound and protecting our environment. I just think that it is equally importnat to investigate and be creative. The two should go hand in hand. It is obvious that during the Industrial Revolution we didn't take both aspects into account but that is just a small era and a lesson that I think a large portion of society has learned from. I think it is evident that today's inventors and creators have learned from the mistakes of the industrial revolution and will carry on hand in hand with concern and love for the environment. I think that advancements of our generation are something to be excited about.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.