Thursday, September 3, 2009

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.

9 comments:

meagan_mckee said...

I think this is how I'm supposed to respond... By 'commenting'. Oh well. Here goes.

In all honesty I do believe that we would have found the same quality of life if we had continued to use the technology we were originally using such as the energy of both wind and water. Although it may have taken us a little longer to develop technology from that point, I feel the way of life would have been better than it currently is. Now, all we can worry about is pollution and damage to the environment. If we could have avoided damaging it in the first place, we wouldn't have to figure out how to fix it and could concentrate our efforts elsewhere.

Professor Shaw asked if the discovery of fossil fuels was a 'misstep' and I actually think it was. I suppose they were meant to be discovered at some point but maybe that discovery should have come later so we wouldn't have had to rely on them solely for any extended period of time. If we already had the technology via wind and water, we could have possibly developed fossil fuels into something that wouldn't end in the depletion or them or the destruction of our planet.

Vinti said...

I agree with Meagan to a large extent, she and I having taken Human Ecology together last fall, and understanding the extent of damage caused by global warming. Necessity is the mother of invention. I firmly believe that if coal and petroleum had not been discovered, we would have surely found other ways of producing energy, perhaps healthier ways such as solar power, which we are now moving towards anyways.

As discussed in class, besides pollution, mechanization has also caused us to lead less active and more sedentary lives. Hence, even though human lifespan has increased, the quality of life has deteriorated. People lead more stressful and less satisfying lives now. These are the major causes of heart disease, the number one killer of human beings in the US. However, the Industrial Revolution cannot be undermined for its impact in the field of medicine and healthcare. Technology caused the eradication of several deadly diseases, yet we have many more to tackle, as we move into the future.

I think that the discovery of fossil fuels was not a ‘misstep’ but their over-exploitation without any future insight, surely was a big ‘misstep’. For example, fuel efficiency of automobiles did not improve at the same rate as the exponential augmentation in technology and pollution. I also believe that we would have found better quality of life if we had relied on renewable energy sources. It would have been different from what we have now, but it would perhaps have been simpler (minimalist), less materialistic, healthier, and more satisfactory.

Casey_Ekers said...

The Industrial revolution, in my belief, was a necessary evil. It was because of greed, impatience and other human qualities that the revolution was so destructive. The people at the time didn’t understand the effects burning coal had on the environment. like an ignorant child doesn’t understand the long-term effects drinking soda can have on the body, people at the time just knew that using coal got them the results they wanted. Burning coal gave them a way to control the energy output, to keep up the energy leaves they just need to burn more coal. Wind and water mills are so dependent on the randomness of nature and the energy required to power a factory needs to be kept at a constant level. With the technology of the time, this level of energy could never have been maintained. while I do believe wind and water mills could have been made more efficient I don’t think we could have reached were we are today if we had used wind and water. Even today the major fallback of wind energy is that the energy cannot be stored it goes directly into use, this would be fine except you can’t control the wind it’s self. Our use of water has greatly advanced seeing as the creation of the Hover dame supplies 1.5 million kilowatts of power—provide electricity to Arizona, southern California, and Nevada. (water encyclopedia, September 8) This energy cannot be stored either, but because they control the flow of water it is less of an issue. Reliable energy levels is a key factor in the mass production of goods.

I don’t think we would be where we are now if it weren't for mass production. Unfortunately, we would have taken longer to develop the necessary tools and machinery to be as advanced as we are today. I believe mass production was so important to our modern development because with out it we wouldn’t have many of our important everyday objects. Without mass production people of all classes wouldn’t have had access to books and materials. When products are mass produced they become available to more people. When everyone has access to something they can make improvements that members from the previous upper class may not have thought of. Now that everyone had opportunities for education people who weren't from wealthy families could work their way up in society. People like Henry Ford would not exist if it weren't for mass production, and cars would not be a common family possession.

kengelman said...

I strongly agree with Meagan. I totally agree with what Meagan stated that we would have had the same quality of life if we had just used wind and water. Sure it would have taken us longer but we would have so much of a better life. We wouldn't have to worrying about global warming everyday of our lives. We wouldn't have to think will the Earth still be around in 100 years. If we would have just stuck to the basics of life we would have eventually gotten to the same place. Because if you think about it in today's world we are resorting back to wind and water to help our planet. We are using wind power now to power our houses and many other things. Solar power is now also a huge green movement. Yes we have the technology now to be able to use these natural resources better but I believe that would have been able to figure things out if they just kept trying new and different things with the wind and water back then.

I don't necessarily think the whole discovery of fossil fuels was a misstep. I think the way that the use of them expanded so quickly was a misstep though. They used them too freely and use them in too much of an abundance. I think that if they would have used them in moderation and only for certain things that were vital to their lives we would be a lot better off now. A majority of major pollution issues started during the Industrial Revolution and now they can't be reversed. I think they should have thought about the future instead of just thinking greedily like they did. If this had occurred our planet would have been in much better condition.

Angela said...

Even though large factories have a dangerous effect on the environment, I agree that the Industrial Revolution was a necessary step forward and that it greatly enhanced our quality of life.

I enjoy the luxury of shopping for something already made, I like to know I can grab a cup of clean water from a nearby refrigerator; I enjoy doing something as simple as a clap to turn on the lights and also the fact that I can type all of this instead of tiring my hand with pencil and paper. The effect of the Industrial Revolution has greatly made us lazier because of machines that perform what use to be man labor, such as the dishwasher, washer and dryer, oven and much more. Despite the effects on the environment, we are so accustomed to machines doing everything for us that we would despise living before the 18th century. Nowadays that man labor is reduced; school becomes a more important factor so people with higher education or even any education can get successful jobs. Another benefit of rising technology is increasing social interactions. With more time on our hands, the more activities, groups, dances and parties we can be a part of forming greater connections with peers and family.

Even though I agree with Megan that pollution and damage to the environment has been a downfall, without these sacrifices we wouldn’t be living in a nice neighborhood or a big city. Our population has risen to an extent that most families would probably be homeless if we didn’t have machinery and factories to wipe out trees in replace of homes. As the world modernizes the more expensive products are priced and in order to save people from living in poverty construction is necessary to build business for more job opportunities.

Clay Moran said...

To a certain extent I must agree with Vinanti, Kaitlin, and Meagan in saying that I think a past more rooted in natural energy forms like wind and water would have been beneficial to our planets present and future. I too feel that we most likely would have arrived at similar levels of comfort and convenience in relation to technology, had we taken that other route. Humans will likely always strive to make their own lives easier and more comfortable, especially as the pace of everyday life seems to quicken by the decade. That being said, had we not begun to rely on fossil fuels like oil and coal, would we really know the difference? Undoubtedly we would have continued on a path of technological advance, but if our given comforts were different, I believe we would simply advance what we had. If given the option tomorrow to change the past, and never have discovered the fossil fuels we now thrive on, starting from the beginning, I don’t think it would be a tough one for me. I would still live in a world of all the latest technological advances known to man, but with no global warming or fear that my grandchildren may find it difficult to survive on the planet I’ve left for them. Sounds like a no brainer.
I found another part of Mrs. Shaw’s discussion interesting and would like to comment on it briefly as well. She said, “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.” Although I don’t think it’s what she was directly getting at, in essence the Industrial Revolution gave birth to the middle class. The factory workers and all material goods producers became the middle class. This may, eventually have happened by some other means, but for what it is, I personally appreciate that aspect of the Revolution. I enjoy the freedom I have to pave my own way or work to gain precedence in my society.

Melissa Long said...

I believe has humans, and certainly as Americans, we have a hard time excepting our current state of living. We always want to be smarter, bigger, and better than everyone else around. Society creates this competition between people. And what can make someone better than the next person? Possibly have better technology, more possessions, or more money. Consequently, I think the Industrial Revolution was inevitable.

It’s easy to look back a two hundred years in the past and see all of the negative effects the Industrial Revolution created. But the question is, at the time they were creating factories did they know they were damaging the environment? I would argue no because every invention in the 19th century was created to benefit man. This was simply the next step in the evolution of society. Other resources such as wind power were not developed further because no one invented a way to advance that technology. If they had developed wind power would the environment be cleaner today? Maybe. But it also could have had negative effects such as land being excessively cleared to create room for windmills to be built.

I like to think of the Industrial Revolution like current day Wal-Mart. Initially a man created a store that offered low prices to help his neighbors. This grew into a massive industry that still helps people save money, but also produces massive amounts of pollution. When the organization was created it did not mean for it to become the monster it is today, but unseen actions of the future has caused it to develop into a monopoly. And even when we still know the negative actions the Wal-Mart industry has created globally, how many of us still shop there?

The Industrial Revolution was an advancement. It created society today and better and cheaper products for citizens of the past. However, now we are at another turning point in history. Because of the unforeseen consequences of the Industrial Revolution we now face a time when new inventions are needed, only this time to prevent pollution. We are amongst another Industrial Revolution, the next great technological advancements, only this time it will hopefully make future societies cleaner.

Jenna Martini said...

Call me insane, but I am glad the Industrial Revolution took place, even with the negativity it may have brought to the environment. Yes, when it comes to design, I am all about going green with design, but let's be honest with ourselves, how many of us have created every project with going green as the primary focus? The Industrial Revolution may call upon greater pollution and a more materialistic society, but the way I see it; It'd take riding in a car than walking everywhere.

I'd take having my UPS packages shipped to me the next day than waiting weeks, even months on a ship or a carriage. Sure, there are benefits in all ways of living, but I believe the Industrial Revolution brought about some of the best ways of technology, mass production, and architecture. The use of natural resources as a tool to get ahead in society was bound to happen. I'm glad I have been able to live the way I have.

Betty said...

I am going to weigh in with Casey and Jenna on this one. Societal progress is alrways incremental. Each step forward has its own benefits and dangers. The technology that gives us vaccines is similar to that which gives us biological weapons. Should we as a society then live with the threat of smallpox and polio?

The failings of oil and coal technology, in my opinion tie into societal values and priorities and lack of effective regulatory oversight. For good and bad, the Constitution and Laws of the United States are biased toward the philosophy that what is good for one is good for the whole (and forgive me for not citing the correct philosopher here). Casey made the comment about wealth seeking and greed eclipsing taking care of society as a whole, and I wholeheartedly agree. That is the nature of Capitalism, though. I don't know how we could change that, or ultimately if we could. And to that point, until recently environmental consciousness was not marketable.

Hopefully, the tide is turning and we are taking another incremental step forward into an age of more acute social and environmental awareness. That the impending threat of a global environmental and health crisis has precipitated the shift is regrettable, but necessary. As Vinanti pointed out, "Necessity is the mother of invention," and here we are at the door of necessity. As part of the jaded few, I say "hooray" to you idealistic many. It is that vision, hope, and optimism that will make change possible.

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