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Human industrialization affects the Earth

Expansion of technology increases the resources that humans use.

As you recall from History class:

“The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain for a variety of reasons including, capital for investment, natural resources, a large labor force, and technological innovations. This revolution quickly spread to the United States which had many of the same advantages. The Industrial Revolution in the U.S. was primarily centered in the northern states, as the southern states continued to rely on agriculture, which was extremely profitable using slave labor under the plantation system.”

“Pre Civil War: Factories and mills spread quickly throughout New England prior to the Civil War due to good supplies of natural resources such as iron and coal, and the ease of transporting finished goods along the many navigable rivers. This in turn lead to the building of more railroads and canals to handle the increased traffic.”

“The Civil War increased industrialization as both North and South required weapons. The North was in a better position to expand as they already had industrialized to a certain extent. Factories for guns, ammo, clothing, and various other supplies quickly grew. Also, mechanization in agriculture became a primary concern as many farmers were away fighting the war. “

“After the Civil War, the transcontinental railroad opened commerce across the country, and further stimulated technological growth. Technology began to change American life with the introduction of inventions such as the electric streetcar (1874), the telephone (1876), the phonograph (1878), and the gasoline powered car (1893). Innovative businessmen like Henry Ford introduced new methods of production such as the assembly line to further spur technological growth….”

“…The people of the early 20th century had access to many more luxuries than any people before. Automobiles transformed culture by allowing people to live farther and farther away from the workplace. This created suburban life. Cities were transformed by the ever growing skyscrapers that seemed to dominate architecture. This was made possible due to better methods of production of steel and the increasing use of energy sources such as electricity and coal. Electricity changed life as people began to use electric lights and appliances in their homes….”

{ Excerpted from Regentsprep.org US History and Government }


Fresh water sources, aquifers



How to help?




Use of DDT on crops

The overriding theme of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is the powerful—and often negative—effect humans have on the natural world. Carson’s main argument is that pesticides have detrimental effects on the environment; she says these are more properly termed “biocides” because their effects are rarely limited to the target pests.

DDT is a prime example, but other synthetic pesticides—many of which are subject to bioaccumulation—are scrutinized. Carson accuses the chemical industry of intentionally spreading disinformation and public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically.

Most of the book is devoted to pesticides’ effects on natural ecosystems, but four chapters detail cases of human pesticide poisoning, cancer, and other illnesses attributed to pesticides. About DDT and cancer, Carson says only:

In laboratory tests on animal subjects, DDT has produced suspicious liver tumors. Scientists of the Food and Drug Administration who reported the discovery of these tumors were uncertain how to classify them, but felt there was some “justification for considering them low grade hepatic cell carcinomas.” Dr. Hueper [author of Occupational Tumors and Allied Diseases] now gives DDT the definite rating of a “chemical carcinogen.”

Carson predicts increased consequences in the future, especially since targeted pests
may develop resistance to pesticides , and weakened ecosystems fall prey to
unanticipated invasive species. The book closes with a call for a biotic approach to pest control. Carson never called for an outright ban on DDT. She said in Silent Spring that even if DDT and other insecticides had no environmental side effects, their indiscriminate overuse was counterproductive because it would create insect resistance to pesticides, making them useless in eliminating the target insect populations:

No responsible person contends that insect-borne disease should be ignored. The question that has now urgently presented itself is whether it is either wise or responsible to attack the problem by methods that are rapidly making it worse. The world has heard much of the triumphant war against disease through the control of insect vectors of infection, but it has heard little of the other side of the story—the defeats, the short-lived triumphs that now strongly support the alarming view that the insect enemy has been made actually stronger by our efforts. Even worse, we may have destroyed our very means of fighting.

Carson also said that “Malaria programmes are threatened by resistance among mosquitoes”, and quoted the advice given by the director of Holland’s Plant Protection Service: “Practical advice should be ‘Spray as little as you possibly can’ rather than
‘Spray to the limit of your capacity’ … Pressure on the pest population should always
be as slight as possible.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_Spring }

Robert Zubrin, The Truth About DDT and  Silent Spring, The New Atlantis


Thermal pollution of rivers




Fossil fuel mining and drilling, impact on environment

Where do fossil fuels come from?


How was coal formed?

Coal Formation


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Image from http://need-media.smugmug.com/Graphics/Graphics/17024036_Bdmf8C/1295824178_2JgX3xW#!i=1295824178&k=2JgX3xW
oil Natural Gas Formation_Primary-L

Burning fossil fuel to generate electricity

{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil-fuel_power_station }


Nuclear power

using uranium for nuclear fission. Some clear advantages & disadvantages.

{ http://www.c2es.org/energy/source/nuclear }

{ http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PWR_nuclear_power_plant_diagram.svg }

Nuclear power – using thorium for nuclear fission. Some clear advantages & disadvantages.

{ http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1452011/chinese-scientists-urged-develop-new-thorium-nuclear-reactors-2024?page=all }

Thorium nuclear power

Nuclear power – using hydrogen for nuclear fusion. Some clear advantages & disadvantages.


Nuclear power and cancer

In theory, during an accident, radiation released from nuclear power plants can increase the background rates of cancer, perhaps dramatically. It has long been expected by opponents of nuclear power that it’s use would be highly dangerous. Yet in the 60 years of it’s use, the number of actual accidents, Soviet designed tragedies like Chernobyl (an event in a class by itself, due to deliberate malfeasance), and even Fukushima Daiichi, the tsunami-damaged nuclear reactor site, have caused far less damage and death than coal, oil and other sources of power.

Surprisingly, simply burning coal releases more radiation into the environment than running a nuclear reaction. Similarly, getting into an airplace to fly away from Fukushima Daiichi caused thousands of Japanese citizens to be exposed to even more ionizing radiation than if they had simply stayed at home – as airplane flights make one rise above most of the atmopshere, thereby increasing one’s exposire to natural background radiation from space.

There is also the intriguing phenomenon of radiation hormesis:

Radiation hormesis is the hypothesis that low doses of ionizing radiation (just above natural background levels) are beneficial. Low level radiation apparently activates repair mechanisms that protect against disease, that are not activated in absence of ionizing radiation. The reserve repair mechanisms are hypothesized to be sufficiently effective as to not only cancel the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation – but also inhibit disease not related to radiation exposure. This counter-intuitive hypothesis has captured the attention of scientists and public alike in recent years.

Radiation hormesis. (2016, December 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:44, February 2, 2017
Radiation hormesis (Wikipedia)

There is no environment without some level of background radioactivity. What society needs to do is become familiar with the statistics, so it can make informed choices on how much power to generate/consume, and where this power should come from.

Coal releases more radioactivity than nuclear power

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