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During the Industrial Revolution, environmental pollution increased with the new sources of fuel, great factories, and urban centers.
Describe the toll that industrialization took on public health and the environment
Anthracite coal, discovered at the turn of the 19th century, became an important source of fuel in the U.S. at this time, with lasting consequences for the environment.
Sanitation was a major public health concern in cities like New York and Philadelphia, which lacked sewage systems and clean drinking water. Untreated sewage was not properly disposed of and thus frequently contaminated the local water supply.
Regulations to ensure cleaner air and cleaner water were not put in place until the second half of the 19th century.
Though environmentalism did not enter American discourse prior to the 20th century, the transcendentalist movement of the 1830s and 1840s presented a critique of industrialization that elevated the natural world.
Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau, fostered a romantic image of the natural world as a response to industrialization and urbanization.
A movement of writers and philosophers in New England in the 19th century who were loosely bound together by adherence to an idealistic system of thought based on the belief in the essential supremacy of insight over logic and experience for the revelation of the deepest truths.
Any of several acute infectious diseases of humans and domestic animals, caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium through ingestion of contaminated water or food, usually marked by severe gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and dehydration
A form of carbonized ancient plants; the hardest and cleanest-burning of all the coals; hard coal.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. " --Henry David Thoreau's opening passage to Walden
The Industrial Revolution brought enormous advances in productivity, but with steep environmental costs. During the Industrial Revolution, environmental pollution in the United States increased with the emergence of new sources of fuel, great factories, and urban centers.
The Industrial Revolution was powered by fossil fuels. In 1790, anthracite coal was first discovered in what is now known as the Coal Region of Pennsylvania. A harder and high quality form of coal, Anthracite soon became the primary source of fuel in the United States for domestic and industrial use. It fueled factory furnaces and steam-powered boats and machinery. But the consumption of immense quantities of coal and other fossil fuels eventually gave rise to unprecedented air pollution . In 1881, Chicago and Cincinnati were the first two American cities to enact laws to promote cleaner air.
Anthracite coal breaker and power house buildings, New Mexico, ca. 1935
Coal tends to release large quantities of carbon as it is burned to make electricity.
The environmental effects of industrialization were especially concentrated in cities. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding afflicted many American cities, where outbreaks of disease, including cholera and typhoid, were common . Untreated human waste was a major environmental hazard as rapidly growing cities lacked sewer systems and relied on contaminated wells within city confines for drinking water supply. In the mid-19th century, after the link between contaminated water and disease was established, many cities built centralized water supply systems. However, waste water continued to be discharged without treatment, due to misplaced confidence on the part of public health officials in the self-purifying capacity of rivers, lakes, and the sea.
Hand bill from the New York City Board of Health, 1832.
The cholera outbreak of 1832 was related to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions that attended the Industrial Revolution.
In the early 19th century, policymakers and the public had little awareness of the extent of industry's impact on the environment. But some effects were self-evident to attentive observers, and the rise of industrialization and urbanization did inspire a new appreciation for the natural world. Transcendentalism, an intellectual movement of the 1830s and 1840s, elevated nature in popular poems, stories, and essays of the time. Transcendentalist author Henry David Thoreau is best known for his work Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. Thoreau also wrote on the subjects of natural history and philosophy and anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern day environmentalism.
Henry David Thoreau, 1856.
Thoreau's writings celebrated nature and a simple life and provided a critique of urban and industrial values.
Source: Boundless. “Industrialization and the Environment.” Boundless U.S. History. Boundless, 01 Jul. 2015. Retrieved 01 Jul. 2015 from https://www.boundless.com/u-s-history/textbooks/boundless-u-s-history-textbook/the-market-revolution-1815-1840-13/the-industrial-revolution-110/industrialization-and-the-environment-596-9029/