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During the Industrial Revolution, environmental pollution increased with the use of new sources of fuel, the development of large factories, and the rise of unsanitary urban centers.
Describe the toll that industrialization took on public health and the environment
Anthracite coal, discovered at the turn of the nineteenth century, became an important source of fuel in the United States during the Industrial Revolution, with lasting consequences for the environment.
Sanitation was a major public health concern in cities such as 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 nineteenth century.
Though environmentalism did not enter American discourse prior to the twentieth 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 nineteenth century who were loosely bound together by an 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.
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, large factories, and sprawling urban centers.
Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. 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, steam-powered boats, and machinery. 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.
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 supplies. In the mid-nineteenth 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 public health officials' confidence in the self-purifying capacity of rivers, lakes, and the sea.
In the early nineteenth century, policymakers and the public had little awareness of the extent of industry's impact on the environment. Some effects were self-evident to attentive observers, however, and the rise of industrialization and urbanization did inspire a new appreciation for the natural world among some. 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.
“Industrialization and the Environment.”
Boundless U.S. History
Boundless, 12 Sep. 2016.
Retrieved 26 Mar. 2017 from