The Dark Side of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial revolution is compared to the Titanic. When Titanic was made it was considered unsinkable but even it had design flaws which ended up making the ship considered an unsinkable sink. It gives us a detailed account of the Industrial revolutions and changes that are needed to be brought.

Industrial Revolution had numerous negative consequences. It put toxic material into the air, water, soil. The by-products of these industries are toxic and require proper attention before being dumped off. Apart from this, it has many more negative consequences on the natural resources, species and the ecosystem. Although the consequences of the Industrial revolution were so negative, the industrialists, engineers, inventors and other minds behind the revolution never really considered these consequences. 

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The Industrial Revolution as a whole is not planned but is a result of gradual developments in the field of engineering and designing. The opportunistic Industrialists took advantage of these developments to increase their production thus bringing about a rapid change.

Early Impacts

The Industrial Revolution began in England with the textile industry taking over the agriculture sector which until the time was the main occupation of the people. Industries that existed before it was mere Cottage Industries which people had taken up as side ventures to farming. As things started changing these Industries took over and Cottage Industries mostly dependent on individual labours and small production quantity died.

The change was clearly visible when in the mid-1700s the spinning wheels which were used to make spun thread were replaced by machines which increased the production manifold. From one thread at a time the production increased to eighty threads at a time. Similarly for other materials also the production time decreased exponentially which resulted in a drastic increase in the total amount of products. The increase in production has compared to Moore’s Law. As the speed of computer chips doubled after every eighteen months similar to that the production also increased as time passed due to betterment in machinery.

The increase in production saw an immense hike in the export of all these goods by ships. The problem was that these ships were really slow and due to unfavourable weather, heavy custom duties, strict laws and piracy it was really difficult for the cargo to reach its destination. However, with faster railroad and ships this problem was resolved too partially. By 1840 factories which produced thousands of articles a week produced the same in one day. This resulted in an increase in the number of people workers in factories and thus people were too busy to farm and moved to cities. The population of urban areas increased as more and more jobs were produced. The increase in machinery resulted in Cottage workers getting angry and made life difficult for the inventors at times they died penniless and without getting any profit from their inventions. Even the poets of the time started writing about the Cities and described them as overgrown prisons and feared people’s lives will be shaped by materialistic designs.

Victorian London was described by Charles Dickens was “The Great and Dirty city” in the context of pollution and the unhealthy environment caused due to the Industrial Revolution. London air at the time had lots of pollutants so much so that the workers had to change collars and cuffs, a trend which exists even today in Beijing or Manila. In early times industrial revolutions were considered cheap and children and adults worked for long hours in tough conditions.

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Early Industrialists saw Industrialisation as a boon as it resulted in the rise of commercial banks, stock exchanges, press and open employment opportunities which gave a push to the middle class and economic growth. Also, the Industrial revolution made products, public transport, water distribution, sanitation, safe housing, waste collection and other conveniences cheaper which made these facilities available for the rich and the poor thereby increasing their standard of living.

Major Changes in Production

The Industrial Revolution in itself was not a planned change but the only motive was to gain profit. Industrialists aimed at an increase in production by the introduction of efficient mechanization

The cars were a prime example of changing times as earlier the production cost of the cars was very high as each part had to be manufactured individually by different workers and contractors and then these parts were assembled. Also, no two cars were alike as products were manufactured by hand using heat.

Henry Ford who was an engineer and himself built race cars found the Ford Motor Company in 1903. He knew if he wanted to manufacture cars for an average American he needed to decrease the cost of manufacture. In 1908 he manufactured the “Peoples Car” Model T. He hired the best men with the simplest designs so that it would be available to any average person.

Henry Ford achieved this in 1909 it centralized the production to only Model T’s and in 1910 moved to a larger factory with electricity and all of the production under one roof and introduced the assembly line which took the materials to the workers thereby decreasing time and cost of production which was inspired by Chicago beef industry.

The advancements made decreased the cost from $850 in 1908 to $290 in 1925. This resulted in skyrocketing of sales and the total sales by the end of the year were 39640 which reached to 15 million by 1927. 

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The Centralization of production was great in many ways. The Industries were regarded as “the Arsenal of Democracy” by Winston Churchill because of the financial help and economic stability it provided in war conditions. The Model T also brought a revolution as prices of many products plummeted which was earlier deemed unattainable. Also the work conditions in factories improved as Henry Ford increased the salaries of workers from $2.34 to $5 sometimes even assisting the workers himself and also reduced the work hours. By doing this he created his own market and raised the bar for the industries of the entire world.

Greed of the Industrialists

The goals of Industrialists were specific and realistic and they did not care much about the larger consequences outside the economic circle however they did share some about the general assumptions about the world.

Early industries relied heavily on natural resources like ore, timber, water, cattle, land etc. Ford’s River Rouge plant epitomized the production on a massive scale. This resulted in overtaking of agriculture and cutting of wood from forests for fuel. Factories thus were placed near these natural resources for easy access and water bodies were also used for waste disposal. Even the writers of the time wrote about the fight of man and nature where the man tried to win over nature by controlling it as nature was considered a dangerous force.

Modern Day Problems

Today new studies show that the oceans and animals are even more vulnerable than before this is due to the fact that even today Industries work on the age-old model developed by people who had a different sense of the world and there has been no real changes since. At its core, the only aim of the industrialisation is getting the product cheaply and quickly to the customer.

Industrial Revolution brought major social changes as better medical care was made available, education improved and comfort levels raised to an all-new level. Technological advancements resulted in an increase in agriculture productions to meet the needs of the growing population. But the fact of the matter remains that as much as the Industrial Revolution has helped people it has handed down to us some devastating consequences.

The production of various items is based on “Cradle to grave” model where a product once produced is no longer reused but is directly disposed of. At times repairing of a product is more difficult and expensive than buying a new one. With an investment of billions of dollars and rapid changes in technology people keep themselves up to date with the latest trends by buying new products, but the concept of reuse is hardly in place as the product once outdated is preferably thrown off so much so that in the United States 90% of materials extracted are wasted almost immediately.

Also, the products are designed with “Built-in obsolescence” so ensure that they last for only a certain period of time and later is needed to be replaced.

Many changes were suggested including a universal architecture for all buildings throughout the world which was achievable through natural resources like fossil fuels etc however today International architecture is a blend of both the international standards and the local area, conditions and culture.

Similarly in product manufacture, the products are manufactured for the worst-case scenario rather than a favourable condition this increases the pollution and wastage coming out of a manufacturing plant thereby damaging the environment even more.

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Today’s Infrastructure like earlier chases economic growth and it aims at achieving it even at the vital expense of the environment, public health and safety. Apart from a few positives, the Industrial Revolution has had negative impacts both on the people and the environment. This is largely because the corporate for their own gain are ready to go to any extent. This is due to this age-old model that no great change can be seen when it comes to reducing these negative impacts. Due to this intergenerational remote tyranny, the future generations will have to bear the consequences of today. And even today, although we aim to ensure that children are healthy and well-fed on-ground situation, is different as children still sleep hungry and the pollution has resulted in children being born with genetic mutations, cancer, asthma etc. At some point hopefully sooner than later we need to devise a strategy of change for the betterment of future generations.