The Industrial Revolution: Impacts on the Environment

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  • 0:06 The Impact of Revolutions
  • 1:22 The Industrial Revolution
  • 2:46 Impacts on the Environment
  • 4:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The Industrial Revolution was marked by the introduction of power-driven machinery and ushered in a time of strong economic development. Learn how advancements made during the Industrial Revolution impacted the environment.

The Impact of Revolutions

The 18th and 19th centuries brought much advancement to Britain and America. It was during this time period that the British Agricultural Revolution took place, which was a period of significant agricultural development marked by new farming techniques and inventions that led to a massive increase in food production. This agricultural growth created a ripple effect that spread throughout the countries. People were now able to leave the farms and move into cities because there was sufficient agricultural production to support life away from the farm.

The conveniences of city life created a demand for other products, such as clothing and non-essential items that improved the quality of life. New technologies were invented to meet the growing demand for these products, which lead to the first industrial factories. Soon, people were moving into cities in greater numbers to find employment as factory workers. This ushered in the next great revolution, known as the Industrial Revolution. In this lesson, you will take a look at how industrialization and mass production furthered progress, and how they have impacted our environment.

The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th and 19th centuries and was a period of significant economic development marked by the introduction of power-driven machinery. Much like the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution began to take shape in Britain and then spread to other countries. During the Industrial Revolution, many power-driven machines were invented, which replaced hand tools. This included the cotton gin, which was a machine used to separate cotton fibers and their seeds. The American inventor of the cotton gin was a man by the name of Eli Whitney. The cotton gin, along with new inventions in spinning and weaving, made the mass production of cloth possible and gave a big boost to the textile industry.

This era also led to a large increase in the use of coal. Coal replaced wood and other fuel sources because it was abundant, efficient and required less work to mine than cutting wood. Coal was also used to make iron, which was used in the manufacturing of machines and tools, as well as the construction of ships and bridges. The Industrial Revolution also saw the development of the steam engine, which was an engine that used steam to perform work. Steam engines were used in transportation and to power factories.

Impacts on the Environment

Even though this was a time of economic growth and development, the Industrial Revolution impacted the environment in negative ways. With the drudgery and toil of daily life made easier thanks to technological advancements, the world saw a major increase in population. This in and of itself led to environmental changes simply because there were more people consuming more natural resources. Not only was the population growing, but there was also a rapid growth in living standards thanks to the economic prosperity of this era. Higher living standards led to forests being cut down to make way for expanding cities and to provide lumber for construction.

There was also an increased demand for raw materials used during the mass production of non-essential items within factories. These factors led to the depletion of natural resources. Factories would spew smog and soot into the air and release pollutants and chemicals directly into rivers and streams, resulting in increased air and water pollution.

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