The Industrial Revolution was a turning point in human history. In 18th century Europe and America, rapid changes occurred that altered the economy, population, environment and standard of living. While this may seem like a major step forward, there were many negative effects brought on by this massive societal change.
The Industrial Revolution increased the use of hydrocarbon fuels, specifically coal, oil and natural gas. As a result, water and air pollution increased exponentially. Nearby rivers were being used as dumps for human and industrial waste. As a result, Paris, experienced a series of cholera outbreaks, a water-borne illness that killed 20,000 Parisian citizens. This affected citizens in London, too. Air pollution took its toll also, with the exhaust from factories producing smog. London coined the term "smog" by combing the words "smoke" and "fog." In 1873, 700 people in London died after a straight week of smog infestation.
When the Industrial Revolution hit America, it had a profound effect on population. The shift began in 1865, when people began moving from farms and towns to the cities. While this opened up new possibilities in terms of employment, the sudden influx also created overpopulation and led to slums. Immigration came from all over the world, creating social and religious tension from non-Christian newcomers. These individuals were welcomed with hostility and discrimination.
Values and Conflicts
As the population urbanized, new conflicts arose for different beliefs. The debate between evolution and religion became significant, eventually causing a divide between fundamentalists and moderate Christians. Issues such as sexuality and the role of women came to the forefront. While the revolution brought opportunities for women, it also isolated families; in turn, the divorce rate increased.
When families came to the cities looking for a better life, they were bitterly disappointed. While jobs were plentiful in industries like petroleum refining and steel manufacturing, the pay was still low. This forced entire families to work just to break the poverty line. Children as young as three years old were working 10 to 14 hours a day in harsh, unsafe conditions. Safety was not a concern, so deaths were a harsh reality. In addition, this constant working limited children's access to education.
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