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Rapid Industrialization and Its Effects on The Environment

1.0 Introduction

Economies all over the globe have used rapid industrialization as one of the ways of achieving accelerated economic growth. Industrialized economies are thus able to control major macroeconomic variables like unemployment, inflation and balance of payments (Givens, 2011). However, this does not mean that rapid industrialization lacks negative effects.

As nations industrialize, immediate effects that go with this are hasty urbanization coupled with a population explosion. Increased overall population translates to industries being overstretched. As Simon Kuznets once noted, there is an inverse relationship between economic growth and environmental quality. Kuznets argument has been proven to be true in almost all countries that have experienced rapid (and unsustainable) industrialization. In such cases, environmental components (land, air, water and human population) suffer from pollution caused by industries as they try to produce enough to cater for rising population, or as they dispose their waste.

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2.0 Discussion

2.01 Rapid Industrialization versus Air Pollution

Man has become the main victim of industrial pollution. Today, pollution related illnesses like asthma and chronic lung illnesses kill more people than malaria. A major air pollutant that affects human health is smog. Generally, this pollutant is comprised mainly of ozone. When inhaled, smog reduces the ability of lungs to function normally by damaging their linings. In most cases, children below the age of five years and the elderly are more vulnerable. Where smog is produced abundantly, air quality deteriorates especially during hot weather, and it is during this period that asthma cases rise. Industries associated with massive smog emissions are those that operate in manufacturing sectors (Jorgenson, 2007). As the number of industries rise, so is the amount of smog and ozone.

The second industrial revolution saw the emergence of electrical power plants. Three centuries later, the number of electrical power plants has kept on rising as the demand for this form of power increases. In the modern era, electric power is used in almost every aspect of our lives. In the developed world, for instance, electricity is used to drive tooth brushes. In other areas, trains that initially relied on coal power are now relying on electricity. It is very unfortunate, thus, to note that electric power plants emit more than 70% of annual global sulfur dioxide and about 30% of nitric oxides (Erisman, 2007. A combination of the two oxides with atmospheric moisture results to what is commonly known as “acid rain”. Devastating environmental effects are associated with acid rain. Some of these effects are corrosion of iron sheets, statues and buildings. The same pollutant is believed to be a major cause of deforestation and etching of cars’ paints. Most importantly, when acid rain mixes with sea water, it causes depletion of oxygen meaning that marine life cannot survive in such conditions (Landon, 2006).

Staying with electric power plants, it is noted that these plants are also major emitters of toxins into the air. Key toxins associated with electric power plants include asbestos, toluene, mercury, lead, cadmium and chromium. The most unfortunate thing about all these toxins is that they cause serious health effects on all those who form part of human food chain. For example, mercury emissions build up in marine life, and so when humans consume any marine product, like fish, then some health concerns arise. In addition to this emission, there is lead which is largely associated with metal processing industries. The regrettable thing about this emission is that lead deposits find their way on leaves of plants. When animals consume these plants, and then just like with mercury, health concerns arise as herbivores form part of human food chain.

Global warming is remains to be the most controversial issue in the 21st century. Environmental scientists suggest that global warming is caused by greenhouse gases. These are a combination of several gases, but the major ones are carbon dioxide and monoxide and methane. Greenhouse gases are responsible for rising atmospheric temperatures. In extreme cases, these gases may cause river, lakes and sea levels to rise. This means that, as the globe continues to experience global warming, chances of flooding increases. Apart from harmful effects on the environment, global warming is also thought to have extremely unfavorable effects on human health. A number of diseases are associated with global warming and these include Lyme disease, dengue fever, malaria, plague and cholera.

Although there are international calls to reduce emission of greenhouses gases, there are a number of setbacks. Major setbacks being that, industrialized countries are trying to maintain their industrial output while developing countries are trying to industrialize. The overall effect of this is a rise in the number of industries, and this ultimately translates to increased levels of greenhouses being emitted annually. Power generation industries are again the major causes of global warming. According to the year 2000 estimates, these industries emit more than 8000teragrams of carbon dioxide, and 3teragrams of methane. In total, this industry alone accounts for 31% of greenhouse gases emitted annually. Second on the list of industries causing global warming is the refineries (Croitoru, 2010. This industrial sub sector emits more than 5000teragrams of carbon dioxide and 8teragrams of methane. In summary, refineries alone accounts for 15 percent of greenhouses gases emitted per year. Third on the list is the road sector. As countries continue to develop, automobiles no longer become luxuries, but necessities. Almost everyone in the developed world owns a car while those in the developing world are also striving to get there. What is currently happening is that the number of vehicles being introduced into the road is rapidly rising. Consequently, vehicle emissions are rising. By the year 2005, the vehicles emissions accounted for almost the same percentage as the refineries in as far as greenhouse gases emission is concerned. Other sectors that contribute appreciably to global warming are gas production and transportation, coal mining and processing, oil extraction and refining, international shipping, rail and non road transportation and bio fuel production sectors.

2.02 Industrialization and Land Pollution

Gone are the days when the agricultural sector would use organic farming methods. Modern agriculture has defied the idea of going “green”, and has instead opted for inorganic means. Initially, farmers would use nonchemical fertilizers for their farms, and organic feeds for their animals. Today, industries that offer farmers an alternative has sprang up. These industries produce on a large scale chemical fertilizers, and commercial feeds that have short run benefits on both the farmers and land. In the long run, all stakeholders stand to lose to due to the distressing effects caused by agricultural and related industries. Prolonged use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides lead to massive land pollution and reducing fertility of the same. The ill-fated thing about these chemicals is that they are prone to run offs meaning that far off areas may also get affected. For instance, run off from a piece of land which has a record of long term chemical use may threaten survival wildlife and marine life. Furthermore, there is proof that extensive consumption of commercial feeds by livestock may also contribute to land pollution. Animal excrement from such livestock may accumulate and leach into underground water.

Dumping of industrial waste also contributes to land pollution. In 2007 alone, Environment Protection Agency of the United Sates noted that there were more than 10 million pounds of harmful pollutants dumped. Major pollutants identified by this survey were heavy metals that comprise mainly of mercury, lead and arsenic compounds. But that’s not all; dumping sites are a common phenomenon in all countries (developed or otherwise).dumping sites and areas where factories are decommissioned get adversely polluted, and so a simple clean up may not suffice. Such sites are termed as Brownfield sites (Nelson, 2009). What these locations have in common is that soil beneath them is polluted with petrochemicals, heavy metals and construction debris. The unfortunate thing to note is that dumping sites and factories have become a necessity. Demand for industrial products is on the rise due to the effects of urbanization, overpopulation and lifestyle change.  As the demand for industrial products rise, so are the wastes increasing and so are the dumping sites becoming a necessity. What is complicating things even more is that most industrial products are inorganic and so cannot decompose. In addition, the culture of recycling has not yet been adopted.

Continued use of chemical fertilizers, as already noted, have short run beneficial effects on productivity. In the long run, farmers stand to lose. In 2005, for example, a study showed that farmers in China had their rice production drop by more than 40 billion kilograms (Brett, 2010). This connotes that chemical fertilizers reduce the ability of soil to sustain crop productivity. In the same connection, environmental protection agency in China has revealed that more than 7 million hectares of farmland have been polluted by chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. According to the agency, reversal of this phenomenon may not be possible or may take quite a while. This is because China’s population is on the increase and so is demand for jobs. Policy makers, thus, may not order reduction in productivity, in these industries, as this would hurt the economy by increasing unemployment and dependence rates.

It is also important to note that land pollution also has harmful effects on human health. When crops grow on polluted soils, human beings consume these crops innocently. Some of the chemicals used as pesticides contain “persistent” compounds that remain on soils and on crops for a long time. Some of these pollutants are dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and Lindane (Y-Ch). Health problems associated with these two is birth defects, skin diseases and cancers.

2.03 Water Pollution versus Industrialization

Ground water is mainly polluted through leaching processes. Surface water on the other hand gets polluted through a number of ways. One of the ways that rivers, lakes and seas, get polluted is when sulfur oxides combine with moisture to form acid rain then these flows into the water sources. Runoffs from polluted agricultural land, also leads to water pollution. Other ways that surface water gets polluted is through oil spills, water runoff from dumping sites and through deliberate disposal of industrial waste into water bodies (Brett, 2010).

3.0 Conclusion

Economies all over the world understand that rapid industrialization is one of the surest ways of achieving accelerated economic growth. This, however, causes other problems like rapid urbanization and population explosion. Worse still, rapid industrialization causes adverse effects on environmental quality. Today, industrialized countries are aiming to maintain their industrial capacity while developing ones are trying to catch up with their developed counterparts. The net effect of this is an increased industrial growth a fact that does not auger well with the environment. All aspects of the environment have been affected as industries strive to produce enough for the ever rising population. Land, water and air have constantly been polluted over the years. Human beings have also not been left out, when any of the three components of the environment suffers an imbalance, man, flora and fauna also gets affected. Greenhouse gases are major pollutants of the environment while agricultural chemicals and dumping are associated with land pollution. Water sources are affected by either leaching of pollutants into underground water sources or runoffs from polluted surfaces (Kurland, 2008).

4.0 Recommendation

Although rapid industrialization is associated with environmental degradation, it does not mean that is does not have its positive side. This practice cannot be wished away especially by countries that aim to achieve accelerated economic growth.     What thus needs to be done is controlling what comes as the aftermath of this exercise. Everyone and not only industrialists has a role to play. Environmentalists have suggested a number of measures that can be used to maintain a healthy environment.

First, people have to reduce emission from vehicles by relying not on private transport, but turning to public means. This means that the automobiles plying all routes go down and in so doing, annual emissions drop. Using well serviced vehicles also reduces emissions per vehicle and ultimately total emissions.

Secondly, it needs to be understood that power generating plants are a major cause of pollution. In this connection, masses need to use renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power.

Thirdly, burning of methane can also save the environment. This gas is a major greenhouse gas that causes global warming. It is thought to cause more harm than does carbon dioxide. Instead of emitting this into the atmosphere, industries should consider burning it (Hill, 2010).

The fourth suggestion has a lot to do with recycling. Dump sites account for a considerable level of overall pollution. This can be reduced by recycling of waste. Inorganic waste products like plastics and other non-biodegradable materials should not be disposed without recycling.

Fifth, farmers should consider the option of using organic farming methods. Pesticides, herbicides and commercial feeds are major causes of land pollution and so should be avoided. Using of organic fertilizers enhances the ability of land to sustain crop production for a prolonged period of time (Zhao, 2010).

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