Sustainable Environment
Climate Change
Global Warming
Air Pollution
Weather & Climate
Earth and Man
Doing Our Bit

Earth > Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Britain, before spreading around the world. Coal, oil and gas (collectively termed fossil fuels) offered levels of energy production previously undreamed of, leading to shifts towards factory-based systems and the mass production of goods such as cotton. Fossil fuels, principally coal at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, were primarily used to generate steam power and electricity, but their applications were vast, with many industries becoming automated, hence increasing their output. In the search for a better standard of living, many people moved from the countryside to the cities to find work in the new factories. The burning of fossil fuels led to a massive increase in urban air pollution, although most people felt that such a disadvantage was not significant in the context of their new found prosperity.

In addition to urban air pollution however, other impacts of industrialisation were felt. There were drastic changes to land use with the construction of new buildings, including factories and houses for employees, and transport facilities, including new roads and rail tracks. Areas of countryside were destroyed and replaced by industrial developments. In order to make best use of the remaining land, agricultural machinery was modernised to make the production of food more efficient.

Today, industrialisation continues in the less well developed areas of the world like Africa and parts of Asia. We have gradually become aware that there are many environmental impacts as a consequence of industrialisation, and that we have the ability to take the appropriate action. The main impacts of concern are pollution, resource consumption (including energy resources) and population growth.