Industrialization, the wide-scale development of industries in a country or region, by which an agrarian society transforms into an economy based on the manufacturing of goods. To put it simply, it is the transition from manual labour to mechanized mass production. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the industrial revolution is unlike anything, bringing forth new machines, new power sources, and new ways of organizing work.
It is undeniable that the Industrial Revolution paved the way for the creation of new opportunities. It played a critical role in global economic development. Cities flourished as people relocated in search of new jobs, thus, increasing urbanization. More goods were produced in relatively less time and for a cheaper price. This allowed people to purchase products they could never afford before. Industrialization was also able to include a more efficient division of labour, and the use of technological innovation to help solve problems. Many of the comforts we enjoy today are dependent upon machines, technology undoubtedly becoming an integral part of our lives. Industrialization may have brought economic prosperity, but at what cost? With booming industrial growth and relatively low landmass, the environment's long-term viability is now becoming a major factor in the industrial development process.
Our planet is on the brink of a severe environmental crisis. Industrialization has brought irreversible consequences on human health and wildlife, as it pushes the environmental impacts closer to the threshold limits of tolerance. As evident, one of the negative effects of industrialization is land degradation. Due to urban sprawls, more land is needed to be cleared to accommodate growing communities. To build infrastructure, strip mines, and gravel pits, forests are destroyed and biodiversity is lost. An increase in population also results in proliferating pollution as more vehicles, agricultural activities, mining operations, shipping industries, and factories are built to keep up with the growing demand. As the combustion of coal takes place within these factories, sulfur dioxide is formed, the main component of acid rain. As a result, soil erosion prevails and the fertility of the land continues to degrade. On the other hand, exposure to soot and nitrogen oxide emissions, both of which are byproducts of fossil fuel combustion, are risk factors of chronic respiratory diseases.
In addition, the issue of child labour, a social change triggered during the industrial revolution, continues to persist. The lack of quality control and safety protocols in factories made working conditions horrible and hazardous. Adults complained and refused to work under these conditions but rather than seeking improvements, factory owners began to hire children, some as young as four years old. As industrialization attracted workers and their families from rural areas, the children were taken advantage of and used as servants and apprentices. Most were mistreated, abused, and left to fend for themselves within the confines of the factory. Moreover, since children could be paid less and their small stature enabled them to complete tasks in factories or mines, they were viewed as ideal workers. Unfortunately, working children were unable to attend school, creating a vicious cycle of poverty.
Up to this day, the drawbacks of industrialization are still evident. The widening gap between the rich and poor traces back to the initial stages of the industrial revolution. Income inequality rose primarily because productivity in certain sectors of the economy grew more rapidly than in others leading to faster increases in income. The rise in inequality does not fuel growth, immediately ceasing any development within the region. To add, capital owners tend to accumulate excessive profits, resulting in a higher disparity of wealth. Despite its environmental, financial, and social disadvantages, industrialization can still be enhanced.
In relation to the Sustainable Development Goals, the right to work in a just and favourable condition as well as the right to health must be given importance. It is the employer's obligation to provide as much information, instruction, and training as is necessary to ensure commitment to an employees' health and safety. Safety protocols must also be provided by the employer to ensure that the workers fully know and understand the hazards, risks, and protective measures needed within the workplace. Better awareness of risks, improved knowledge of safety procedures, and mutual respect can significantly improve the overall system.
In conclusion, it is possible to embark on a path of growth driven by industrialization while implementing green approaches that provide a solution to preserve the natural resources of the region. It calls for an adequate planning and integrated framework that is environmentally friendly and based on a careful assessment of previous and current conditions while strengthening the regional economy on a long-term basis. By developing a further course of action based on ground realities, development can be sustained without destroying our home in the name of progress. Only then can we remove the bad and the ugly, and leave what is good of industrialization.
Let us remember that once our planet has reached its breaking point, its downfall will, too, be ours.
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