After the industrial revolution the science and technology improved the standard of living but destroyed the harmonious relationship between the humans and the natural environment. The impacts of science technology and industrialization on environment fall into two broad catergories.
The direct impacts are preplanned because people are aware of consequences, both positive and negative of any programme which is launched to change or modify the natural environment for economic development. Such changes include land use changes, constructions and excavations, agricultural practices and weather modification programmes. The indirect impacts are not planned and arise from those human activities that are directed to accelerate the pace of economic growth, especially industrial development. Impacts include the release of toxic elements and industrial wastes into the environment systems, and the burning of hydrocarbons. Some of these impacts are listed below.
Deforestation either for cropland or for commercial purposes leads to accelerated rates of soil erosion. This results in gully erosion and loss of soil fertility on the one hand, and an enormous increase in sediment load in the river which causes severe floods on the other hand. These chain effects can be effectively stopped by reforestation of the deforested areas. Similarly, changes in farm practices, which introduce adverse changes in the environment, may be changed to suit the environmental and ecological situations.
b) Weather modifications
The 'cloud seeding' technology in meteorological phenomena in turns modifies the local weather conditions. This technology stimulates clouds and precipitation through crystalization of super cooled drops through the application of solid carbon dioxide and certain compounds of iodine. A few hundred grams of solid carbon dioxide or a few grams of an iodine compound are enough to crystalize a cubic kilometer of a super cooled cloud of water drops.
c) Exploitation of ground water : Withdrawal of groundwater for drinking water and irrigation purposes, construction of dams and reservoirs to store water upset the equilibrium of the rocks below. In particular, dams on major rivers increase hydrostatic pressure, which causes disturbances in underlying rocks and triggered off many seismic evnets.
d) Release of toxic elements : The release of toxic elements into the ecosystem through their uses as insecticides and fertilizers changes the food chains and food webs (e.g. the introduction of D.D.T.) Similarly, the release of industrial wastes into stagnant water, rivers and seas contaminates water and causes several diseases and deaths of organisms. These toxic substances, through the food chain, are transported across the placenta and reach the developing foetuses of women and cause miscarriages and premature labour. Increasing urbanisation and industrial expansion are responsible for the release of enormous quantities of pollutants into the rivers and lakes, contaminating the water.
e) The burning of hydrocarbon : The burning of hydrocarbon fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) in the atmosphere. The increase in CO2 content of the atmosphere may change the heat balance by increasing the level of sensible heat in the atmosphere. CO2 allows more absorption of incoming solar radiation and out going terrestrial re-radiation.
f) Depletion of the ozone layer : Deplection of the ozone layer means less absorption of ultraviolet rays which increases the temperature of the Earth's surface. Increases in air temperature and decreases in the concentration of ozone can cause skin cancer, decrease photosynthesis, and lower crop yields. Ultraviolet radiation also accelerates the photochemical processes that create urban smog. The marine environment would also suffer drastic damages as the productivity of phyto-plankton would be reduced due to a decrease in photosynthesis. This will also affect the mortality of larvae of zoo-plankton. The species composition of marine ecosystems may change, as certain species are more vulnerable to ultra violet radiation.
Environmentalists fear that as technology advances, human influence on our environment will also increase, both in intensity and extent. Our power over our environment will become more dominant. To control our power over our environment, many geographers employ the concept of a Control System whereby the Earth is viewed as a system. In the next lesson, let us learn how the Control System helps us to understand the functional interactions that make Earth a system.
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11th 12th std standard Geography earth space Higher secondary school College Notes : The impacts of science technology and industrialization on environment |