A Two-Hundred-Year Problem: The Environmental Effects of the Industrial Revolution

Emory University

Patrick Allitt has been a professor of American History at Emory University since 1988, where he teaches courses on American intellectual, environmental, and religious history, as well as Victorian Britain and the Great Books. After earning an undergraduate degree at Oxford and a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Princeton. He is the author of seven books, including his most recent: A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.



Industrialization caused a lot of environmental problems. For more than 200 years a great pall of coal smoke hung over most industrial cities, while toxic dust shortened the lives of miners and mill workers. The rivers that flowed through industrial cities were so polluted that no fish could live in them. The smell of the Chicago stock yards nauseated generations of residents and visitors. When citizens’ environmental groups protested against these conditions in the 1960s and 1970s, Congress responded by passing clean air and clean water acts. Industrialists warned that complying with these new laws would be ruinously expensive, but they were wrong. In the years since 1970, we have enjoyed a combination of better environmental conditions and continued economic growth. Grave environmental problems still confront us–including climate change–but the same ingenuity that led to the great industrial advances is now leading to inventions that will mitigate the environmental problems they caused.



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Well done! The professor made a somewhat dry topic very interesting. I especially appreciated the visual comparisons and references to the authors and their seminal works on the topic. We can rise to the challenge.

7 months ago
Amanda cunningham

Really interesting

I do wonder how much of the improvement seen in the US of late is because of the outsourcing of manufacturing to those countries that are not “able to” reduce their emmissions – and yes, the people of India and China are becoming aware and want to improve, but they won’t have the easy way out that the States did, they can’t just move their manufacturer to the next nation that will do it for them.

6 months ago
Vincent Siminitus

Recent advances in wind power and more

Great history and overview. We follow tech trends so we are aware of some new advances such as midlevel wind turbines (via Wind Harvest) and ocean based power. Looking forward to updates in technology as well as well as world efforts to o make life better. Thanks for an excellent program.

1 month ago
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