Letter to the Editor: Impacts of a Modern Industrial Revolution

4 mins read

I’ve always been concerned about our environment and the helpless life forms in it. I think this can be said of many of us because the ancestors I learned this from couldn’t possibly have been alone in it. In fact, I’m sure they weren’t and that this concern was fostered in them by a variety of organizations that inspired it and continue to inspire in us all.

For a very long time I only saw the benefit of this belief. It didn’t occur to me that anyone would seek to exploit it. I actually taught Marines to protect the environments they encountered; which involved being mindful of discharge from vehicles and pipelines, and cleaning them up; turning off lights and vehicles when not in use, sorting and recycling waste, and maintaining both the equipment and proficiencies necessary to clean up large spills affecting sensitive environments. Then I studied with scientists familiar with the complexity of the problem industry introduced and the political power it wielded.

Even among scientists there was corruption. Some were all too willing to favor industry by introducing doubt. I recall a few physicists arguing that it was impossible for humankind to alter the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans well after that very fact had been demonstrated by scientists in the field. The audacity of those working only with theory in an attempt to deny the impact industry would confound me, until I was willing to admit it affects us all.

Yesterday, I heard a scientist refer to this era as “post-industrial”. It is anything but. A massive industrial revolution is underway right now. It builds electronic devices. The misunderstanding responsible for the suggestion we’ve entered a post-industrial era stems from the fact so many actively ignore the negative environmental impacts this industrial revolution has while focusing on the negative environmental impacts of the previous industrial revolution.

Our culture hasn’t changed. It’s as determined to ignore the consequences of shifting to an electronic based energy infrastructure as it was to ignore the consequences of shifting to a fossil-fuels based one. I think desperation has something to do with this.

There’s no question we’ve altered the chemistry of the atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. There’s no question that’s warmed our planet and unsettled those long term patterns we call climate. There’s no question we’ll struggle to adapt. All this is true and yet we must foster reason and hope. So many intelligent people encourage us to ignore the negative consequences of electrification, instead of encouraging us to acknowledge and correct them.

Climate change is real, and so is the industrial revolution underway now. The environmental impact it’s having is real too, and we have to acknowledge it. That’s how we’ll change the culture that failed to ensure the previous industrial revolution didn’t do the damage it’s done. We’ll survive this; it will change us, but we’ll survive this, if we keep our wits about us. This is what I think everyone concerned with the problem should be taught.

Jamie Beaulieu
Farmington, Maine


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