We’re living in a world of contrasts. Scientific and technological advancement has brought advanced health care systems; many diseases today that were deadly in the past, if not eradicated, are brought under control. In contrast, people living in developed nations are suffering from cardiovascular diseases and cancer-related to improper diet and stressful lifestyle.
The industrial revolution brought technological and social advancement, but also introduced pollution on a large-scale. Together with the contemporary industry, things have only got worse. After the degree of the industry was restricted, the pollution area was reduced to immediate area impacting the health and safety of those employees directly involved with the production. In a contemporary global society we live in now this problem is now, well, “global”. The toxic that is quite common in our environment is direct; it’s used in vaccines, pesticides, antiperspirants, construction materials, gas, and even found in drinking water. If we consider global population growth and its growing demands and industry relying on elements that are poisonous, we could presume that industrial growth has a catastrophic effect on the environment and public health.
Before, diseases were attributed to meteorological events such as changes in the seasons, storms, and eclipses. Some societies linked the illness to corrupt or polluted air from corpses, swamps, and other resources. In ancient times people believed that evil spirits or God caused people to become sick. From the 16th and 17th centuries, the link between health and environment had become broadly recognized. Fresh air and the elimination of bad smells were considered significant, and a healthy environment was believed to make healthy food and beverage. Earth was admired as a living, breathing body that had to be nurtured and protected.
The industrial revolution drastically altered the relationship between economic activity and the environment. From the 19th century, industrial pollution was identified as a critical issue. This was largely due to the energy demands of the iron industry and contributed to local and finally, more widespread pollution. Even though it was considered a significant problem, it wasn’t given high priority. Social issues, infectious diseases, and unsafe water supplies were the most important health concerns at that moment.
Until the late 19th century, the source of fever, pestilence, and plague was still unknown. Odors and emanations were considered accountable, just as in ancient Greece. Gradually, other concepts were introduced, such as “germ theory”, which allowed Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch to demonstrate the presence of germs and how they caused diseases. From the end of the 19th century, the transmission of diseases via insects was also identified. This meant that new ways are available to resist disease and resolve health issues.
From the late 19th century, there occurred an increasing consciousness of the value of the environment. Throughout the 1860s both the USA and Great Britain passed legislation aimed at protecting the environment. Early environmental movements tended to be directed by professionals such as foresters, who were interested in the preservation and management of land and resources. In 1892, the Sierra Club, USA’s oldest and largest environmental organization was set with John Muir as president. Their first effort was an attempt to defeat a proposed decrease in the boundaries of Yosemite National Park under the motto that: “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, areas to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and spirit alike” (John Muir 1912).
Throughout the 20th century, growth in demand increased the quantity of hazardous substances and further increased pollution. This trend caused a gigantic public revolt in many areas of the world. In 1962, Rachel Carson published her book “The Silent Spring”, where she detailed a number of the risks that pesticides could have for the environment and human health, and increased public awareness of alternative methods of perceiving human health with regard to the environment. Throughout the’60s and’70s there was a significant expansion of environmental organizations like Greenpeace lobbying for clean water, air, and preservation of wilderness.
However, global warming wasn’t adequately discussed. It seems that there was an insufficient political will to deal with global warming issues. Authors Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus in their book “The Death of Environmentalism” (2004) debate about environmental movements not being efficient enough to inspire a nationwide debate; e.g. using low emission vehicles or energy-efficient light-bulbs is neither inspiring nor comprehensive enough and therefore are not likely to be successful. They think that the reply to the issue is selling the solution as opposed to focusing on the issue itself. The solution could be support for a market based on new energies, not fossil fuels. It would reduce dependence on petroleum, air pollution and bring more jobs. Investment in this strategy would allow better utilization of accessible resources than what the traditional environmentalists suggest.