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American Culture And The Environment

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American Culture and the Environment

The Industrial Revolution began in the early 19th century and was the result of the replacement of an economy based on manual labor to one dominated by industrial machine manufacturing. The resulting technologies produced an industrial age that not only altered the land, the waterways and the skies, but also changed our culture from intimate communities of self sufficient farming families to that of a largely urbanized population dependent on the jobs those new industries created. As the industrial age gathers momentum, the engines and power plants, which evolved and continue to evolve from this historical transformation of science and technology, threaten the cultural stability of the United States.

Industrial civilization is driven by fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which are the major contributors to a rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Excess carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by non-natural sources, even at relatively small amounts, is enough to alter the balancing affect of the carbon cycle. The resulting problem for human populations is rising temperatures around the world or global warming.

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, there have been dramatic fluctuations in overall temperatures of the earth for the past 150,000 years that suggest a direct association with carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide currently accounts for .03% of the total gasses in the atmosphere; however, it has a disproportionate impact on the earth's temperature. This means that a minor fluctuation in the percentage of carbon dioxide will likely have a significant effect on the temperature. Over the last century the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been rising at an alarming rate.

The United States is a 21st century culture of consumers. The current consumption levels and lifestyle practices are altering the environment and in return are endangering our society. These environmentally exploitive patterns of behavior of our society clearly indicate our cultural values have shifted away from thinking of ourselves as stewards of this planet and dependent upon the health of its ecosystems. The source of this problem is the historical disconnection of man from nature. Global warming is a crisis of human self indulgence which is in direct competition with natural processes.

There are many possible adverse effects of global warming. For example, the destruction of habitat on a local level would reduce the natural variety of plant life, which feeds the animal species that a human community ultimately depends on for food or income. Equally, our dependence on the natural environment would be greatly affected if ocean levels were to rise and destroy coastline property. Increased risk of hurricanes, drought, floods and disease caused by warm climate insects is also a concern. The most obvious risk to health is the heat itself. Heat waves would contribute to loss of human life from heat stroke, heart attacks, and other diseases that might be affected by an increase in heat. Respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis would also



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