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Relations between modernisation and environmental degradation

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Relations between modernisation and environmental degradation


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            Modernization and environmental degradation has historically coincided leading to adverse environmental impacts which require great concern to solve since they result to environmental degradation. These effects affect both environment and cultural heritage of a society. Environmental degradation has been experienced worldwide as a result of ecological, political, economic and socio-cultural modernization. Environmental degradation results from dynamic interplay of socio-economic, technological and institutional activities which are facilitated by different types of modernization. Environmental changes are driven by various aspects such as; population growths, economic growth, agricultural intensification, deforestation, urbanization, industrialization and rise in energy and transportation among others.

Regardless of these modernization aspects leading to environmental degradation, poverty still remains root problem of environmental degradation (Holdren, 2000, p. 124)

            Modernization is the transformation of a society from rural and agrarian condition to urban, secular and industrial society. Modernization is closely associated with industrialization. As societies become modernized, individuals increasingly become significant, gradually replacing community, family and occupational group as the basic unit of society.

Economic, social and environmental factors of modernization lead to environmental degradation. Social factors which come as a result of socio-cultural modernization result in environmental degradation. Modernization leads to population increase due to improved healthcare services, good and proper nutrition and low death rate. Population is a significant source of development yet a major source of environmental degradation when it goes beyond threshold limits that can be supported (Connelly and Smith, 2003, p. 236).

The diagram above shows different types of modernization associated with environmental degradation

            Modernization can be political, ecological, economic or socio-cultural. All these types of modernization are closely related to environment problems leading to environmental degradation. Political modernization is associated with government policy on environment in which government has failed to formulate and implement environmental conservation policy. As a result, people have taken advantage of using environmental resources excessively without replacement leading to depletion. For example, deforestation has been increasing worldwide with government taking no measures to control the exploitation leading to depletion of forest resources thus degradation (Holdren, 2000, p. 127).

Ecological modernization competes with environment and economy. Ecological modernists have reinterpreted high-tech capitalism from environmental culprit to savior. With ecological modernization societies are able to develop economically and socially and at the same time conserve environment. Through technological advancement some improvements can be done to help in reducing resource consumption through increased efficiency. Some ecological modernization meets environment, society and economic line. Through ecological modernization there comes technological advancement through competition. Ecological modernization fails to conserve environment doing nothing to change impulses within capitalist economic mode of production leading to environmental degradation. Technological advancement can not alone conserve resources and protect environment but other means should be incorporated (Saurin, 1993, p. 55).

            Modernization comes with development; development has other major ecological crisis like construction of roads, tourism, mining and quarrying. Population growth and increasing demand on natural resources compounded by careless application of modern technology in development activities leading to environmental deterioration globally, regionally, nationally and locally. Environmental degradation like deforestation, flood hazard, soil erosion and degradation are being caused by modern practices like intensified agricultural practices, consumption of artificial products like pesticides, fertilizers and quality of ground water (Singh, 2007, p. 89).

In socio-cultural modernization, population increase impacts on environment mainly through use of natural resources and production of waste. This is associated with environmental stress like loss of biodiversity, water and air pollution and increased pressure on the available arable land leading to degradation. Poverty causes and impacts on environmental degradation. Inequality resulting from modernization fosters unsustainability since the poor who depend on natural resources more than rich lead to depletion of natural resources faster than it can be gained. As a result, degraded environment increases impoverishment process. Population growth forces people to intensify agricultural production to cater for the ever growing population. This agricultural commercialization directly contributes to deforestation and soil erosion (Holdren, 2000, p. 125).

Urbanization through socio-cultural, economic and political modernization accompanies modernization in environmental degradation. Urbanization in today’s’ world is an ongoing process which has profound effects to living conditions and health status of people. Market globalization, increased use of communication, desire for higher education and new information technologies are driving forces behind urbanization due to modernization. Rural-urban migration resulting to urban expansion increases urbanization. This has remarkable effects to natural environment. Globalization is associated with economic modernization. It implies the flow of labor, economic capital, goods and services and ideologies across national borders (Saurin, 1993, p. 46).

Modernization through urbanization results in environmental degradation. This is because lack of gainful employment opportunities in villages and ecological stress has resulted in ever increasing rural urban migration. There is emerging of large cities with expanding urban slums as a result of urban population increase. This rapid and unplanned expansion of cities is leading to degradation of urban environment. This has widened the gap between supply and demand of infrastructural services like housing, energy, transport, education, communication, recreational amenities, water supply and sewerage depleting previous environmental resources on the cities. This has resulted to growing trend in deterioration of air and water quality, waste generation, slum proliferation, undesirable changes in land use all contributing to urban poverty (Saurin, 1993, p. 47).

            The qualitative and quantitative inadequacies of existing urban infrastructure and inefficient urban and environment management systems result in environmental degradation and pollution. Transport congestion has dramatically changed with magnitude viewed as the number of sources of problems in urban environment. This has led to need of significant expansion of cities from monocentric to polycentric. With uncontrolled urbanization, environmental degradation is occurring rapidly causing housing shortage, reducing water quality, excessive air and water pollution, and problems associated with solid, liquid and hazardous wastes (Singh, 2007, p. 91).

            Through economic modernization there are various economic factors which come with modernization resulting in environmental degradation. Market failure which is non existent or those markets which are poorly functioning for environmental goods and services lead to environmental degradation. Since environmental degradation is a specific case of production of externalities and consumption, it is reflected by deviation between social and private cost. Lack of well defied rights over property is a cause of market failure. Distortions of market due to price control and subsides increases achievement of environmental goals. The pattern and level of economic development resulting from modernization affects nature of environmental problems. Agricultural intensification involves use of large and modernized machines, artificial chemicals and fertilizers. This artificial products when they get into waterways after rainfall they pollute water killing fish stocks. This affects people who depend on fishing for survival. This kind of agriculture also requires use large portions of land resulting in deforestation leading to floods (Holdren, 2000, p. 127).

Many tropical forests have been destroyed through deforestation leading to loss of natural habitats, plants ad animal’s native areas. Intensified agriculture leads to forest clearance and land reclamation to have large lands for agriculture leading to environmental degradation. Land clearance and reclamation is the most irreversible form of environmental degradation. Loss of habitat through deforestation leads to extinction of species and disappearance of indigenous groups that rely on forest resources for their survival (Singh, 2007, p. 94). Deforestation leads to soil erosion thus subject to declining fertility and desertification. This also degrades quality of water for the downstream people. It also contributes to flooding and silting of dams and rivers. Clearing of land extends coastal regions to sea with extensive damage on corals and sand mining being experienced. There is serious environmental degradation resulting from deforestation. With modernization, there is construction of modern infrastructure; infrastructural development unintentionally encourages encroachment of forests. Deforestation is also contributed by population increase, export oriented economic growth and poor government policy (Saurin, 1993, p. 52).

            Most modernized human activities lead to pollution such as; sound pollution, land pollution, water pollution and air pollution. These pollutions have been increasing at an alarming rate causing concern to existence of human beings. Modern gadgets like refrigerator are the main cause of pollution through emission of fluro carbons and vehicles emitting carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere as a result of highly polluting human activities. This has led to global warming leading to melting of glaciers and ice thus loss of fauna and flora. Environmental pollution can be attributed by rapid industrialization, urbanization, energy production, commercialization and increased number of motorized vehicles which are the main source of pollutants in urban areas. The rate of waste production has outpaced population growth (Singh, 2007, p. 101).

            Economic and political modernization comes along with industrialization as the main factor of development in most countries. This is exacerbated by population increase in cities resulting to urban sprawl. Industrialization and urbanization expands uncontrollably especially in less developed countries. This has a destructive effect to the environment especially on ecosystem, global diversity and wildlife habitat. Modernization leads to human technological advancement making it possible to sustain larger population by exploiting more and more natural resources. Naturally industrialization leads to environmental degradation (Singh, 2007, p. 107).

There has been environmental degradation of the urban environment and natural ecosystem due to industrial economic activities. Global modernization brings long-range structural change in environment. Modernization has played a significant role in controversial environmental debate with many issues between modernization and environmental decay. Through economic modernization there is improved industrial production leading to globalization which is related to trade causing domestic environmental effects as a result of imported goods and foreign. Environmental effects caused by production of exported goods and environmental effects resulting from transport movement are required for international trade. Global economic growth as a result of modernization creates greater environmental degradation but technological dynamism of capitalism is solving the problems (Singh, 2007, p. 112).

Environmental degradation due to modernization is making the world experience unacceptable levels of environmental damage and human suffering. People have the ability to make development sustainable ensuring that it meets present needs without compromising ability of future generation.  Everyone is affected by environmental degradation but the level depends on economic development and consumption pattern of people. Climate change is occurring as a result of modernization in which industrialization and urbanization are taking place. Climate change is growing becoming a global environmental problem. Climate change challenges people with results of modernity and consequences of the interplay between industrialism, capitalism, organization of politics and military power (Saurin, 1993, p. 58).

Ecological modernization requires principles of innovation and prevention which should be adopted to promote decoupling between environmental degradation and economic growth and seek to have solution for both environment and economy. Ecological modernization has been chosen by many nations making noticeable achievements. Since ecological modernization is an important aspect of modernization, there is a mutual benefit coupling between natural environment and modernization with ecological transformation of world modernization. Since Industrial Revolution, effects of ecological modernization to the environment have been experienced. Population size and density has increased, fossil energy production and ecological footprint have expanded. This has led to per capita forest resources and decline of biodiversity with pollution increase, per capita industrial waste water biochemical oxygen demand with increased greenhouse gas emission. Land and material productivity have increased with decrease to economy ratio. Modern organic agriculture has increased since 18th century intensifying use of chemical fertilizer in agriculture with increase in density of economy’s energy and resource (Connelly and Smith, 2003, p. 239).

Since ecological modernization degrades natural environment, it requires learning and innovation. It needs environmental friendly technology and institution innovation, ecologically-rational structural changes and mode of changes. Pollution is occurring all over the world poisoning planet’s oceans. Marine degradation is obvious in remote areas with some areas of natural environment being exposed to hazardous waste. Industries chlorofluorocarbons are produced causing ozone depletion leading to global warming which in turn leads to los of habitat, desertification, loss of corals and other precious biodiversity. Acid rain results from air pollution due to gigantic emissions from industrial operations and automobiles intensifying the problem (Saurin, 1993, p. 61).

Inappropriate use of land has resulted to environmental degradation due to soil degradation. Use of poor farming methods are often responsible for land degradation making land vulnerable to erosion which washes away soil leaving the land bare. Environmental degradation reduces ability of earth to sustain economic development, securing livable environment for human population which is doubling. This requires economic development with growth and technological change as a solution. Long-term economic and environmental improvement comprises of sustainable development. Sustainable development should be achieved through economic development and growth and be channeled to environmentally responsible directions. Setting of environmental requirements and imposing of costs on polluters can reduce environmental degradation through pollution. Resource production that supports development and use of environmentally friendly technologies moves society close to sustainability (Connelly and Smith, 2003, p. 257).

Natural environment is important and it should be conserved. Some modernized practices that degrade environment should be avoided. Ranching and commercial farming degrades soil, disrupts terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem, pollute ground and surface water. People should put efforts in developing ranching and farming systems that sustains natural environment reducing adverse agricultural production effects on environment (Singh, 2007, p. 116).


            Natural environment gives people life; without natural environment there would be no human civilization. Environmental degradation occurs when environment becomes less valuable. Population increase with improved standards of living has increased demand for materials reaching limits of tolerance on natural environment and irreversible degradation. Man has the ability to destroy environment making it incapable of satisfying demand of mankind. Through political, economic, socio-cultural and ecological modernization natural environment has been destroyed. Environmental degradation poses formidable challenges to poverty reduction and achievement of millennium goals. There is an alarming rate of population increase, deforestation, degradation of coastal ecosystem, pollution; depletion of available resources continues to lock the ever growing population as a result of modernization. People should cooperate and find measures of solving this problem for better society. Democracy also solves the problem of environmental degradation.

List of References

Connelly, J. & Smith, G, (2003), Politics and the environment: from theory to practice, Routledge, ISBN: 0415251451, 236

Holdren, J., (2000), “The causes of environmental degradation: population, affluence, technology and underlying sociopolitical factors are all important,” Environment, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 124 -134

Saurin, J. (1993), “Global environmental degradation, modernity and environmental knowledge,” Environmental politics, Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 46-64

Singh, A. (2007), Population growth, modernization and environmental degradation, New Delhi: Radha Pub, ISBN: 8174875174

Cite this Relations between modernisation and environmental degradation

Relations between modernisation and environmental degradation. (2016, Nov 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/relations-between-modernisation-and-environmental-degradation/

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