Upon reading about urban development and planning during the early nineteenth century and its health consequences and the government’s response, I was interestingly reminded of global warming and our government’s response. As discussed in tonight’s reading, The New Modern City, it appeared as though it took a significant amount of time for the government to recognize the health crisis and the need for cleaner cities. According to the article, the concentration of work opportunities in the cities attracted people to live in the cities, increasing the population of certain cities like Whales from “1.5 million in 1801 to 6.3 million in 1851”. While a boom in population may have provided more workers in factories and thus more efficient industries, the health consequences (i.e disease) was so severe that the morality rate continued to rise. Nonetheless, it was only until the 1820’s and 1830’s, about 40 years after the population boom, that people began questioning and considering the sanitation of their city. In fact, according to The New Modern City, these poor conditions were attributable to the fact that settlers in urban cities did not prioritize urban sanitation. The result of these poor conditions were fatal diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and typhus, to name a few.
Interestingly, however, the ignorance of the living conditions of the cities and the government’s slow acknowledgement of these conditions reminded me of government and global warming today. According to a source on nations’ carbon footprints of the world, the United States emits an average of 19 tonnes of carbon dioxide per capita and has therefore one of the largest carbon footprints in the world. While our nation heavily relies on energy economically and infrastructurally my question is, how long will it take the government to act on and prioritize global warming, considering the fact that we are one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters? During the Industrial Revolution, it took reformers such as Edwin Chadwick to begin questioning and highlighting the importance of improving urban sanitation, despite the fact that morality rates were increasing. This is similar to today’s issue of global warming. Despite the recent unusual number of natural disasters over the past few years such as hurricanes and earthquakes has made me question as to when the government will begin to take more serious measures on preventing global warming, in the same way that the European governments during the Industrial Revolution eventually took more responsibility for urban sanitation?
This connection reminded me of a conversation I once had with Dr. Korfhage. We discussed the idea that people react more to more sudden events rather than long-term issues like global warming. Dr. Korfhage then introduced me to an article entitled, Sandy’s Closing Argument from the Washington Post by a columnist who discussed this idea. The idea that the government (and people) respond more dramatically to sudden, one-time effects (like Hurricane Sandy) rather than long-term issues, perhaps like global warming. It is a fascinating article and I found it interesting to connect to the discussion of the government’s response to urban planning and sanitation during the Industrial Revolution.
If you would like to read this article, here is its URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-sandys-closing-argument/2012/10/31/555f0214-238d-11e2-ac85-e669876c6a24_story.html