Cities, Technology, And the Environment

The Industrial City

Urbanization led to pollution and health threats. City-wide sewer systems often redirected waste to nearby rivers, lakes and bays. Electrical power reduced individual use of wood and coal, while it increased the use of polluting fuels at the power plants. Electrical lines above ground and in street rails posed a danger to humans and animals. The use of various technologies to remedy urban problems often gave rise to new problems. New technologies such as the electric streetcar or the telephone enabled concentration of population and economic activity in the city core, but they also encouraged sprawling residential and commercial growth into the suburbs.

City Systems

The very existence of cities has produced a major impact on the natural environment. For example, urbanization removes much of the filtering capacity of soil and rapidly channels precipitation into available watercourses, thereby encouraging flooding. Urbanization also affects the atmosphere, not only with increased pollutants, but also by creating a "heat island," where temperatures are greater than the surrounding area.

Source: Cities, Technology, And the Environment
Copyright 1996 by Martin V. Melosi, University of Houston

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