Urban Pollution by Tarr, Joel A
When Tarr, Joel edited his special issue of the journal on the Urban Environment-Many Long Years Ago, he was already one of the most influential and respected scholars in the environmental field. His constant research across cities, technology, and nature has influenced different individuals regarding their perception of the environment with a deep understanding of aspects of the ecological surroundings. With particular interest in the article on urban pollution, the breadth of Joel’s work combined with the virtual brevity and prowess in his subsequent articles, more room for further discussions and reflections was created. In particular, his focus in this article is integration of technology and the potential harmful effects on the environment. He argues that the introduction of automobiles is seemingly a representation of societal progression towards technological advancements though it is a major cause of pollution within the environment. The author focuses on American cities in order to exemplify the relationship between pollution and automobiles.
In the earlier fraction of the twentieth century, most cities utilized horses for transportation purposes though health experts advocated that they caused pollution in the cities. New York City, Rochester, and Milwaukee, each considered horses to be an affront to hygiene, an economic burden, and imposed additional taxes on human beings. Litters comprising of horse waste were observed throughout the city as they attracted flies and filled the streets with stench (Tarr 65). The greater part of the twentieth century was characterized by the use of horses for transportation even after the introduction of steamboats and railway lines. Within the cities, people traveled using horses that went as far as using carriages, which marked the epitome of their use. Notably, the populations of horses were more than that of humans, which meant that pollution rates were considerably higher in that era. In this context, the author tries to compare the environmental harm that was present in the earlier twentieth century to the current situations. Therefore, the reader gets to create a view of the situation in the earlier part of the century.
Apparently, most cities in the past identified the need to implement healthier tactics of ensuring the environment was clean. The author argues in this section that there were efforts made towards reducing pollution in most cities in America. Sporadic attempts made in the mid-nineteenth century ranged from sweeping the streets by machinery and self-loading carts that were introduced by the Chemical Compost Manufacturing Company (Tarr 66). In fear of inducing epidemics such as typhoid, yellow fever, smallpox, and cholera, cities placed more focus on street cleaning since scientists in that period believed that they were caused by a combination of putrefying filth and atmospheric conditions. Additionally, he argues that the presence of horses in that era increased air pollution through dust. He states that as the horses navigated within the American cities, their hoofs grounded the manure into the ground, thereby creating more dust. Therefore, horses polluted the environment not only through the filthy smell of their waste but also via the dust.
The evolution of the use of horses for transport is marked with the transition from animal polluted streets to a better environment through several federal interventions and policies. Another form of pollution caused by horses was noise. The author notes that the clanking and clopping of horses’ iron shoes, cobblestones, and iron-tired wheels of wagons and carts caused immense noise within the cities (Tarr 66). Sporadic attempts were made to mitigate the noise such as banning made by Boston’s town council in 1747 to reduce distractions in the General Court. Other interventions also necessitated the over reliance on horses for transport. Animals in the mid-nineteenth century were mistreated and overworked. In 1866, Berge Henry was propelled by this factor into developing the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tarr 68). Additionally, the need to have a better environment and increased population propelled the introduction of other transporting means. Maintaining of horses had become so expensive and as the streets became more slippery, more horses died, which was a costly aspect to the owners. Such factors affected the use of horses and evolution of transport in the American cities from animal use to the utilization of automobiles.
In the opening of the twentieth century, automobiles received much preference than the horses. Different scholars accompanied by support from different magazine articles implicated the importance of using automobiles, of which to them was more beneficial. It is however not surprising that they went largely of making claims that automobiles caused minimal pollution compared to the horses. The author makes implications those scientists in the past made minimal research while making comparisons between the effects of horses and horses on the environment. According to them, automobiles did not litter the streets as the horses did and therefore, susceptibility to illnesses such as typhoid, cholera and other intestinal diseases reduced with their integration. Nonetheless, the author purports that the current implications of automobile use on the environment rely solely on the shortsightedness of the proponents of its innovation (Tarr 69). The intended solution to the problem was to implement new strategies that would eradicate the earlier health problems caused by horses and introduce new strategies that avoid the creation of new ones. At the end of his article, he indicates that scientists as well as governments need to balance between the expected costs to be incurred against the possible biological effects it had on the environment. Since American cities viewed the use of automobiles were cheaper compared to horses, it adopted the use of automobiles into industry. Most evidently, is that the relatively lower costs to be incurred weighed down the possible effects it had on the environment?
I think that the author presents insightful facts basing on the actual happenings in the American history on pollution in drawing his conclusions. Notably, Americans are characterized by an impulsive nature of adopting strategies without having a complete clear view of its implications. The proponents of the introduction of automobile cannot be entirely blamed for the current conditions within the environment but it is the narrowness of their vision. Seemingly, they had good intentions in mind while implementing the introduction of automobiles in the transport industry. Mitigating the earlier health conditions created by the horses were their primary goals. Nevertheless, they failed in their accomplishments as they only focused on the explicit influences while disregarding the possibility of the fundamental effects. Thereby, the author creates a rather informative and detailed summary of urbanization in the transport industry, which presents a characteristic of the American nature. The article acts as a revelation in understanding and developing new strategies of evaluating issues. Most importantly, it offers insights that one should weigh the cost of intervention against biological factors with caution. In doing so, cases of pollution are bound o reduce considerably.
Tarr, Joel. “Urban Pollution-Many Long Years Ago.” American Heritage 22 (1971): 65-69. Print.
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