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Nicole Hipp

Paradigm Shift Research Paper

Dr. Spielvogel

1 November 2018

From Industrialization to Preservation

In years past, the environment was viewed as having unlimited resources and being a

great space for the population to use to its advantage. Recently, however, this view has been

changing. In the past decade alone, the common view of the planet as being indispensable is

shifting toward a more precious artifact. According to the Huffington Post, “Millennials want

something different from life than previous generations.” In the last ten years, scientific research,

visible environmental changes, and the media attention has led to a profound shift in perceiving

the planet as having unlimited resources to the need for ecological balance, which creates a

pathway for transformative action that can reverse the detrimental effects of climate change.

Early on in the industrial period, the people did not realize what they were doing to the

environment. According to Lynn McDonald, PhD. in the Department of Sociology and

Anthropology of the University of Guelph, “No one constructing railroads or factories in the

nineteenth century had any notion that rising global temperatures, storms, drought, deforestation,

polar ice melting and rising oceans could be the result of their enterprise (McDonald).” The

industrialization period brought a new perspective while simultaneously destroying the

environment. As the population began increasingly growing, the waste also increased and

without prior knowledge to the effects that it would have, waste companies dumped materials
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into the ocean creating major ‘trash islands.’ Carbon fumes increased causing harm to the clean

air and once forest filled land became housing developments.

As the twentieth century progressed, people became more aware about the effects that

their actions had on the environment. Many laws have been passed regarding global warming,

ocean and water regulations, and ‘clean air acts.’ The problem of global warming and

environmentalism is still present, but the mindset is has significantly changed. Although humans

are not able to change the detrimental effects that global warming has had on our environment,

the attitudes and mindsets of people are changing which will eventually lead to actions.

It starts with the facts presented from science. A new wave of scientists has recently

emerged and played a more prominent role in both the governmental stand point and societal

view. Ecologists are simply taking what the population has done to the planet and changing the

way people view the environment in order to sustain living.

Now people are more aware of their actions and can see the effects that some of their

actions have. This is done so by presenting scientific facts to the population and showing them

just how detrimental their actions can be. According to Dr.stud. phil. Martina Maria Keitsch,

“Related to industrial operations this means foremost to minimize the use of resources by closing

materials cycles and to minimize harmful impact to the environment by the reintegration of the

industrial material flow as effective as possible in the natural solar power supported flow

(Keitsch 2).” Industrial activities have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts

per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years. There is also a 95 percent probability
that human-produced greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide have

caused much of the observed increase in Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years. Carbon

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dioxide is produced from breathing, volcanic eruptions, deforestation, and the burning of fossil

fuels such as coal and oil. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, humans have

increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than one third (NASA Global

Climate Change). Another potent gas that has increased significantly post-Industrial Revolution

is Methane. This gas is produced naturally by livestock and artificially by humans through

decomposition in landfills, agriculture, and manure management.

The increase of carbon dioxide has led to an increased acceleration in temperatures

world-wide. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, each year since 1977 has been

significantly warmer than the last. Combined with natural temperature risers such as the sun,

volcanic eruptions, dust, variation in snow and ice, and the natural carbon process, human aids

such as the burning of coal, gas, and oil; deforestation; aerosols; and soot, change the climate

much quicker than just natural occurrences alone (Union of Concerned Scientists). This increase

has caused a global sea level increase of about eight inches since 1880, a quadruple in the

number of wildfires in only the past thirty years, a doubling of category 4-5 destructive

hurricanes since 1970, average nighttime temperatures have increased up to 4-5 degrees in some

cities, tens of millions of tree deaths in the past fifteen years, and many other changes in society

have been affected by increased climate change. An interactive website from the New York

Times brought climate change to a personal level by asking the reader to input their birthday and

hometown to compare temperatures from when they were born until now. Using my mom’s
birthday, October of 1975, and hometown, Bridgewater, New Jersey, there was an increase of an

average of five days per year above ninety degrees. Using my own birthday, March 2000, there

was an average increase of two days per year in just eighteen years. A New York Times study

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suggests that, “Already-hot tropical regions can expect even more heat in the future. Jakarta,

Indonesia, could expect five months of ninety-degree weather on average in 1960. By the end of

this century, such heat may last for most of the year (Popovich).”

Scientifically speaking, the population did not really care about the climate before the

Industrial Revolution because there was not much to be concerned about. As health issues

became prominent and scientists began researching the effects that global warming and climate

change had on the Earth and its future, it sparked a curiosity in both the mindset of society and

scientists especially. Without this curiosity in the minds of scientists the paradigm shift could not

be possible because without hard, factual information who would listen to these claims or even

see an actual effect? Yes, there are visible effects, but attaching a number to the sights creates

more significance to initiate change. “Such a paradigm consists of a socially shared cognitive-

normative framework—in values, norms, beliefs, and strategies—and typically entails new

principles of social organization (Burns 2012).”

The second, and arguably the most prominent underlying factor in the paradigm shift in

society’s way of viewing the environment, would be the visible changes that the population can

see happening to the Earth. People are more apt to change the way they act if they can visibly see

consequences rather than just reading facts from scientific research. According to Tom R. Burns,

“Global environmental change touches upon every facet of human existence—health, diet,
leisure, quality of life, every day practices; production, consumption, education, research,

politics, and societal values (Burns 2012).” Climate change can almost be treated as a silent

killer; people know and read about the statistical date, but most people don’t really care about the

issue until they notice that it is seventy degrees in February or they hear about seven hurricanes

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that occurred in one month. The small, overlooked changes correspond to astronomical changes

in the environment.

The most evident areas of concern include extreme natural weather, heat waves, melting

ice, food supply, and plant and animal disruptions. Specific areas of weather that have been

directly affected by the human impacts previously stated include hurricanes, flooding, snowfall,

and changing seasons. The increase in temperatures and sea level of the oceans have directly

affected the increase of hurricanes. On average, hurricanes are predicted to double within the end

of the next century. The number of tornadoes has increased steadily by about fourteen per year in

the past fifty years. Because of the increased droughts, flash floods have become a major issue in

many of the southern states and have taken over 100,000 peoples’ lives. Spring arrives an

average of ten days earlier and fall weather arrives later and later each year (NASA Global

Climate Change). Winter will not disappear altogether, but it will be shorter and much colder.

More precipitation is falling as rain rather than snow which in turn may lead to a decrease of

water supply in some areas and cause droughts. I have witnessed a decrease in the overall

frequency of snowfall and cold temperatures. In fifth grade I had seven snow days in a row

because the snow fell for five consecutive days. Fast forward to senior year of high school, I only
had sporadic snow days. Overall, the increase in temperatures creates a domino effect changing

the air temperature and water supplies across the country and world.

Extreme heat causes many implications on the human body and Earth. If the population

continues to act the way it has concerning the environment, the days above ninety degrees

Fahrenheit could creep up between twenty and thirty more days than average. Since the

Industrial Revolution time period, the European Alps have lost over 40% of their surface area

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and glaciers in Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro have lost over 60%. Melting of ice causes a decrease

in tourism, increased erosion, natural hazards, and a need for more protection on infrastructure.

Heat waves and melting ice go hand in hand, but they have very different effects on the

population. More frequent heat waves, heavier precipitation, and the increased number of

droughts have substantial effect on the amount of food supply. Animals are losing their arctic

and forestry habitats and marine animals are experiences major temperature shifts (University of

Concerned Scientists). I am from a small farm town about two and a half hours from State

College and in the past few years alone I have witnessed the agriculture farmland decline and

become housing developments and shopping centers. Farmers and animals are losing their land

to infrastructure.

Major media has also contributed to the paradigm shift. Before the time of expansive

technology, a way of sharing information with virtually anyone at the click of a button in

seconds, the world was unable to see the common effects of the colossal climate change. The

first environmental sociologists became prominent around the 1970’s (Climate Change) around

the same time that the digital camera, email, and major Apple products were becoming popular.
In collaboration, the sociologists and technological advancements were finally able to showcase

what was happening to the world around society. A ripple effect then occurs; the news portrays

evil done to the environment from industrialization, then the viewer becomes sympathetic and

looks to the government for change, and the government becomes aware of the situations and

implements policies to please the population and help the environment. In an era of fake news,

climate change and global warming has taken a hard hit. Politically speaking, those that associate

with the Democratic party often associate with extreme ideals that global warming is slowly

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killing the population where the Republican ideals are often times more laid back and do not

think it is much of an issue. Social media encourages a greater knowledge of climate change,

mobilization of climate change activists, space for discussing the issue with others, and online

discussions that frame climate change as a negative for society.

Prior to this paradigm shift in environmental concern, people were focused on the shift in

technology and industrialization. As that news story grew old, media turned to ‘the next big

thing’ which was the environment. “Industry changes, the development of multiple types of

objectivity, the development of skepticism in the public eye and the unequal air-time between

social dramas and facts have resulted in a media that does not encourage people to believe in

climate change,” (Frick 23). The media often covers climate change through natural disasters

which then influences the viewers’ impression to believe that climate change is a big deal and

that this human-created predicament requires human-aid to stop. For example, I can remember

watching news broadcasts about hurricane Sandy back when I was twelve and thinking about

those families and their home being devastated. I was them made aware that these massive
hurricanes are caused by some of my actions and I was made aware of the existence of climate


There are many implications that the general public is shifting from an industrial view of

the planet to a more ecological sustainable place to cohabitate in. Society is shifting from solely

caring about building a new habitat for itself to giving more consideration to the current habitat

in which they created. But why does this matter? The detrimental effects stated above creates a

pathway for change. As ecologists and the media showcase the effects that global warming is

having on people and the environment, a new way of cognitive normalities are emerging;

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shifting the ideals of an industrial paradigm to a more sustainable environment (Burns 2012).

The Huffington Post states, “Business practices are also transforming: B Corporations provide a

framework for individual companies to think long-term by factoring in social and environmental

considerations into the way they do business (Huffington),” realizing that society is slowly

making change.

The way millennials view the environment is also different because they were born into

the pollution after the industrial revolution era. Millennials value companies that hold similar

values to their own such as environmental sustainability and accountability (Huffington).

Although the younger generation cannot completely reverse the effects of global warming, their

efforts to maintain a sustainable environment are growing in the right direction. “Societies may

attempt the transition to this state while maintaining the economic viability of systems for

extraction, production, distribution, transportation, and services. The transition supports

development of more viable communities, with improved quality of life around the planet is
desirable (Keitsch 4). As a millennial myself, global warming and climate change has been a hot

topic for as long as I can remember. My grandparents and parents often talk about how the

weather fluctuates more often than when they were my age. For my fellow peers and I, climate

change is important because we wonder how our environment is going to be for our own

children. If the temperatures and pollution rates are increasing this significantly now, how is it

going to be a decade or two down the line? Change starts with us.

As ecologists became aware of the disturbances inflicted on the current ecosphere, their

research boomed, and the media caught on. The major media was able to accurately display the

harmful effects and show society with numbers and portraits about what was going on. By

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attaching numbers to a visible effect, people are then able to associate what they’re doing on a

regular basis with a detrimental effect. This then initiates change by both the government and the

people’s attitude toward the environment. Post-Industrialization Revolution, technology growth,

and increasing population is still causing global warming and climate change, but as science

releases new statistics and the media pushes new dramatic stories out to the public, the oblivious

behavior to environmental topics is slowly fading and becoming more ecological. If society

continues to treat the environment as it has, we will continue to see the same effects previously

stated, but at a steadier and more dramatic effect. The shifting ideals are leading to new green

standards, new regulations, green technological developments and a new readiness to implement

sustainable ideals. Although a clear-cut paradigm shift is not apparent, there is an obvious shift

in the way the population views the once unlimited ecosystem as a now precious, ecological

hemisphere that must be preserved in order to sustain livability.

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Works Cited

Burns, Tom R. “The Sustainability Revolution: A Societal Paradigm Shift.” MDPI, Molecular

Diversity Preservation International, 29 May 2012, www.mdpi.com/2071-


Byrd, Rosaly, and Laurèn DeMates. “Earth Day 2015: Inspiring Evidence of a Paradigm Shift.”

The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 22 June 2015,



“Climate Change, Sociological Theory and Paradigm Shift.” Climate Change, Sociological

Theory and Paradigm Shift | JustEarth, www.justearth.net/climate-change-sociological-

“Global Climate Change: Effects.” NASA, NASA, 16 July 2018, climate.nasa.gov/effects/.

“Global Warming Impacts.” Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/our-work/global-

warming/science-and-impacts/global-warming-impacts# W9etthNKjpC.

Frick, Hannah. “Media's Impact on Individual Perceptions of Responsibility in Regards to

Climate Change.” Liberal Studies New York University, 17 Apr. 2017,



Keitsch, Dr.stud. phil. Martina Maria. “Sustainable Development A Framework for Industrial

Ecology.” Bibsys Brage,



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Popovich, Nadja, et al. “How Much Hotter Is Your Hometown Than When You Were

Born?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 31 Aug. 2018,