History of Environmental Alteration


Based on the lecture and discussions in class, identify the main milestones discussed through the different eras. Select the most significant two in your own views and describe them in further details explaining the reasons of their importance.

Your response should be 1½-2 pages, typed, Times New Roman, 12 font, 1.5-spaced. It shall be posted on the class blog.


13 thoughts on “History of Environmental Alteration

  1. Innovation and growth are terms that can be associated with the human race. There has been the shift from burning wood for cooking and warmth to burning fossil fuels to run our vehicles and power our homes. The Industrial Revolution, 1880s, introduced new practices and ideas that involved the environment and all its sources. There was an increase in production speed and demand and this lead to the exponential growth in homes, food production, energy, and a variety of other things. Domestic tasks were being taken over machines and the land began to be cultivated with industry and growing living communities. With industrialization also came the deterioration of environments and creation of railways. There was a rise of concern for public health due to this new age and its production and this lead to park systems being developed and the incorporation of gardening and landscape. The importance of the industrial revolution from an environmental landscape point of view, is the rise in the incorporation of ideas from many environmentalist and landscapists, which essentially shaped the communities that we know today. William Kent influenced Central Park and his naturalistic style is what influenced many parks at this time. The incorporation of parks in communities as a result of wanting public space available for people and changing the landscape as to provide a major change and better incorporate landscapes into the industrial age. Warren Manning developed the plan to work towards a system of national parks and areas of recreation, and also to link major highways to make these areas readily available. This planted the seeds in culture to modify conditions to better incorporate public health and continue innovation. Fast forward to the 1970’s, the prosperous years of innovation began to draw attention to experts and action within the government. Due to public health concern, once again, there was a creation of two acts in the 70’s. Under the Nixon administration in 1970 the Environmental Policy Act was created and this included the Clean Water Act and Clean Air act. In 1972 the Clean Water Act was passed and this was due to the concern regarding the pollution of water, and also the 1976 act regarding clean air. There was this realization of how the innovation and production of our society was beginning to affect the environment and everyday life. This gave rise to the idea of preservation, and the need to protect the environment and consider human activity as well. The romanization of landscapes and helping the environment encouraged urban open spaces garnished with parks. The shift in how landscapes were approached often had to do with the questioning of whether the landscape was a good installment of conservationist beliefs and whether it was sustainable to the environment. The mission for many landscapes developed during this time, 1970’s, was to have an ecological focus and conceive the idea of restoration and creation, rather than destruction. Many of these projects were national parks and efforts such as the Walnut Creek Project, which were strong efforts to bring about the reversal of damage and in this case, the project was to return 8,600 acres of soybeans and corn to natural habitats and restore a sense of connection to the environment in the form of responsibility and accountability. Although there was restoration of environments and efforts to protect and conserve natural parks, there continued to be a separation between society and nature. The reason why the restoration of natural parks was so popular during this time, is due to the fact that there was a rise of concern for the environment but there was also a consideration for not disrupting the everyday lives of communities, so there wasn’t the importation of these ecological landscape ideas within communities, but instead kept within the barriers of natural parks. The idea that there is a relationship between humans and nature is an idea that arose in the Pre- Industrial era and appears as a contemporary idea in our modern society. This idea was not present during the Industrial Revolution or in the 1970’s when environmental issues grew in concern. The modification of our environment through the years has been a product of our self expression and mirroring of culture. In the industrial revolution we valued production and innovation, and not so much environment, and this could be seen in the way we approached landscapes, as well as in the 1970’s when we began to value environmental health and it showed in the landscapes and ideas produced during this time.

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    • Good elaboration on the evolution. The Industrial revolution seem to generate the major shift. Your statement: “…. The modification of our environment through the years has been a product of our self expression and mirroring of culture….” Is also true in describing how humans dealt with the environment and how we can tell a lot about each era from the way in which people consumed its nature.


  2. Pre-industrial Europe was a period of slow change in the way people lived and worked. During those years, before 1750s, most European nations maintained their historical cultures, traditions, and beliefs, and the average income per household enabled individuals to sustain a moderate and local lifestyle. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, many new technologies had been developed and put into practice, which revolutionized previous forms of industrial and transportation systems. The economic changes of the Industrial Revolution through machinery and advancement of new transport occurs at a fast-growing speed, which impacted the surrounding natural environment and it pressured people to migrate from their rural communities into urban centers. In his book “The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844”, Friedrich Engels states that “In pre-industrial society, over 80% of people lived in rural areas [1].” And he continued saying that “By 1850, for the first time in world history, more people in a country—Great Britain—lived in cities than in rural areas.” Similar to the societal changes in England, by 1920, most Americans lived in cities.

    In the United States, despite the accumulation in wealth, developed industries impacted the fast-growing urbanization centers, and it often created many damaging effects. The migrations of workers into cities occurred faster than anticipated, and many neighborhoods were crowded, polluted, and poorly planned. There was also a minimal waste management and regulations for industries, and many factories polluted their local environment with their production discarded.
    Destructive man-caused environmental impacts became noticeable mainly since the 1950s, and it triggered awakening to the need of environmental protection. This change of perception, influenced a progressive societal understanding of how humanity interacts with its natural environment, which enforced new policies all across-the-board. For example, in the 1970s, President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law, which enforced new environmental policies – to conserve and protect natural habitats and resources. This new era of environmental protection, progressively influenced new legislative and guidelines, which imposed newly air and water regulations and the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

    The environmental movement and its effect over the interaction between human and the environment, continues to influence global financial institutes and societal planning. In fact, researchers who are studying our environment believe that there is a large conflict between capitalist economies and nature, as a result of the abuse of natural resources for the sake of profit. Unlike the pre-industrialized era, when people lived simply inhabiting from their surrounding lands; these days most Americans are disconnected from nature and they overly consume for food and things that “contribute” to pollutions and trash. In the article “The Tragedy of the Commons”, Garrett Hardin argues that Barry Commoner’s (one of the founders of the Modern Environmental Movement) “four laws of ecology are conflicted with the four laws of capitalism.” He continues that “the human–nature relationship is simplified to one of exchange value, where adverse costs to the environment are rarely factored into the equation [4, 5].” The concerns about over population and limited resources can no longer be neglected, and new global order and plans must immediately be forced on all nations.

    Four laws of ecology [4]
    1. Everything is connected to everything else,
    2. Everything must go somewhere,
    3. Nature knows best, and
    4. Nothing comes from nothing.

    Four laws of capitalism
    1. The only lasting connection between things is the cash nexus;
    2. It doesn’t matter where something goes as long as it doesn’t reenter the circuit of capital;
    3. The self-regulating market knows best; and
    4. Nature’s bounty is a free gift to the property owner.

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    • Good articulation of major shifts in the evolution eras and your link to capitalism towards the end is crucial as it remind us with the current state and how that capitalism, by-deign, works against environment and wise use of recourse. It is also much-needed alarming that despite our progress in recognizing the environmental challenges and our work to protect the environment. We, remain vulnerable to capitalism and global environmental challenges.


  3. The main milestones in the history of environmental alteration would be the pre-industrial revolution, industrial revolution, beginning of ecological planning, environmental mitigation, sustainable development and global environmental issues and post environmental sustainability. These seven eras all explain and illustrate how the environment changed through these past few centuries.
    From my point of view, the industrial revolution and the beginning of ecological planning are the most significant milestones in the history of environment alteration because I think the environment changed the most in these two eras.
    For the industrial revolution, the British changed the economy in the 18th century, from an agriculture and handicraft economy to a machine-dominated economy. They invented the steam engines that made most of the fields working more efficiently and more effectively. Then, this invention, as well as the machine-dominated economy, had spread to the rest of the world. At this time, industrial revolution began.
    Undoubtedly, this era boosted the economy and also the population. People started getting rich and buying more goods especially the luxury items. Before industrialization, people usually reuse and recycle because they knew that materials were limited and they were not that rich to afford wasting resources too. However, when getting into the industrial revolution, machines helped to excavate resources and lowered the price. Materials became more affordable so people started wasting them and the economy was also boosted so people could buy more goods. They did not recognize that the resources could be used up and they did not know how their acts would affect the environment that bad. In this era, people just excavated more, used more, wasted more, and polluted more.
    This era is significant because this was the actual kick off of pollution. The environment could still adapt to the small scale of pollution beforehand. However, when it came to the machine-dominated economy, the pollution became a large scale, our lifestyle changed, the population increased and the economy was boosted, we were letting ourselves and the earth reaching the environment tipping point.
    Fortunately, we have not reached the environmental tipping point yet and before reaching it, we have changed our lifestyle and have done something to prevent it to come so fast since the era of the beginning of ecological planning. This is because we knew that once we reach it, we can never turn it back again.
    For the beginning of ecological planning, people getting to know that we will not be able to live on the same earth if we still pollute it that way. Then, more regulations, laws, and agreements were set up in this era or after.
    This era is significant because it was the kick off of being environmentally friendly. The environmental awareness started to grow in this era. People tried to consider the environmental impacts before they do something. Also, they started to discuss whether the professionals should regulate the environment like what Gifford Pinchot proposed or follow John Muir that we should excavate the resources only when we need to. I think what came after this era is all because we had been through the beginning of ecological planning, it was the time that we started to change so I think it is one of the most significant milestones.
    The other five eras are still important but in my opinion, the industrial revolution and the beginning of ecological planning are the most significant milestones in the history of environmental alteration.

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    • The industrial revolution and ecological planning are truly very important. You successfully laid out their characteristics. One interesting point for future discussion is your statement: “….Fortunately, we have not reached the environmental tipping point yet….”, which some climate change advocates may disagree with. One may argue that we actually passed the tipping point and that all what we are working on is adaptation rather than mitigation. However, optimists share your view point hoping to reverse our impact to guarantee sustainable future for the upcoming generations.


  4. Both the pre-industrial and industrial revolution were very defining times not only in the United States, but across the globe. Before these revolutions, nature and the environment had only been seen as a plentiful resource that had been at our disposal as a means of survival. It wasn’t until the pre-industrial revolution that nature had started to become something of importance. Nature was in a transition in between being a necessity, and being a luxury. Having extravagant and intricate gardens was a sign of great wealth in pre-industrial times seeing as to how the rest of the population lived, often overcrowded into cities with not a tree in sight.

    I believe that this is a significant time in ecological history due to the fact that it is the beginning of our appreciation for and understanding that there is so much more to nature than using it for our own selfish benefits. Landscaping had become something of an art form for those whom could afford it. During this time period there was a transition from very formal and structured styles of gardens to a style of landscaping that indeed did still have somewhat of a formal structure but also incorporated many elements from the wilderness and surrounding areas thanks to the English landscape designer Charles Bridgeman.

    Bridgeman was soon surpassed in the world of landscaping by William Kent. Kent’s work followed that of Bridgeman’s in that there were natural elements incorporated into the design. However, Kent took Bridgeman’s idea one step further and opted for a more ‘natural’ style of design. Bringing the estates he was designing into nature instead of making nature work with the homes. With Kent there is a larger shift in thinking of how to preserve the world and the aesthetics around us instead of changing them to meet our needs.

    In the following era, the industrial revolution, there is a great focus on how to incorporate natural elements back into urban areas, for example Central Park. Cities and urban areas were deteriorating quickly, and this continued, the demand for more public places of nature skyrocketed. Not every city could afford or even have enough room for large projects such as Central Park, this is how the thinking changed from just having single parks, to a park system instead. Having this system in place was beneficial not only to those who lived in these urban areas but also to the large amount of wildlife that inhabited these parks. The introduction of parkways was also key to helping wildlife movements between parks, ensuring that they had a safe path to travel along instead of wandering cities. This essentially the foundation for todays park systems. What I believe to be the most important milestones from this era are the preservation and conservation movements. John Muir is most commonly referred to as the father of national parks and his activism has helped to preserve many of the national parks/wilderness areas that many love to visit till this day.

    During the same era Gifford Pinchot was leading the conservation movement. As a member of the National Forest Commission, Pinchot was given the task to develop a plan for managing the nation’s forest reserves. Pinchot’s conservationist approach was not welcomed by all (especially by those who leaned to a more preservationist view), but it gave a more practical approach to what could be done to slow the impact that human life was having on our ecosystem.
    Whether you side more with Pinchot or Muir, it is important to understand that their early views and work brought to light the actions that need to be taken in order for us to properly care for our world.

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    The need to invent and innovate are part of the human spirit that goes on to triumph the elements and the surrounds of nature. However, the drive to conquer and control the elements and nature seem to have gone too far, as there are a vast majority of people that live across the globe and each person is impacting the Earth with the need for more resources, supply, and space. The drive to triumph over the Earth seems to have been part of humanity since the beginning of understanding and history. One of the most profound times that had greatly impacted the face of the Earth would be the Industrial as the times caused a shift to an extreme, where rather than trying to control or conquer nature, the people of Industrial countries overwhelmed nature with sewage and waste that would cause disastrous diseases to spread throughout. The spread of all sorts of disaster brought forth men that would change the look of cities with the addition of parks. Parks being added to the cities gave people access to the greens that would reinvigorate men and women that have been trapped in a concrete cage. These parks also introduced having animals back around humans that would reintroduce nature to commune and connect to the people. The introduction of parks gave more connections to the people with nature that would impress upon the people that nature isn’t that dangerous or horrifying. The introduction began a campaign to preserve and protect the nature that has once terrified the people, and the campaign led to the creation of national parks and preservation sites. Nature is part of humanity, but a part that has been neglected and forgotten, to some even discarded with malicious intent. The years after the Industrial Age, people seemed to understand the importance of nature but the connectivity of nature hasn’t set in yet. People understood that nature is as much needed for the survival of the species, as water or air. Thus began the era of ecological planning and the preservation of the old ecosystem. This led to the creation of the National Environmental Policy Act that would declare national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment, to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare of man, as well as to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation; and to establish a Council on Environmental Quality. These goals have seemed to keep the waste and sewage to a level that has slowed the digress into an environment that is comprised of garbage and decay. This has led to an age were issues of sustainability and of the global environment. The issue of sustainability is that the world doesn’t seem to be able to support and maintain the life style and the way of life that has been a staple in many people. The way of life that the people are continuing to live has drained the natural ecosystem of life and of vigor. The resources of the Earth seemed infinite in the perspective of a single person or of a single community, but the community of humanity includes all the people on Earth and that has made the resources more finite and limited. The cause for an environmental balance is one that must not be given up as the cause is one that is deeply connected to the survival of the human race.

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  6. Throughout history humans have utilized the resources surrounding them. These consumptions have formed cultures and innovation While great things have evolved from human use of resources our means of consuming resources became unsustainable. When food ran out in one place humans will migrate to another location until the cycle happens again. Eventually we began to trade with one another in order to keep up with our needs and demands. Some sought profit in this trade. Several European kingdoms began to compete with one another to see who could protect and claim the most resources. Granted humans conquering one another for resources can be traced back to prehistoric times but this zero sum type of hierarchies many thought had faded with the Roman Empire.These mercantilist ideas propelled the world into a a new period of mass colonization. During this colonization period the degradation of the environment saw an exponential increase. With greed driving this consumption there was no regard for the land. As stated prior humans have long migrated into foreign lands in search for resources. This period is unique due to the fact it coincides with the industrial revolution. The innovation of technology that made manufacturing profitable, made the land profitable as well. Coal and wood helped fuel the machines needed to keep the factories going. Both in Europe and American manufacturing was the center of the economy. It cannot be said that people were not aware of the impact of this growth on the environment or just didn’t care. Regardless of what those who lead this movement believed the fact is that the forest became less and less in a small amount of time. The dwindling of nature became alarming early in the industrial revolution. Spawning out of the industrial revolution are conservationist who saw a need to preserve our environment. Gifford Pinchot, a conservationist, knew how powerful this revolution was. Rather than say lets not grow our society his reasoning was that lets grow but responsibly with our leaders determining where we should grow. On the other hand, John Muir, also a conservationist, believed that there are certain places humans just should not go to render the land’s resources. Both conservationist have valid points. While John Muir views may be extreme, Pinchot views place trust in the leaders that are actually fueling the revolution. History shown us that our many of our leaders place their personal interest in growth rather than the best interest for the environment. So far in American we have yet to find a happy medium. But we have come close: our park system. Central Park in New York was America’s first attempt to preserve nature within city limits in the midst of the industrial revolution. Frederick Law Olmstead saw this need within the city limits. New York City, the epitome of capitalism, a place where the gap between the have and have nots was noticed way before the Occupy Movement. During the industrial period, while many people were propelling themselves out of poverty into wealth others were not given the opportunity to experience clean streets or even nature. As manufacturing increased in the city nature decreased. As the amount of immigrants and “undesirables” moved to the city for jobs the wealthy moved out. This was coined the “Railroad Affect.” These events led to Olmstead’s vision; a place where nature could be enjoyed by everyone rich and poor. These events have helped shaped the America we see today. In the urban areas many underprivileged people are still subjugated to concrete and dirty air. Even though many attempts have been made by great people, such as Muir and Pinchot, to conserve nature these efforts have continued to be undermined. When we trust our leaders to protect the best interest of the environment, society and the people we are saying do what’s right for the community. In a capitalist society the best interest for the people, in the view of our leaders is profits at the expense of the land. The innovations of the industrial revolution were thought to change America forever for the greater good but it has only changed our society for the worse.

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  7. Frank Delgado
    ENVS 300
    Professor Amir Gohar
    4 Febuary 2018
    Environmental Alteration
    In order to understand the problems facing our environment today, we have to truly understand how our natural environment came to be. In a very all-inclusive lecture on Tuesday, we learned how man has affected our natural world in many different ways, in many different times. Two of the most important milestones in our alteration of the environmental were the Industrial Revolution and the environmental mitigation period.
    When the world thinks of Richard Nixon, usually the first thing to come to their mind is scandal. They think about how he was essentially ousted from office following the Watergate Scandal. The point of this narrative is not to invalidate the significance of Watergate or to champion Nixon as a great president, but it was during his administration that we saw some of the most impressive environmental policies take effect. During this time, we were facing environmental catastrophes the likes of which we had never seen before. A toxic waste site in the suburban area of Love Canal had not been properly cleaned up and was causing birth defects with its current residents. The Cuyahoga River had been so inundated with pollution it had actually caught on fire. To top this all off, there was a huge oil spill on the California Coast. All of these highly publicized events opened the eyes of the world. We finally began to demand answers from the government and we got them. Under Nixon’s administration, we saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the passing of the Clean Air Act, and the NEPA Policy. The EPA was an agency designed to “protect human health and the environment,” and they have made many great strides toward this goal. Some of their achievements include the banning of DDT (with a little help from Rachel Carson), pushing for unleaded gasoline, and developed Superfund in the wake of Love Canal. Many of these achievements would never have happened without the EPA. In addition, the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were both passed under this administration. Although there is a fair deal of skepticism regarding Nixon’s motivations for these policies, they are certainly better for the world. This stage in history, while short shows the United States’ people beginning to have an environmental awakening. It was during this mitigation period that the United States government passed policy that mirrored the wishes of a newly enlightened populace. Although we are now the laughing stock of the entire world when it comes to environmental issues, there was a time when we were on the forefront of environmental policy in this world.
    For all different reasons, the Industrial Revolution was a very important time for our natural world. It was during this time that the destructive ingenuity of humanity was on full display. During this time, the human population grew at an insane pace. The entire world was going through a fundamental change. At the end of the 18th century, the economies of the world would drastically change. This was due to the creation of technology that enabled humanity to reach its fullest industrial potential. One of the industries that soared to new heights during this time period was the coal industry. Coal was used in large quantities to power steam engines. It was burned simply to generate large amounts of steam, but we had no idea what air pollutants we were releasing into the atmosphere. Another hugely detrimental invention for the environment that occurred during this time was the internal combustion engine which is what we use to power our vehicles today. Today we all know the impact of cars on our environment. We polluted and used every resource we could until the results began to show.
    Throughout the course of human history, we used the environment as a means to an end, but now we realize what we have done. We can only hope it is not too late to reverse the damage that has been done to our natural world.

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  8. The way our environment is today was derived through five milestones throughout history: pre-industrial revolution, industrial revolution, beginning of ecological planning, environmental mitigation, sustaining development and global environmental issues, and post environmental sustainability. The two most important milestones that lead to how the current environment is came from the pre-industrial revolution and ecological planning. Both of these periods had a major effect on how cities are build today and how early ideas carried out to how current cities are built.

    The pre-industrial revolution took place before the industrial revolution. The cities of the preindustrial revolution where usually built surrounded by a wall. This was a way the people can make boarders and assign land ownership. The inside of cities where usually dirty since there was no irrigation, so polluted streets where extremely common. The cities where separated in grids, where there was a space assigned to tenants within the city. Then there were axis created that were like major streets that connected cities that would lead to capitals or public squares. Public squares are where people would gather and sell or trade the goods they had; this was like the meeting points for the cities people. Pre-industrial city squares and the way there connection systems carried out throughout history, first seen in this era. The pre-industrial revolution set the first human environment that was later added on too with ecological planning.

    Ecological planning started as a way of trying to assign land to build or sustain natural spaces. The planning processes would assess areas of land to use them as green spaces. These green spaces acted like a city square but in nature. Ecological planning is the balancing act of planning development by not destroy too much of the natural world, it’s a balance between nature and cities. It looks at all aspects of life including social, political, economical, and governing factors. Compared to the preindustrial revolution time, ecological planning tied in more issues than just space concerns. To develop ecologically three components of development are evaluated: current statues, vision, and long-term effects of the spaces. Current statues are where the developers look at what is currently available in nature and the city and assess what can be done. Vision is the second component of ecological planning; this is where the plan of development is evaluated with the laws and rules assigned in the area. Finally the last component in ecological planning is planning on how sustainable this green space would be in the future.

    In conclusion the preindustrial revolution time created a way cities can be made by incorporating city squares and guarding of areas, this lead to more expansive idea with ecological planning. Ecological planning added on to the past way of building human environments, where now green spaces where incorporated in the plan. The ecological planning movement also played a huge factor in pushing towards preservation and sustainability, it was the first time period where nature and cities where beginning to come together. The ecological planning was the pivot point between the cities before to the new way of making human environments where things like sustainability and nature spaces where accounted for and made in a way that pushed more green ideas.

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  9. We started with the evolution of the concept of environmental alteration with significant milestones throughout history, beginning with the “Pre-Industrial Revolution” Era that was during the 18th century. These were the times when nature had an immense value to mankind and their existence. People started altering nature as source of beauty and production with the help of varieties of gardening and landscaping techniques. The second milestone was during the 19th century known as the industrial revolution era, due to the deterioration of cities, there were demands for public parks so that individuals of any status could experience cleaner environment to live and work in. Elites lived in the center of the city, and city center were congested. These caused elite to move out using railways creating the constructions of railways. This encouraged the development of the suburbs and railways supported decentralization. This was the era when villages turned into suburbs. Park systems were introduced and parkways were added to park system for convenience for people in the central areas as well. Preservation and conservation movements were enforced from this era, theories from conservationist, Gifford Pinchot, and Preservationist, John Muir were the topic for environmentalists of this period. Third milestone would be 1920 to 1970 A.D. which was known as the beginning of Ecology, Planning. Environmentalists began incorporating ecology in the planning of cities. Typologies of parks were introduced, emphasizing the basics for Geographic Information System (GIS). Visual images and forms of the cities such as paths, edges, gateways, nodes, and landmarks were incorporated to sustain long-term environmental wellbeing. The government introduced National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The fourth milestone was the environmental cleanup during 1971 to 1980 AD. Governments started adopting environmental reformation strategies, refining GIS. The fifth milestone were focused in the sustainability and global environmental issues. The reason for this was the fact that while the developed countries were focused on improving the environment, the developing countries could not afford to fix their environmental problems, this affected the entire ecosystem. The Es ( Economy, Equity, Ecology) were considered for sustainable development. This was also when landscape urbanism became available. Jack Dangermond capitalized GIS tolls making GIS an essential planning tool. The last era we discussed in the class was the Post environmental sustainability which was considered from 1998 till today. People have realized that environmental sustainability is insufficient. Millennium Development Goals are brought forth but were not achieved by 2015 as planned. There seems to be a lot of room to learn and fix in this sector if we really care about our environment.

    Personally, I consider the industrial revolution of 19th century to be the most significant era. It relates to my vision statement of incorporating ecology in planning of cities for better environmental waste management and forms of the city. Creating parks in the vicinity of big cities and keeping the visual image of the city pleasant and air pollution free.

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