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The Hidden Heart of the World

The industry keeps the engines of society turning and turning, literally. It doesn’t matter if you live in New York City, suburban Grand Rapids, or in the middle of nowhere. There is no escaping the power of industrial processes. Your food, gasoline, and clothes come from factories, but how does the public see the hidden world that keeps us alive?

Around the world, countless production lines create massive amounts of items for us to use in our daily lives. Some facilities have sizes of multiple neighborhoods, employing hundreds if not thousands of workers.  BASF, a chemical plant in Germany, is the size of a small city with almost 30 football (soccer) fields. The plant employs 16,700 people and has its own harbor and train station. Most of the BASF plant and most steel and chemical facilities processes are fully automated and only need employees for supervision and maintenance.

A handful of students admire manufacturing, while others simply don’t care. Sophomore Simon Zwart exclaimed his excitement for industrial machines and their importance in society, calling them “strangely human.” Simon explains, “There is something about us that requires innovation. Even if we sometimes don’t like pollution or noise, we still need it as part of our identity. The way or type of things we produce shapes our cultures; we are the only species to produce tools for other individuals.”

While some can only imagine what happens within the walls of factories, others were fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the hidden heart of society. Senior Noa Pfister recalled, “The iron gates that separated his neighborhood from the ironwork.” He then explained “How resources from all over the country get shipped and frighted to his home. How can this place be so important that nations are affected by the action of those iron works.” It can be genuinely fascinating to see towering cranes of harbors, mile-long railway stations, or seemingly bottomless quarries.

Some students would like to learn more about the companies that create our products, but at times “It is just too far away from my daily life. We need stuff and cool robots, but I don’t see what happens behind those closed factory doors”, as Sophomore Lucas Allan reported. Senior Alexis Curtis had a similar experience, stating, “I never think about the production of products, except for the times my boyfriend makes me. I could envision a life without industrial processes, but we would have enormous death tools and live in poverty.” In contrast, Senior Nick Hofman says, “I can’t imagine a world without industry, yet I don’t care about how it works. As long as it keeps doing what it always did, I want it to stay a passive thing in the background of my life.”

A world without industry is hardly imaginable, especially with the number of people that inhabit our cities. Those who would love to learn more about industrialization, with its flaws and benefits, should take AP World History, a course offered at Eatsern where students get a chance to put Industrialization on trial and give a verdict on its effects on society.

Image courtesy of BASF SE.

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