Political Union majority votes industrialization has been good for humanity

Medill junior Spencer Allan delivers a statement, wearing a blue mask and a black-and-white striped shirt and gesturing with his hands as he speaks. Other Political Union members are seated next to and behind him, also masked.

Rebecca Shaid/The Daily Northwestern

Medill junior Spencer Allan delivers a statement at a previous Political Union meeting. Monday’s debate addressed the question of whether industrialization has been good for humanity.

Clare Zhang, Reporter

After an hour-long debate, students at Political Union voted in favor of industrialization Monday night.

Students in favor of the resolution emphasized significantly improved health outcomes and an overall higher standard of living as results of industrialization.

Weinberg junior Cat Jacob, Political Union’s analysis editor, led the argument against the resolution. She said industrialization has only been favorable to the most privileged citizens in Western countries, who benefit from the exploitation of the rest of the world’s population.

For example, she said while industrialization has allowed for mass production of technology like vaccines, less than 1% of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated.

“COVID-19 just shows that we will be quick to cannibalize (developing nations’) resources once the environmental crisis we have caused reaches its peak,” Jacob said.

Industrialization is also the main cause behind global warming, which in turn has the strongest adverse effects on already vulnerable populations, Jacob said.

While some students said global poverty had actually increased over the years without including China in the data, others said it had continually decreased. However, some argued poor conditions in non-industrialized nations do not take away from the benefits of industrialization. Rather, they may indicate that the solution for such countries is to industrialize as well.

Weinberg junior Will Secker, Political Union co-head of external events, acknowledged the negative environmental effects of industrialization. But he said he believes the resulting technology can provide solutions to the same climate problems to which it contributes. He added that technology has allowed humanity to find “a way to adapt” to worsening climate conditions.

Other students were less optimistic, considering the seemingly limited time frame for finding and implementing effective solutions.

Medill junior and former Daily staffer Spencer Allan pointed out the lack of results so far in the search for “unicorn technologies” that would mitigate climate change, even as the situation worsens.

“From here on out, the quality of life is going to decline from environmental degradation,” he said.

Allan, Political Union’s director of finance, also suggested those who reap the benefits of industrialization leave much larger carbon footprints. He raised the question of whether it would be environmentally sustainable for everyone in the world to live the lifestyle of the most privileged.

At the end of the debate, a majority of students voted 20 to 12 in favor of the resolution, with seven abstaining.

Weinberg senior Elizabeth Sperti, Political Union’s outreach coordinator, said she found the environmental arguments against the resolution most convincing, but she planned to abstain from the vote.

Sperti said she would rather discuss possible solutions for mitigating the negative effects of industrialization than debate the resolution.

“This is a room full of people who have benefited from industrialization to the max,” Sperti said. “I personally just don’t feel good about myself being like, ‘Yeah, industrialization was so bad for humanity,’ and then go type away on my laptop.”

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Twitter: @clarezhang_

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