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Industrialization or Economics? What Will Happen to the Reserve?

The tragedy of 1986 turned the Chernobyl zone into a unique territory with the lowest population density and the highest forest coverage in Europe. This research conducted by the National Academy of Agrarian Science showed that the territory has immense potential for usage. The ministry suggests that we must try to preserve the natural richness of the area and simultaneously put a lot of effort into reducing radiation level across the territory or reduce the area of the exclusion zone gradually.

All anthropogenic influence on nature of the zone has reduced significantly. The diversity of local flora was not affected by the reduction of human presence and such changes are hard to study due to dramatic increase in the count of local wild animals. The amount of wild beavers, foxes, and badgers constantly grows. The population of wild boars tripled. Brown bears and bison wonder in from Belarus. Such a situation calls for a status of a national reserve. Any kind of economic activity is inefficient due to high radiation levels and the lack of possible contamination prevention measures.


Igor Gudkov, one of biologists at the National Academy of Agrarian Science, criticizes various projects removing biomaterials from the 30-km exclusion zone. He says that after burning the biomass radionuclides can invade both ash and smoke. He points at the Japanese experience who use technologically advanced contemporary methods of burning biomass. Techniques that are inexistent in Ukraine. Gudkov also points out that the country needs to use various forms of deactivation by plants. For example, the government could finance a project of growing lupine that gets rid of radioactive isotopes. As of right now, the recycling of biomass is not a well-designed process.

Some of his colleagues wanted to remained incognito and think otherwise. Many believe that due to the fact that the country is still engaged in warfare, the resources should be utilized by the military ministry and that problems of the zone could wait. Meanwhile, the protective stance of the government about the exclusion zone naturally defends local nature. Different minds – different opinions.

Despite the clash between experts, there are various ways to use the exclusion zone. From cultivating crops to creating free economic zones within the area where the levels of contamination are not that high. Meanwhile, government is busy with cutting down trees and using tinder from the zone freely. If tinder turns out to be contaminated, it is used in mining.

Forests are not suffering only from industrialization. In 2015, over 20% of all forests in the area burned down. Trees that burned must be removed from the area to reduce the population of rodents and prevent future fires from spreading too quickly. At the same time, some of local authorities claim that all these fires have been intentional and there were some criminals who wanted to set the forest on fire.

Fires plague the zone and cause much more damage to the zone compared to radiation and cutting. Huge areas of swamps and forests burn down during hot summers. In 2016, journalists reported on 2 large fires near villages Polesskoe and Dityatki. The fire crawled as close as 500 meters to the border of the exclusion zone. The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources developed a special project to turn the area into the Chernobyl Biosphere Reserve which would include the whole zone and some parts of the NPP excluding industrial facilities still operating within the zone.


“The project is already moving and there is a presidential order that waits for approval,” tells journalists the deputy minister, “The project is approved by the senate and now wait for presidential sign. The last word will come from the leader of the nation. What that word will be, we do not know.”

The deputy minister adds both scientists and experts have approved the project and want to turn the contaminated area into a reserve. Until it is created, the vast portion of the area will be under the control of the National Zone Exclusion Control Agency. The head of the National Ecology Center of Ukraine was also quite positive about the project after reading it in details.

The results of the Chernobyl catastrophe are weird. The wild life of the zone is protected by radiation instead of being wiped out by it. This is a great chance to completely restore the virginity of vast areas that will serve as a protective layer between radiation and other ecosystems. Newly grown forests will become additional lungs and help with cleaning up the mess that we created. The Pripyat river is a great reserve of fresh water.

The whole project of creating a biosphere reserve looks attractive. All necessary conditions of conducting economic activities and protecting the area are flexible and functional as they were developed in collaboration with UNESCO. The project will take care of local farmers and people living of the forest while protecting the wild life from humans and supporting various educational and informational projects as well as cooperation between various government agencies.

According to the information from the Ministry of Nature, the territory of the reserve will be split in zones. Some places will be accessed only by scientists. Other territories will be available to tourists but no industrialization or agrarian activity will be allowed. Some zones will allow for minor industrial activity and even wood cutting. Industrial facilities of the NPP and other governmental structures will be excluded from the reserve.

After the incident, some areas of the zone radiation levels reduced to normal. However, many specialists claim that living within the zone for many years is very dangerous due to high levels of radioactive isotopes here and there. In order to save the diversity of local flora and fauna, we must focus on splitting the area correctly and create all necessary opportunities for nature to recover. The overall consensus of the scientific community is that the area must be protected from industrialization with more areas open for tourists and scientists.

There are few known methods of generating real economic growth. The first is trade specialization, by which a laborer is better able to perform an activity through education, training and insight. Specialization tends to occur naturally as actors look to improve their gains from trade.

The second known method is through improved capital goods; better tools lead to more productivity per labor hour. For example, an 18-wheeler can transport goods over distance far more efficiently than a man with a bicycle and backpack.

The last method of improving productivity is through discovery of previously unutilized resources. Examples of this method include the discovery of oil wells in the 1850s or the invention of the Internet.

When more goods can be produced more quickly, the costs of acquiring those goods declines. Declining real costs make it easier for individuals and families to purchase those goods. This increases the standard of living. Without increases in productivity, most families would be priced out of owning refrigerators, automobiles, computers, TVs, electricity, running water or a myriad of other goods.

According to estimates from the Federal Reserve branch in Minneapolis, human productivity and corresponding standards of living were essentially unchanged from the beginning of the agricultural age around 8000 - 5000 B.C. until 1750 A.D. That all started to change in Great Britain in 1760. Average income and population levels began an unprecedented, sustained increase. GDP per capita, which had been fixed for thousands of years, grew dramatically with the emergence of the modern capitalist economy.

Economic historian Deirdre McCloskey, writing in the Cambridge University Press in 2004, argued that industrialization was "certainly the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants, perhaps the most important since the invention of language." Not all historians agree about the spark that ignited the Industrial Revolution. Most economists point to the changes in legal and cultural foundations in Great Britain that allowed free trade and gave entrepreneurs the room and incentives to take risks, innovate and profit.

Progression of Industrial Revolution

Throughout this period, marginal productivity rose dramatically through the development of better capital goods, such as the steam engine, and the mastery of new production techniques, such as the assembly line. Relatively more goods were produced in relatively less time. More and better food supported population growth and fought malnutrition. More time was left for education, innovation and recreation. Average real incomes rose dramatically, which only increased demand for better goods and services.

In terms of its scale and the damage caused, the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986 was one of the most serious accidents to have occurred in the entire history of the utilization of atomic energy. From the viewpoint of radioactive contamination of the biosphere, it can be ranked as a global disaster.


The accident involved the discharge of substantial quantities of radioactive substances into the environment. In the area affected (including the evacuation zone), 76,100 km2 were contaminated with caesium-137 at a level of between 1 and 5 Ci/km2. and 28,100 km2 at a level of above 5 Ci/km2. These areas have a population of some 4 million, more than 800,000 of whom live in regions where the contamination level is above 5 Ci/km2.

The accident disrupted the previous way of life and economic activity in various parts of the RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR. In just the first year after the accident, 144,000 hectares of farm land were taken out of use, forestry work was stopped on an area of 492,000 hectares, and many industrial and agricultural enterprises ceased operations.

In the spring and summer of 1986, 116,000 people were evacuated from the danger zone.

As a result of the accident or of their work in dealing with its immediate consequences, 30 people were killed or died from acute radiation sickness and many received high doses of radiation.

Work was carried out to protect reservoirs from radioactive contamination and a series of special hydraulic installations and traps were built to prevent the shifting of radioactive silt.

Three periods can be distinguished in the efforts to deal with the after-effects of the accident:

  • The first period, from April to May 1986, involved making initial estimates of the scale of the disaster and the radiation situation, taking action to prevent a spontaneous chain reaction and radioactive emissions from the damaged reactor, identifying areas exposed to radioactive contamination, and evacuating the population and farm animals from a 30-kilometre zone. At this stage, the main danger to personnel and the public at large was from external exposure, as well as from internal irradiation due mainly to ingesting or inhaling iodine-131 and 132;
  • The second period, from summer 1986 to 1987, involved mapping out the contaminated areas, construction of the “Encasement” (“Sarcophagus”), decontamination of the working area of the nuclear power plant, restarting of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, measures to protect water resources from radioactivity, decontamination of settlements, scientific investigations and special measures on agricultural land. The main sources of radioactive contamination during this period were ruthenium-106, cerium-141 and 144, caesium-137 and 134;
  • The third period, from 1988 to the present day, has involved stabilizing the radiation situation in the 30-kilometre zone and other areas, getting the organization of work and dosimetric monitoring set up properly, carrying out operation to make the “Encasement” more secure, decontaminating of settlements, relocating inhabitants away from contaminated areas, taking measures to reduce contamination of agricultural produce and reorganizing agricultural activities, collating material relating to the accident, and developing and launching of a long-term programme for dealing with the after-effects of the accident. The main sources of radiation were by this time long-lived radionuclides of caesium-137 (for the most part) and strontium-90.

Notwithstanding the enormous efforts – unprecedented anywhere else in the world – to deal with the after-effects of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and despite the considerable financial, material and technical resources committed, a reliable system for ensuring the safety of people affected by radiation is still not in place.

A State Union-Republic programme of urgent measures has been drawn up in the USSR for the years 1990-1992 to deal with the after-effects in the RSFSR, Byelorussian SSR and Ukrainian SSR of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. This programme was approved by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 25 April 1990.

On 26 October 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR approved a State programme for dealing with the after-effects in the Byelorussian SSR of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant for the years 1990-1995. In the Ukrainian SSR, a similar long-term programme has been adopted for the period up to the year 2000. A corresponding programme for 1990-1995 has been adopted in the RSFSR.


The main urgent measures provided for in these programme are:

  • Relocation of inhabitants away from settlements which were subjected to radioactive contamination as a result of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and in which the population’s safety from radiation cannot be ensured for long periods of residence, and the resettlement of people (especially families with children up to 14 years of age and pregnant women) who have expressed the desire to move out of areas where restrictions have been imposed on the consumption of local food products;
  • Implementation of a range of measures in the prohibited zone of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to ensure the nuclear and radiation safety of installations in that zone, to treat and where necessary bury radioactive waste from the plant, and to prevent the spread of radioactivity beyond this zone;
  • Improvement of medical health services for the various population groups who suffered as a result of the Chernobyl accident;
  • Introduction of special measures with regard to agro-industrial production under conditions of radioactive contamination;
  • Supply of “clean” food products to people living in contaminated areas;
  • Provision of regular information to the population on work undertaken to deal with the after-effects of the accident, and action to educate the public with regard to radiation safety;
  • Scientific study of the problems involved in dealing with the after-effects of the accident and ensuring normal living conditions in the contaminated areas.

Radiation situation

The radioactivity released into the environment from the damaged Chernobyl reactor totals approximately 50 MCi (1.9 x 1018Bq), or 3 to 4 per cent of the combined radioactivity of the fission products in reactor No. 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

The long period of discharge of radionuclides from the damaged active zone of the reactor and the changing weather conditions (wind direction, precipitation) during that time in the European part of the country resulted in an extremely complex picture of radioactive contamination of a number of regions, and an uneven pattern of contamination both by area (spottiness) and by types of radionuclides.

The provinces subjected to radioactive contamination in the Russian Federation were Bryansk, Kaluga, Tula, Orel and to a lesser extent Kursk, Smolensk and Lipetsk; in the Ukrainian SSR – Zhitomir, Kiev, Rovno, Chernigov, Cherkassy and Vinnitsa; and in the Byelorussian SSR – Gomel, Mogilev, Brest, Minsk and Grodno.

Evaluation of inhabitants from areas affected by radioactive contamination

One effective way of protecting people against the dangers of radiation is to evacuate them from heavily contaminated areas. In the spring and summer of 1986, some 116,000 people were evacuated from the danger area – including 92,000 from the Ukrainian SSR, over 24,000 from the Byelorussian SSR and about 200 from the RSFSR. The evacuees had new houses built for them in rural areas, or were given flats in towns, and they were paid compensation for the property they had lost.

Determination of the long-term limit for exposure to radiation led to further evacuations from areas contaminated by radionuclides beginning in 1989.

It was decided by the Governments of the USSR, the Byelorussian SSR and the Ukrainian SSR to resettle the inhabitants of various settlements contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster in Bryansk, Kiev, Zhitomir, Mogilev and Gomel provinces where it would not be possible through decontamination and soil improvement measures to keep the individual dose of radiation they received over the course of their lives within the established limit. In 1990-1991, because of the radiation factor, and also because of socialconsiderations, it is planned to evacuate a total of 395 settlements (73,000 inhabitants), including 306 in the Byelorussian SSR (38,600 inhabitants), 22 in the Ukrainian SSR (19,200 inhabitants) and 67 in Bryansk province in the RSFSR (15,200 inhabitants).

Decrees have been adopted by the Government fixing the procedure and conditions for the payment of financial compensation to certain groups of the population for the property they have lost, and also for the payment of expenses connected with moving to a new place of residence. They also lay down the procedure for providing the citizens with housing at their new places of residence and arranging for work to be found for them.

In areas where restrictions have been introduced on the consumption of food products from local farms or private plots, the Union Republics estimate that they will have to evacuate a further 146,000 people (families with children up to the age of 14 and pregnant women), including 69,000 from the RSFSR, 21,000 from the Ukrainian SSR and 56,000 from the Byelorussian SSR.

For these evacuees it will be necessary to build several million square metres of housing, cultural and service facilities, new estates and roads, and hence to expand the building and building materials industries.

The appropriate international organizations could help with this work by acting as intermediaries to arrange supplies of equipment for children’s pre-school institutions, schools and cultural centres and for building enterprises.

Social welfare for people living in areas affected by radioactive contamination

In places where radioactive contamination is insignificant, and it is not intended to evacuate the population, measures are planned to reduce the amount of exposure to radiation still further and to improve social conditions and services.

For inhabitants of a number of places in areas affected by radioactive contamination, a decree was introduced by the Government of the USSR in 1986, and followed up by various decisions, which limited the consumption of food products from local farms and private plots because they contained more than the permissible levels of radio nuclides. Various privileges and benefits were introduced for these people, including cash benefits and free meals for children at schools and pre-school institutions. At the beginning of 1990, there were some 280,000 people living in, such places, including 110,000 in the RSFSR, 50,000 in the Ukrainian SSR and 120,000 in the Byelorussian SSR.


In the light of the new data on the state of health of the population living in contaminated areas and the need to improve their diet and calorie intake, their medical services and their material conditions, the main attention will be concentrated in the next few years on measures to improve health care and material conditions for these people.

It is planned to pay cash benefits to people in less contaminated areas as well, in order to compensate them for the cost of obtaining extra food supplies because of the partial restrictions on the consumption of milk and, in some cases, other food products from local farms and private plots.

Among residents of contaminated areas, those who work have been given extra vacation, women have been allowed additional maternity and child-care leave, working pensioners receive full pensions regardless of what they earn, benefits for needy families and pensions for non-working pensioners and persons disabled from childhood have been increased, and the conditions for the payment of State pensions have been eased.

In order to ensure that the foodstuffs available to the population in contaminated areas meet the recommended standards, these areas are receiving additional supplies of meat and meat products, milk and milk products, vegetable oil, vegetables and melons, berries and fruit, particularly citrus fruit.

Acute problems are arising in finding work for different groups of the population, providing for their social and psychological rehabilitation and organizing teaching in schools. The organizations belonging to the United Nations system could make a substantial contribution to efforts to deal with these problems.

The cultural ecology

The Chernobyl accident was not just a radiation disaster, but also a tragedy in the history of the national culture. It is impossible to make good all the damage done, because it is permanent. People are only just beginning to grasp the extent of it. The most that can be done is to adapt to the new post-Chernobyl situation, from which there is no going back. The transformation that has occurred affects not just individuals, but whole ethno-social groups.


The area effected by the Chernobyl disaster included districts inhabited by different national groups in which various and sometimes unique cultural traditions had been preserved and handed down. In the contaminated zone there were wide areas of a special natural landscape containing monuments of materials and spiritual culture, including archaeological, historical and architectural sites. Little centres of ancient popular culture – crafts, folklore – have also been preserved, particularly in rural areas, and there are also popular museums (Vetka in the Byelorussian SSR), which need to be treated with the greatest possible care. These things, which are priceless, have not yet been properly studied and described.

It seems important that a comprehensive international humanistic, ecological and cultural programme should be set up under the auspices of UNESCO to save the main cultural assets which have been handed down since time immemorial in the affected regions.

Agro-industrial production and forestry in areas contaminated by radioactivity

The Chernobyl disaster did serious damage to agriculture and forestry. About 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land were subjected to radioactive contamination with a caesium-137 density of 5 Ci/km2On the basis of the experience gained in the USSR and elsewhere in the world in dealing with the consequences of radioactive contamination of large areas, the main tasks of agro-industry and forestry in the initial period after the Chernobyl disaster were to protect agro-industrial and forestry workers against radiation, and to organize and implement a system of measures to prevent food products containing radionuclides in quantities above the accepted temporary limits from entering the human organism. Where that cannot be done, food products are brought in from elsewhere to supply the rural population.

A system was promptly set up in May 1986 for multi-stage radiation monitoring of agricultural and forestry output during production, processing and sales. A range of measures were introduced to ensure the production of high-quality foodstuffs at farms in the contaminated area through the formulation and practical application of recommendations and guidelines on how agricultural activities should be carried on in the specific conditions of radioactive contamination.

Measures are being taken to reduce the caesium-137 content of milk below the established temporary limits.

Under the State programme of work for 1990-1992 a combination of measures are to be carried out which will permit rational and safe use to be made of the agricultural and forest land in the areas where the population will live.

It seems desirable to seek the co-operation of foreign organization and institutions under the auspices of the United Nations in obtaining advisory services and technical expertise for the organization of agricultural production in contaminated areas, the establishment of the appropriate infrastructure in those areas, the organization of small-scale enterprises for local processing of the produce and the training and retraining of staff in agricultural radiology.

International co-operation can be of help in dealing with such problems as:

  • Development of methods of maintaining soil fertility (optimization of the micro-nutrient balance), together with measures to prevent radioactive substances from entering plants;
  • Development of technology for reducing the caesium-137 content of agricultural produce during processing. Manufacture of the technical equipment needed for this purpose and its installation at plants;
  • Development of means to reduce the amount of radionuclides entering the organisms of farm animals and to hasten their elimination;
  • Development of ways and means of day-to-day monitoring of low levels (10-100 Bq per kg) of radioactive contamination of produce (including strontium-90);
  • Organization of mass production of highly sensitive radiometric instruments and their installation at farms, collecting centres, processing plants and trading enterprises;
  • Production of high-output processing plants (units), including mobile ones, for utilizing large quantities of biological materials with a high content of radioactive substances, in order to reduce the volume of radioactive waste.


Decontamination operations on land, buildings and installations after the Chernobyl disaster were mainly carried out by units of the armed forces. In the period since the disaster, more than 24 million m22Nine hundred and forty-four settlements have been decontaminated (some several times over), including 448 in Gomel province and 190 in Mogilev province in the Byelorussian SSR, 56 and 93 in Kiev and Zhitomir provinces in the Ukrainian SSR and 157 in Bryansk province in the RSFSR. These measures made it possible to improve the radiation situation in these settlements and to reduce the doses being received by the population.

In 1989 the decision was taken to evacuate a large number of residents from the area contaminated with radionuclides to clean areas (this operation is now being carried out on a large scale), which made it possible to limit the volume of decontamination work in 1990 and carry it out selectively at particular settlements.

An important area for international co-operation in this field would be the establishment of a comprehensive programme to develop ways and means of decontaminating equipment, machinery, buildings and installations and the implementation of such measures in settlements.

Scientific back-up for the work of dealing with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster

After the Chernobyl disaster it was necessary to organize various lines of scientific research which would together ensure that future measures to deal with the after-effects of the disaster were scientifically based and monitored. The main part of the work was entrusted to organizations with appropriate experience and qualified staff. In the USSR research into the effects of radiation on human beings, the environment, agricultural land and foodstuffs was pursued most vigorously in the mid-1940s, at the same time as nuclear weapons were being developed. The results of this research, in particular, provided the basis for the radiation safety standards for work with ionizing radiation and also the time-limited standards drawn up in connection with the Chernobyl disaster.

In the period since the Chernobyl disaster, the country’s scientific organizations have carried out a wide range of scientific research on problems connected with the elimination of its after-effects.

The work programme for the coming period based on the main lines of research, including:

  • Study of the effect of radioactive contamination on the flora and fauna and forecasts of the environmental consequences of the disaster (ecology).
  • Monitoring of the level of contamination of environmental features with radionuclides and study of the processes of migration of fission products and trans-uranic elements (monitoring and forecasting of radioactive contamination).
  • Study of biological factors and remote consequences of radioactive effects on the population and development of measures to reduce the negative impact of these effects (radiation medicine).
  • Research into the effect of radioactive contamination on agricultural production and forestry, development of measures to reduce that effect and make use of foodstuffs contaminated with radionuclides (agricultural radiology).
  • Research into ways of preventing radioactivity from spreading outside the Chernobyl prohibited zone and reducing the doses received by staff, including measures to ensure the nuclear and radiation safety of the encasement and to develop ways and means of decontaminating environmental features, working and domestic premises and installations, equipment and transport facilities (decontamination).
  • Study of the social, psychological and legal aspects of dealing with the consequences of the disaster and preparation of appropriate recommendations.
  • Development of a plan for people to live and work permanently in safety in the areas affected by radioactive contamination as a result of the Chernobyl disaster
  • Provision of the information and analytical material needed for the comprehensive programme of scientific research.
  • To make this research more effective it will be necessary to re-equip most scientific organizations with modern equipment and computers, some of which will have to be imported.

At the proposal of the Soviet Union, the Chernobyl International Scientific Centre is being set up near the Chernobyl power station under the auspices of IAEA. A research programme has been drawn up for the future centre, covering seven basic fields. They include problems connected withpost-disaster reconstruction, radiation safety, development of new means ofmonitoring decontamination of land and facilities, and radionuclidemigration. Supplies of materials and equipment are being organized and arrangements made for accommodating foreign scientists. Twenty-five countrieshave provisionally indicated a desire to take part in the Centre’s work. Theappropriate international organizations could act as intermediaries inarranging for the Centre to be equipped with modern scientific apparatus.

Expenditure and losses resulting from the Chernobyl disaster

Direct losses of fixed assets and other material goods together with expenditure on action to deal with the consequences of the disaster amounted by themselves to 9.2 billion roubles in 1986-1989. They include: losses of productive and non-productive fixed assets amounting to 900 million roubles; lost output in agriculture and other sectors amounting to about 1.2 billion, roubles; expenditure on the construction of housing, social and cultural facilities and services for the population affected by the Chernobyl disaster, road-building, measures to protect forests and water, decontamination operations and the provision of gas supplies to settlements amounting to 2.94 billion rouble.; various kinds of compensation paid to the population amounting to 1,25 billion roubles; payment of cash benefits because of restrictions on the consumption of agricultural products from local farms and private plots amounting to 180 million roubles.


Indirect losses, however, represent an incomparably larger amount. The expenditure in question has been financed mainly from the State budget. Apart from budgetary allocations by the USSR State insurance agency insurance payments have been made to individuals and agricultural and co-operative organizations in the amount of 274 million roubles. The total expenditure also included money contributed voluntarily by individuals and organizations to the assistance fund for dealing with the after-effects of the Chernobyl disaster in the amount of 532 million roubles.

The Supreme Soviet of the USSR has appealed to parliamentarians in all countries and to international organizations to provide assistance in dealing with the problems arising from the Chernobyl disaster.

The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and the Council of Ministers of the Byelorussian SSR made a similar appeal on 20 February 1990.

The Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR has appealed to Governments and public bodies in foreign countries and to international organizations for large-scale international co-operation in dealing with the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

A great contribution can be made to these efforts by United Nations organizations using the international machinery in order to further the economic and social progress of the peoples which have suffered from the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power station.[1]

[1] During the preparation of the article were used the materials of the site http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/033115/industrialization-good-economy.asp