Section Two - Environmental Sustainability
A story about drinking and breathing plastic (12 minutes)
Does technology make the world better?
In crash course one we posed the question: does technology make the world better?
There were a lot of arguments that it does. A lot of important Key Performance Indicators were pointing in the right direction like child mortality, literacy, life span, number of conflicts, poverty and so on. At the same time, we stated that another very important indicator was looking very bad. This indicator concerned the environment. Things like climate change (global warming), pollution, depletion of natural resources, destruction of forests and extinction of animals.
All very red indicators.
Maybe the world has become better, but the price for it is very, very high. Maybe too high.
In this section, we look at some of the ways technology negatively impacts the environment. In sections three and four we will look at how to reduce that negative impact and in section five, we look at whether technology might not onle be the problem, but also the solution.
Note: We apologise in advance for the uncomfortable nature of this section. But the impact of technology on the environment is unfortunately not a happy story.
Negative impact of technology on the environment
For the last 150 years industrialisation coupled with technological advancement has affected the environment in a negative way. Industrial benefits resulting from technological adaptation in major activities has indirectly contributed towards higher living standards though that has come at a price. Environmental degradation is a growing concern as continued industrialisation is being witnessed mostly in developing countries.
There are three major negative impacts of technology on the environment discussed in this paragraph.
To start with, environmental pollution occurs as a result of technology mismanagement and lack of control measures. More technology and increased consumption leads to more pollution. Technology pollutes our water and our air. Think about the emission of huge quantity of gasses such as CO2, in the air by large industries which, in turn, has degraded the environment immensely. Think about disposal of waste into the rivers and water systems.
Think about plastic.
Watch this video on plastic pollution (1 minute):
In crash course one we talked about technology biting back. We stated that technology often has short-term benefits and long-term negative consequences. Plastic is a perfect example. A plastic bag at the greengrocer's is handy, otherwise the mangos will roll across the street. Drinking plastic and breathing for the rest of your life is less convenient.
Another form of pollution is noise pollution. Check this simple explanation video made for kids. Given the subject, we advise not turning the audio too loud (3 minutes):
Depletion of resources
Furthermore, technology contributes towards depletion of resources. These can be all kinds of natural resources:
- Timber, burning of bushes,deforestation;
- Wild animals;
- Mining of gold, diamonds;
- And the list goes on.
The result of this depletion is often a collapse of ecological life and extinction of organisms in their natural habitats. The wildlife extinction occuring in their natural habitats, caused by the need to create more space for farming activities or for an increasing population, is evidence of how technology causes ecological imbalances. Technology-driven developments like deforestation, extensive farming activities, environmental pollution and so on lead to changes in the natural life cycles that maintain ecosystems. Though ecosystems can rebound from these negative effects, continued environmental degradation through destructive human activities affected by technology will eventually lead to collapse.
We have become really good at burning fossil fuels. This has helped us a lot, but again in the short-term. In the long run, it led to a greenhouse effect.
Let's start with a short video, explaining global warming in 60 seconds:
Emission of harmful gases such as CO2 in large amounts create greenhouse effects that are the major components of global warming. Most of the videos that discuss the consequences of climate change have an ominous message and usually ominous music.
An example from Canada below (3 minutes):
We said it already: this is a depressing story. That's why it's so important to consider the environmental impact when assessing the impact of technology. We will look at some considerations in Sections 3 and 4.
In section 5, we will consider if technology might be a solution too.
Take aways from section two:
- Technology has brought us a lot of good;
- But that has come at a price;
- Technology is responsible for pollution, the depletion of natural resources and climate change.