“Modern technology owes ecology an apology” (Alan M. Eddison). To what extent is modern technology responsible for our environmental problems?

Priya Ramesh

Modern technology been an integral part of the lives of mankind since its birth. It has opened an endless list of possibilities to man, and has push our boundaries to unthinkable levels. This technology ranges from our hand phones, to the very machines that sustain our economy. To put it in simple terms, technology is machinery built on the basis of scientific knowledge. Now, Alan M Eddision had said “Modern technology owes ecology an apology”, which roughly translates to “Technology has done more harm than good to the environment”. Environmental problems have seen a rise over the last few years, and technology has taken the blame. Technology has been told to be the main culprit behind these problems. It’s true, technology has contributed greatly to these environmental problems, gradually worsening them through its continued usage. To put it simply, technology is largely responsible for the environmental problems we face today.

Let us first see the role of technology in aggravating these environmental problems. Technology has been draining our limited pool of natural resources, but we have turned a blind eye to this problem. Technology has brought many useful inventions into this world, such as the computer. While many of us think that computers are extremely important in our daily working lives, we don’t see the disastrous trail of impacts this leaves behind. Studies show that 81% of the energy needed for a computer is used during production. An average computer needs 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water. Let’s put this into a real world perspective. 302 million computers were sold in 2014. That means 160,060,000,000 pounds of fossil fuels, 14,496,000,000 pounds of chemicals and 480,000,000 tons of water are used solely to make computers per year. Don’t forget, we still need to add the natural resources used to make our televisions, smartphones, and all the other technological devices that surround us today. How about the energy needed to run these devices? All these figures add up to an unimaginable number. Have we thought about the environmental impacts this may cause? The depletion of natural resources has been a persistent problem in our world today, and the main reason for this is most definitely the production and use of technology.

Technology not only depletes natural resources. It has also pushed global warming to extremely high levels, which is beyond what the world can handle. Let’s just start by looking at the amount of energy we use for industrial purposes. Technology has caused a sharp increase in industrial plants and offices. Industries are powered by computer technology, and this has caused an increase in energy consumption. Most industries work on a mainframe that works around the clock. To cool these systems, fans are installed within the hard drives. In addition, air-conditioning is a must in the buildings. Throw in the energy needed to power systems around the office, the energy usage of these industries are constantly on the rise. In fact, these industrial plants account for about 51% of the global energy consumption, as of 2011. This results in a very high thermal count, causing adverse effects on the environment. This energy is largely obtained from the burning of fossil fuels, causing greenhouse gasses to be released along with the high levels of heat. This large amounts of heat and greenhouse gases drive global warming to unforeseen levels. Moreover, with the demand for technology rising, more countries are pushed to industrialization. But what is industrialization without any space to build industrial plants? To solve this problem, the world turns to forests. They clear hundreds of acres worth of trees to build industrial plants and supporting structures, such as residences etc. This mass deforestation accounts for 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, further driving global warming. It’s a vicious cycle. The more energy we use, the higher the levels of global warming. To combat this increase in global temperatures, people turn yet again to technology. Air-conditioning units are used to cool people down, and this releases more heat, and the cycle continues. The root cause, technology.

Technology has also been the leading factor for pollution in our world today. Air and water pollution have taken a toll on our environment, due to the increased dependence on technology that rules over mankind. Even our most normal, everyday activities that depend on technology can lead to high levels of pollution. As we enjoy the comforts of modern traffic, do we even realize the air pollution that follows due to the exhausts emitted by these vehicles? When we broaden our view to a global perspective, we can see that automobiles, power plants, factories, industrial processes, all these human activities are the cause for pollution. Industrial processes release harmful CFCs into the atmosphere, depleting the quality of air. The waste produced by these plants, are dumped into the sea and other water bodies, causing water pollution. Technology has also offered the agricultural industry with fertilizers and pesticides, which emit harmful chemicals to the air and water. This can pose serious threats to the environment and wildlife. The chemicals and gases will offset to the environmental balance of the air and water, which will eventually lead to environmental problems.

Technology, as much good as it has provided to the people, has also lead to serious problems. These problems usually occur behind the scenes, and most people turn their backs to these issues. They don’t know, they don’t care. Simple. But it is time we know that technology is responsible for the environmental problems we face in the world today. Though technology is starting to go green, the detrimental effects that it has left behind will take decades to rectify. But if we don’t start now, then who will?

“Modern technology owes ecology an apology” (Alan M. Eddison). To what extent is modern technology responsible for our environmental problems?

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