Imagine being unable to live without something and at the same time, the same thing leading you to your end. This is the case with technology, it has made our lives without it difficult but on the other hand, it has negatively impacted our environment. Does this sound scary? Well, it shouldn’t, and here’s why. Even though the impact of technology on our environment is negative, it still has the potential to help us recover from it. In this post, we will be exploring these concepts in detail.
The major concerns that we are facing with the rise in technology usage are scarcity of resources and climate change. In the process of developing new technology, we are not realizing that it is consuming our resources faster than we can replenish them. The advancements in technology have led to the consumption of more fossil fuels along with the consumption of other natural resources.
We can now easily travel across any part of the world but have you realized at what cost we are getting this convenience? It’s our environment, the more people travel, the more carbon is emitted, thus leading to climate change.
Here is a table showing the major concerns on how technology affects environment –
|1. Energy Consumption
|High energy demand contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel depletion.
|2. E-Waste Management
|Rapid tech advancement leads to hazardous electronic waste with disposal challenges.
|3. Resource Depletion
|Extraction of rare minerals harms ecosystems and depletes finite resources.
|4. Pollution from Manufacturing
|Electronics production pollutes air and water, impacting ecosystems and health.
|5. Deforestation and Resources
|Tech’s demand for wood and paper fuels deforestation and biodiversity loss.
|6. Planned Obsolescence
|Frequent gadget upgrades worsen e-waste, resource depletion, and energy use.
|7. Energy-Intensive Data Centers
|Data centers strain grids and emit excess carbon emissions.
|8. Digital Divide’s Impact
|Unequal tech access exacerbates environmental disparities.
|9. Chemical Contamination
|Chemicals in tech manufacturing and disposal harm soil and water quality.
|10. Infrastructure and Wildlife
|Tech development disrupts habitats, impacting wildlife and ecosystems.
Effects of Technology on our Environment
Before the industrial revolution in the mid-to-late 1700s, our earth’s atmosphere was less polluted. The Industrial Revolution brought machines into the picture, and this is exactly where easy manufacturing on a large scale became possible. The results of large-scale manufacturing are depletion of natural resources and pollution. Let’s look at these effects to manage them better.
Natural Resources Depletion
Previously, without technology, most of our tasks were performed manually. At that time, this trend was seen in almost all sectors. Once the technology was introduced, we experienced changes in trends. These sectors shifted their focus to automating tasks for apparent reasons.
The automated tasks are performed efficiently and increase our productivity. Using technology, along with more profits, we can reduce the frequency of human error significantly. Natural resources are used more now and this has resulted in their decline.
We are also experiencing an increase in population, ultimately leading to more consumption of resources. The forests are cut down to build residential areas for the increasing population.
In simple terms, the trees that are responsible for removing carbon dioxide from the environment are being cut down. We are so focused on moving ahead with technology that we are losing sight of important things. There has been a decline in the natural habitat of numerous plants and animals leading them to become extinct.
We have come across the concept of pollution from early on in our lives. We have learned about different types of pollution and their impact on the environment. Now let’s understand how technology is contributing to pollution.
With the help of technology, now we can produce products in large quantities. Factories produce goods with raw materials and in the process, wastes are generated. These wastes are released into the environment in the form of harmful gases in the air, and harmful waste such as chemicals in water bodies. Thus, leading to air and water pollution.
Currently, there has been a rapid growth in electronic waste. These wastes include non-biodegradable toxic materials, and if not discarded properly, they can contaminate the surrounding area.
Think about it, if the waste is not disposed of properly, it will not only contaminate your environment but also affect your health.
For this reason, many countries are taking necessary actions such as proper waste management. The recycling centers are set up in many locations to better manage technology waste.
Apart from these issues already mentioned, there are also concerns about the environmental impact of NFTs and Crypto technology.
Technology Helping Our Environment
As mentioned earlier, technology does have the potential to help us deal with major concerns related to the environment. When compared to the negative impact of technology, we can still say that technology has helped us more than it has caused harm. We haven’t just used natural resources to develop technology, we have also produced sustainable materials using technology.
Imagine if you didn’t have the technology, would you be able to measure your environment for identifying threats? Obviously no, how would you know if you don’t have the right tools?
Technology helps us to study our environment so that we can take the necessary measures to manage it better. Also, you all must have heard the proverb, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ I’ll explain its relation in technology and environment context. When one area gets affected by calamities, they find solutions to better deal with it.
With technology, these solutions are made known around the world so that when others face similar issues, they can use these solutions and modify them based on their requirements. There is no need to build solutions from scratch as technology provides a foundation for finding solutions.
We have seen how trees are cut down for building residential areas but we should also focus on how technology has helped us to go paperless. We have online communication modes where the need for paper is reduced, in turn, leading to fewer trees being cut down. This can be seen in several sectors, the more we go online, the need for physical documents reduces thus saving our environment in some way. We also have sensors that automatically detect the need to turn on or turn off devices depending on conditions in the surrounding.
Clean Energy Production
It is true that technology has been one of the main reasons for the increase in environmental pollution. But now, we are using the same technology to generate renewable energy systems. These systems produce energy that is cleaner and not harmful to the environment. For all this while, we have been dependent upon fossil fuels, etc., to generate energy. Fossil fuels are not only limited in numbers, but also harmful to the environment.
The less dependence on nonrenewable energy sources has already started showing less pollution numbers year by year. Some of the major natural resources that we have started to use to generate clean energy are the sun, water, and the wind. In the year 2017, clean energy by Solar panels, wind turbines, etc., contributed 25% of the global energy production. And to make sure the next generation lives in a cleaner environment, the numbers are projected to be up by 85% by the year 2050.
You will be surprised to know Farming or Agriculture is one of the leading sources of pollution. A farmer wants to get the most out of their limited land. And for that, they use toxic farm chemicals, such as Pesticides, fertilizers, etc., which pollute fresh water, air, and soil.
Fortunately, farmers have now started to become dependent upon modern agricultural machinery and methods. It gives the farmers ten times more crops as compared to what they used to get on the same land. It reduces the dependency on other harmful substances that farmers do not have to use anymore, leading to a safer environment.
The impact of technology is not just limited to farming. Technology has something to offer for the non-vegetarian people, as well. Scientists are now working to grow meat in labs. But do not worry, the meat will contain the same amount of nutrients and will fulfil the protein requirements of the individual. This will help in limiting the land required to grow the food for the animals, which will result in less farming and pollution.
Future of Technology For The Environment
Without a doubt, the focus on green and clean energy has already started helping our planet. But it may take some time for us to become completely dependent upon renewable energy. Meanwhile, we must continue our research and experiment with new innovations and ideas to help save our planet.
Here are some of the hot technology topics that may change the way we produce energy:
- Solar Glass: One day, your window will start generating electricity, thanks to the solar glass. This new technology will be transparent and can be used as a window material that will capture the sun’s energy and transform it into electricity.
- Graphene: Also known as the miracle material, Graphene is thinner than paper but stronger than steel. It is also a great conductor of electricity. From filtering water to acting as a superconductor, Graphene will be a very popular material in the future and will be used for many planet-healing applications.
- Carbon Capture: Yes we have invented energy sources that do not emit carbon in the environment. But what about the carbon dioxide that is already there? Carbon Capture and Storage or CSS is a new class of technologies that will be used to separate carbon dioxide from other gases during industrial processes.
You may not see these technologies in action soon, but they cannot be ignored when it comes to fully healing our planet.
Our discussion won’t be complete until we mention the research that is being conducted to develop technology to reduce carbon emissions from our environment. Similar research is being conducted to develop smart technologies that will help us to reduce our energy consumption.
For example, consider the smart light system, it allows you to control them remotely or directly automate them so that when it is not in use, it turns off automatically. We can agree that there are negative impacts of technology on our environment, but there is no going back from here. We can either use technology smartly and protect our environment or continue as we are doing and, in the process, create problems for us and our future generation.
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (2021). Global Resources Outlook 2019: Natural Resources for the Future We Want.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF). (2021). Deforestation.