To aid our understanding, it is important to acknowledge Technology comprises all the processes and events that are involved in taking up materials and converting them into a more useful form that helps man better meet his needs. (Cantoria 1) In other words, it doesn’t only make reference to Information Communications Technology (ICT), but rather broadly refers to nearly all manufacturing, mining, refining, etc. processes that are carried out in nearly all industries.
There are a number of ways through which technology is negatively impacting the environment, and one such way that ICT negatively contributes is through e-waste, according to a publication by IGI Global on Green ICT. E-waste is a term that is not unfamiliar with many, yet perhaps, few pay much attention to its meaning and the effect it is having on our environment with each passing day. Simply defined, it refers to all the electronic devices that turn to waste after having reached the end of their useful life. These gadgets could range from T.V. sets, fridges, laptops, mobile phones, etc. of greater concern still is the fact that the usage of electronic devices is only continuing to increase, as these devices have proven to be a great resource in helping us accomplish our day to day activities across all areas of life. (Walied Askarzai (Academies Australasia, Australia) 2)
Another concern cited by the same handbook is that the operation of ICT gadgets leads to the regular generation of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which contributes to the emission of GHGs (greenhouse Gases). According to an article titled Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Causes & Sources, a greenhouse gas refers to any vaporous compound present in the atmosphere that can absorb infrared energy, and as a result trap heat within the atmosphere. These gases are responsible for what is commonly known as the ‘greenhouse effect’ which results in global warming. (Lallanilla 4)
Further citing this article, it can be observed that “The Industrial Revolution had a big part to play in the amount of atmospheric CO2 being released.” (Lallanilla) According to history, this ‘Industrial Revolution’ was the genesis of the world’s most appreciated innovations and inventions, which we celebrate as technological advancement today. However, the downside to such advances is the negative impact they have been having on the environment, such as the emission of a myriad of GHGs (e.g. Fluorinated gases, Chlorofluorocarbons (Lallanilla 3)), deforestation and water & land pollution from the industrial processes & wastes, which all largely contribute to global warming today.
According to the ‘United Nations Environment Program, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics’ technology has a myriad of negative effects upon the environment, which with regards to ‘scarce or non-renewable resources’, have been categorized as follows:
Living resources: spending or obliteration of plant and animal life, forests (e.g. tropical rain forests) and fisheries
Non-living resources: Mineral resources like fossil fuels which are used in energy production and have consequently led to contamination of water resources
Land resources: The land upon which the structures will be put up, the land where the waste matter will be dumped etc., all which may affect its usability in the future (United Nations Environment Programme: Division of Technology, Industry and Economics 4)
Further, this article categorizes the negative effects of technology on the local natural environment as follows:
The loss of natural habitat through its modification or the clearing of land, such as during mining of raw materials or construction
The interference with the natural habitat, for instance the putting up of infrastructure that could obstruct animal migration
The chemical pollution of the environment as a result of emitting wastes that directly affect plant and animal life or that may change the normal working of the ecosystem (United Nations Environment Programme: Division of Technology, Industry and Economics)
It is therefore clear that the negative impacts of technology on the environment are far reaching. With these facts before us, the surest way of overcoming these challenges is to embrace ‘Green Technology’.
What we can do as a community to change that.
Green Technology refers to technology that will alleviate or undo the negative effects of man’s activity on the ecosystem. (Green Technology)What this kind of technology is envisioned to achieve is:
Sustainability – attaining a way of indefinitely meeting society’s needs without destroying or exhausting the natural resources.
“Cradle to cradle” design – aimed at creating re-usable products
Source reduction – changing the pattern of manufacture and use to reduce pollution and waste
Innovation – creating a substitute to technologies that will not harm the environment further
Viability – creating new employment opportunities that seek to safeguard the environment (Green Technology)
According to an article on the CBC News website, embracing “Green Technology can be a boost for the economy rather than a cost.(Matt Young/ Associated Press)” (McDonald 2) For instance, in Toronto, “… more than 36,000 people are employed in more than 1,700 Toronto-area companies that provide alternative energy and “clean-tech” products and services across a wide range of sub-sectors.” (McDonald) More still in Canada, “… the green building sector drove $23.45 billion in GDP, representing 297,890 jobs across the country in 2014.” (McDonald 1).
In addition to green technology, embracing positive practices such re-afforestation will go a long way especially in reducing the greenhouse effect upon our globe. (Walied Askarzai (Academies Australasia, Australia) 2)
- Cantoria, Ciel S. A brief History of Technology and its Impact on Natural Environment. 14 October 2010.
- Green Technology. Green Technology – What is it? n.d.
- Lallanilla, Marc. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Causes & Sources. 10 February 2015.
- McDonald, Bob. Why we need a green industrial revolution: Bod McDonald. 24 March 2016.
- United Nations Environment Programme: Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. 2.12 Types of impacts. n.d.
- Walied Askarzai (Academies Australasia, Australia). Handbook of Research on Green ICT: Technology, Business and Social Perspectives. Australasia: IGI Global, 2011.