Technology Acting As A Double-Edged Sword; Are We Valuing The Environment Enough?

Technology Acting As A Double-Edged Sword; Are We Valuing The Environment Enough?

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Fundamentals of our living have changed drastically as and how technology has evolved. The way we work, eat, sleep or live depends on technological advancements but not to forget, the environment holds equally or slightly more importance than we acknowledge. Every researcher around the world is hunting for new advancements which act as key drivers of the development overall.

As every coin has two sides, there are indeed positive effects of everyday technology but comes along with a darker side. So, the question is: Is technology a double-edged sword, or is it our inability to maintain the right balance between the advancement of technology and mother nature? We will figure it out at the end but before that, let’s go through all the facts required to make the decision.

INDEX

Part 1: What Experts Quote?
Part 2: Dark Environmental Impacts That Goes Unnoticeable
Part 3: Technological Innovations Valuing Sustainability
Part 4: Small Scale Innovations (Potential Future)
Part 5: Lessons Learnt During State Of Coronavirus
Part 6: The Balance Between Nature & Technology

Part 1: What Experts Quote?

  • As per Energy Technologies Area & Berkeley Lab:

“An estimate of total U.S. data center electricity use (servers, storage, network equipment, and infrastructure) from 2000 to 2020. In 2014, data centers in the U.S. consumed an estimate of 70 billion kWh, representing about 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Current study results show data center electricity consumption increased by about 4% from 2010-2014, a large shift from the 24% increase estimated from 2005-2010 and nearly 90% increase estimated from 2000-2005. Energy use is expected to continue slightly increasing shortly, increasing 4% from 2014-2020, the same rate as the past 5 years. Based on current trend estimates, U.S. data centers are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020.”

  • The Guardian released that the internet is impacting the environment with a figure of 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year (as much as coal, oil and gas burned in Poland or Turkey in one year).
  • Global Energy Statistical Yearbook by Enerdata said that Energy production could be seen more than double from past 20 years and the trend seems to pull up in future.
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Image source: enerdata.net

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Part 2: Dark Environmental Impacts That Goes Unnoticeable

Here are some of the negative impacts of technology that we usually fail to notice and avoid considering. But remember that their re-emergence in the future in toxic form could be life-threatening. It will also impair the chances of upcoming generations to live a peaceful & straightforward life which we somehow have today.

  • As the number of digital and IT devices are increasing, it is definite that energy consumption would increase too. Not just electrical but thermal efficiency would also be questioned as to the time demands.
  • Energy generation is already soaking up all the natural resources which are limited on Earth, but the demands and advancements in technology are not lagging anywhere.
  • Toxic techno trash or e-waste is being dumped in the open. Mobile phones, batteries, laptops, chargers, etc. could be a few names here. However, now the countries are becoming aware and setting up strict regulations against e-waste. It is essential to know that both lead and cadmium released from e-waste are extremely harmful substances that can be ingested or inhaled. Substance like Mercury and other toxic metals could permeate into groundwater or soil, releasing toxins in the air when burnt. Ill effects could cause abdominal pain, kidney damage, nausea, skin irritation, headaches, decreased IQ, etc.
  • Regular use of the internet is directly applicable to the high cost of infrastructure and energy required to keep it running.
  • Tremendous heat generation in digital coin mining can simply not be avoided. This new trend firstly requires complex calculations for mining after which a considerable amount of electricity follows. Now the heat generated needs cooling down, and it again demands air conditioning, once again consuming electrical power.
  • Radiation leaks from mobile phones, towers, X-ray machines, etc. are extremely harmful and may damage the internal organs.
  • Developing countries are severely affected by the electronics industry on a social and health basis. The production of electronic devices requires very efficient mining in which dangerous chemicals like Mercury are used. Some of the materials are left dumped in the areas near to the people’s settlement and creates havoc for them and their upcoming generations.
  • Carbon emissions or production of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide produced by electricity generation or everyday vehicles are responsible for global warming. Even the energy required to charge our mobile phones or to work on computers is somewhere connected to carbon footprints that we are combinedly leaving on planet Earth.

Part 3: Technological Innovations Valuing Sustainability

Brundtland Commission in 1987: “Sustainable solutions are those that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” All the countries are focusing on sustainability in every sector and form of energy based on the Brundtland Commission report.

Technological Innovations Valuing Sustainability

  • Recycling rates for electronic devices are climbing up, reports Eurostat. The population, which is aware, is making sure that e-waste is not just dumped in the regular garbage bag but sent to the authorized places where recycling could be done.
  • Investment in renewable energy by various countries is on the rise. The Guardian reported that “The U.K. runs without coal power for three days in a row”. Nations are looking forward to renewable energy so that their dependence on other countries for electricity and ultimate economic downer may come in control.
  • Use of smartphone applications resolves many things when you are sitting at home. From filing online complaints to bills, sending emails, making payments to keeping people informed with the latest updates, it saves a lot of human energy as well as carbon emissions.
  • Smart home devices are suitable for saving energy and resources. A small example of a refrigerator could be taken, which keeps your food refrigerated and lets you consume it once again, which otherwise would rot in a few hours.
  • Development of renewable and rechargeable batteries deserves applause as they are helping to balance the imbalance.
  • Electric cars are no more a dream or future. It is already amongst us and will be available on a mass scale very soon. However, you may find their prices a little higher for now, but the day will be near when they would be affordable and produce no harmful emissions in the environment. Yes, charging may require electrical consumption but think about the significant pollutant eradicating burning oil.

Part 4: Small Scale Innovations (Potential Future)

Innovative minds cannot stop from making things right. A single step towards better future can make the difference, and we like the fact that these innovations are trying to save the resources. Let’s learn about some of the positive technological impacts on the environment.

4.1 Choose Energy

Choose Energy

This innovative startup helps you in finding the best electricity and natural gas plans online so that the utility bills become predictable and stay in budget. Moreover, all the plans would be in favor of the planet Earth, so feel free to get involved with them.

Available for U.S. citizens, all they need to do is enter the zip code and find out the suitable energy plan for the family.

Website: Choose Energy

4.2 Pappco Greenware

Pappco Greenware

Based in India, this greenware product based company is best for takeaway foods. We all are aware of the plastic waste that comes with takeaway food. Plastic plates, bowls, spoons, etc. could be replaced by the tableware made up of plant fibres. These wares are easily compostable and do not leave any negative impact on the environment.

Website: Pappco Greenware

4.3 Sintaladesign

Sintaladesign

You would appreciate this Spanish firm to take a step ahead in saving the environment. Their idea is based on designing products made up of solid wood without cutting down the trees. A sense of craftsmanship and thoughtfulness could be seen; everything here is ecological. Indoor or outdoor furniture, wall claddings, wine boxes, etc. are some of their notable projects.

Website: sintaladesign

Part 5: Lessons Learnt During State Of Coronavirus

Excessive human intervention with nature’s process has not provided us with fruitful results. Smoking factory chimneys, dumping e-waste in the garbage, running on carbonaceous vehicles and excessive utilization of natural resources like mining are happening in front of our eyes.

We chose to pick this point as we are already battling coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Despite the adverse effects of this virus on human lives, nature is healing itself positively. Or we may say that it is preparing again for the toxic we will go with soon.

Well, nature is telling us to not to be so harsh once the pandemic is over. It is giving signals that it needs to be valued and respected. There have already been adverse effects on the environment by technology, but time has come to make a balance between the two sides.

Part 6: The Balance Between Nature & Technology

Amidst this pandemic, nature and technology are making it possible for humans to survive this dreadful situation. So what are some ways that the balance between technology and environment remains maintained and the effect of technology on the environment is mostly positive in the future? Let’s explore some of the options apart from renewable energy:

6.1: Donate your mobile phones: Instead of dumping your phones in the trash, choose to donate it to someone in need (of course if it is in working condition and you wish to switch to a new one). Make sure you guide the person how to remove e-waste once it stops working.

6.2: Reuse Ink Cartridges: Each ink cartridge of the printer that you throw away decomposes in 400-1000 years. If you cannot reuse them, choose to recycle them by returning to the store from where it was first purchased.

6.3: Use of blockchain technology for environmental benefits: World Economic Forum combined with forces of Australia, Fiji and New Zealand earlier to fight illegal extraction of fishes using blockchain technology. Use of cost GPS tracking and satellite data helped with the process. Such great examples could be set up in future to balance the two roads.

6.4: Remote Sensing: Remote sensing is being used for planning and monitoring the activities on land so that ecologically sensitive areas and World Heritage Sites could be kept in radar for better. Now researchers can take this technology ahead in future for better environmental purposes.

6.5: Use Of Artificial Intelligence: As AI is being empowered everywhere, its energy could be channeled in tracking wildlife, carbon storages or resolving various other issues that the environment is dealing with today.

6.6: Alternate Energy Resources For Data Centers: As data centers consume huge amounts of electrical energy and prove to be a hectic burden, alternative and sustainable methods must be explored and applied soon.

6.7: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle never fails: These 3R’s were made after giving a thoughtful approach and must be followed by every single person, community, nation and organization. Only then we could reduce the negative impact of technology on the environment.

Valuing the environment just like we value technology is the only solution to fight the double-edged sword. This sword is always beneficial when used rightly, are you ready?

Bonus: Keep Yourselves Digital Free For Few Hours

Even though we are accepting every invention without a flinch, our body and mind need peace to rejuvenate. This rejuvenation comes by spending time with yourself for a few hours every day. Keep your phones aside, shut down the internet, switch off the TV or laptop and close your eyes. Feel the human inside you after which you can restart once again. For more reading, check out:

We are listening! Share your feedback with us and any other opinion on the environmental impact of technology. We would love to know your thoughts!

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