The Two Sides of Technology

Hello friends! Welcome back! 😊

With the growing consciousness of environmental issues such as rapid depletion of resources and climate change, came the invention of technologies to mitigate this crisis.

One such technology is geoengineering, which is defined by Oxford as the

Deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change.

An example of geoengineering would be Solar Radiation Management (SRM), where different methods are used to reflect sunlight away from Earth, such as releasing reflective aerosols (e.g. sulfur dioxide) and spraying seawater onto clouds, making them brighter.

Another example of geoengineering proposed is ocean fertilisation, where substances like iron are released into the ocean to nourish phytoplanktons and encourage photosynthesis to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Another type of technology we might be more familiar with is renewable energy. Solar, wind, and geothermal energy are just some of the examples of how we can harvest energy from low-carbon sources. Already, about a tenth of the world’s primary energy is generated by renewable energy. Iceland is a successful example with renewable energy currently powering about 85% of the country.

Well, this is good news, right? We have geoengineering and greener technology. Does this mean that technology is the solution to our environmental crisis?

Well, not quite.

With each creation, there are pros and cons. Behind the glamour, such technologies might not be all beneficial for the environment.

Ocean fertilisation may affect oxygen levels in the ocean which is detrimental to aquatic wildlife. The manufacturing of photovoltaic cells uses hazardous substances and the SRM methods mentioned earlier can also reduce the amount of solar energy we can harvest from photovoltaic cells. There have been cases where biodiversity is affected by wind turbines (you can read more on this in my BES coursemate Rayzel’s blog!)

Furthermore, such technologies may be seen as a silver bullet that can solve climate change and thus reduce their efforts on reducing carbon emissions as they have the mindset that “technology will be able to fix it anyway, why bother spending so much effort and funding to make the industry more carbon-friendly?”.

Does this mean that we should not utilise such technology in our battle to counter climate change?

Well, no. While these technologies should not be seen as the quick-fix solution to the environmental crisis, they can still be used to mitigate it, especially for renewable energy, where the benefits outweigh the cost. However, along with the implementation of green technologies, there should be more consciousness in everyone that the environment is something we need to conserve and protect.

Technology is a double-edged sword that has the potential to help the environment and degrade it. Ultimately, it is up to us, who wields this sword to use it appropriately so that we and the environment can both benefit from advancements in technology.


Alicia 😊

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