Technology, in other words, is a double-edged sword-one capable both of doing and undoing damage to environmental quality. In what follows, we look at technology and the environment in four key areas: energy, climate, water quality, and waste cleanup. In each case, we illustrate the dual nature of technology's environmental implications. We also touch on the emerging relationship between the Internet and environmental quality, one that again seems to cut both ways. We then note how technology is helping to fashion policies that allow producers and consumers to recognize and internalize the environmental costs of technology and thus to spur innovation to clean up the environment. .
Having dirtied the earth, air, and water for more than a century, technology is now showing promise in environmental cleanup. Technological innovations specifically aimed at reducing pollution-from cleaner manufacturing processes to flue gas scrubbers to catalytic converters-now figure prominently in mitigating some of the growing pains of an increasingly technological world.
It took nearly three generations before the first concerted efforts were made to bring pollution under control, but once begun, progress has been real. The air quality index for example in the United States now shows a 42 percent improvement since 1980. The number of U.S. cities failing to meet national air quality standards for ozone, 199 in 1990, was just 70 by 1995.
Technology and scientific development is indeed a boon for our society in a very significant manner. The technologies developed so far did not really have a perspective of environmental protection/ pollution mitigation. Rather, the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources for the development caused deterioration of biotic and abiotic factors of the environment. However, due to the increasing environmental awareness in today’s world, new technologies are coming up with implementation/ incorporation of eco-friendly ideas – may it be the CFC-free refrigerators or the cell phones made up of recycled materials – which are really appreciable.
Increasing population at a very high rate is a problematic situation for any kind of development causing unequal distribution of resources, adverse impacts on the carrying capacity of land etc. Similarly, for development of green technology also, the same problem becomes an obstacle. E.g. there are landfill sites for treatment of solid wastes; but their capacity is limited as compared to the quantity of waste disposed therein for treatment. For such kind of problems, the solution is to be found at an individual level.
There are certain ways by which many environment-friendly technologies are installed for an individual household. E.g. Biogas plants, solar panels, system for preparation of manure with the help of earthworms, compact water purifiers with reverse osmosis technology etc. are some of the examples of such technologies which can be set up at an individual household level. Rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment plant are the technologies which have a set-up for a building/ housing complex. However, the technologies/ technological developments for personal utilization for an individual are not known so far or they are yet to be discovered/ developed.
The step towards advancement of such technologies for individual utilization will be truly appreciable as it will help to minimize the burden of treatment of wastes on planning authorities and encourage the involvement of every individual in the sustainable development. For such technological development, it is necessary to consider various other factors also in terms of cost-effectiveness, side-effects on the surroundings (if any), feasibility on small scale, strategies for introducing such technologies to each and every class and mass etc. However, one thing is surely undeniable that such technologies, if developed, are going to create a landmark position or revolution in the field of scientific development…rather, sustainable scientific development.
Out of environment, life arose on the planet. Life climbed the ladder through evolution and primitive man arrived on the show. He walked on earth residing on trees and caves. Life was struggling, insecure and raw. Severe living conditions on planet prompted man to think and find out the means to overcome these extreme living conditions. The close observation of nature coupled with disciplined thinking unraveled the mysteries of the nature. He started unlocking the mysteries behind the laws of the nature and produced the genesis called “the Science”. After knowing certain laws of the nature, man ventured on the journey of manipulating the laws for its own benefit and thus came into existence “the Technology”.
It made our life on planet habitable, easy, and secured. The technology became the mantra for modern human beings to make life comfortable, happening and luxurious. The technological practices became so prevalent and ubiquitous on the planet that to think life without them is like thinking wagon without wheel.
If we look at the evolution of technology and its impact on our life, we see:
At first phase, techniques of farming made our life revolve around agriculture that gave us food security. Housing practices caused human beings to settle at one place. Clothing gave us the protection from the weather. Invention of wheel made our life accessible. These practices made our life easy, secured. It prompted man to commune together and form societies. This resulted in emergence of varied communities, culture, art and commerce. Man was established on the planet and formed societies and built up its own territories. He was ready to explore new dimensions of life.
At second phase, with finer understanding of nature, man embarked on the journey of developing the advanced technology. Result of which is discoveries of exotic chemicals, fast reactive medicines, complex and mammoth machines to do the job which was beyond the capacity of man, most incredible machine called computer, easy and fast communication means, entertainment portals, Comfortable and aesthetics housing etc which made our life sophisticated, opulent and luxurious. It spiced up our life with richness, colour and grandeur.
Now, the situation is, We people have become so accustomed to this products that to think our life without, is like thinking our self marooned in remote lonely Island in a vestigial existence.
But noting comes free or without paying price. Result of these 2 phases, technology has created the atmosphere; where there is lurking danger, insecurity and fear. If we talk in terms of environment concerns, technology has created many substances which are poisonous/harmful in nature, which are polluting our atmosphere, making our climate hot. Today human race is stuffed with all the wastes (solid, liquid, gaseous), making our planet’s resources to pollute and deplete.
Its quite strange! The same technology which made our life possible on this planet and added joy and comfort to our life. The very same technology is proving deadly and environmentally threatening. Our lives are suffocating under cloud of unwanted chemicals emanating from chemical factories. Our surrounding is getting dirty and filthy, thanks to all exotic products given by technology, our resources are getting polluted and slowly slowly running out, why, we are developing at rapid rate. And rapid rate, we could able to achieve due to our super advanced technology. Now, we are in a position where this planet could prove to be a unlivable place for ourselves. Why we are in such bad position? What went wrong? Have we put our technology provinces in wrong direction ie toward destruction and chaos OR its just obvious and unavoidable side effects of our modern technology OR is it the combination of both.
Let us take one example: we unearthed the crude oil. We studied its complex chemistry and came to know about its usefulness. Out of this genesis, we created petroleum technology to refine the crude and produce petrol, diesel, kerosene, LPG gas, jet fuel and other useful organic compounds. We used petrol, diesel for fueling our vehicles to make transport possible on this planet. We used kerosene, LPG to fuel our kitchen. And other useful petroleum based products such as plastics, resins, fibers, medicines, lube oil etc. Today, these products have become our life lines. We cant’s operate without these products. Without it, our whole life will simply paralyse and will come to standstill. Now, let us look at second; incessant use of petrol, diesel, and kerosene causing air pollution. Many harmful compound coming out of burning of petrol, diesel smothering our life/ planets life. Various diseases have sprung out, making our life disharmonious and depressed. We can clearly see here that how petroleum technology has become boon and curse at the same time. We need petrol, diesel to make our life happening. At the same time, we don’t want its side effect. Can it be possible to enjoy the benefits the petrol, diesel, LPG confers upon use without facing their bad music? What is a way out?
One way out is to minimize the consumption by volunteer public participation through awareness. But this option looks really gloomy and hopeless. Rich and middle class people can’t stop from buying new vehicles especially when the economy is growing and our pockets are full. Poor people have to burn the kerosene to stove their kitchen. We have to have electricity which is a direct product of crude oil. So this option has some serious and genuine hurdles inherent in the solution. It high difficult to persuade ourselves to cut down our consumption pattern and save our environment. Sacrifice our present luxury to save our future generations. Also the latent consumerism hidden deep within us won’t allow us for settle down on minimum things.
Second way is forcing people to cut down their consumption through stricter Govt policies which will regulate and check the consumption pattern. It seems, this option will not go far distance, as no Govt want to sacrifice its growth rate to face the music of public outcry. Rather, the recent trend among policy makers is to encourage the consumption among common people so that market keeps rolling and global economy keeps floating, owing to market driven economy..
Third way is to navigate our technological provinces towards conservation and sustenance of our environment. It’s glad that the scientist communities have already geared themselves up for inventing the solutions for our environmental concerns. They are aware of the problems faced by the society. Mega projects are being implemented to find the alternatives to fossil fuels as energy options. Serious work is going on increasing the efficiency of renewable energy. Water engineering projects for cost effective desalination of the Sea water. Project of Hydrogen economy, Projects relating to pesticide free agricultural practices, plastic to fuel or other converting technology,
But these mega projects are subjects of scientific community, big organizations and Governments. Common people are generally not aware of these mega projects and endeavor put up by scientists and governments to provide solutions to the grave environment problems. For common people, these projects looks fiction and far distant.. As a result, common people don’t relate themselves to these projects.
The idea is, there should be a stirring movement amongst the scientific community, to empower common man technologically so that he can solve his own environmental woes. Scientist communities and government policies need to focus on small scale, cost effective and easy to use environment solutions which will be within the reach of common man.
Imagine a home, which produces its own electricity using advanced solar photovoltaic cell or fuel cell or hydrogen cell; which cools itself in hot summer using natural coolant, Warm itself in cold winter using hot air produced using the solar heat stored; Effective Rainwater Harvesting supplying the water in rainy season thus avoiding the dependence on the civic authorities for water supply; Cheap and chemicals free water purification process; recycling the used water for washing and gardening purpose; Waste converter which processes organic domestic waste to transform it into rich compost for garden.
Easy to use and cost effective technology in the hands of common people means reduced use of natural resources, clean surrounding and lesser dependency on municipalities for electricity, water, waste collection and other facilities. Common man will feel their contribution towards the sustainability of the environment. Most important outcome of this endeavor will be the birth of environment awareness among common people. People will involve and participate in caring their immediate surrounding/environment, with the help of easy/cost effective technology in their day to day life; for generation of electricity, water recycling/reusing, water purification, conversion of domestic waste, heating, cooling purpose etc. This way of common people’s constant involvement and participation towards caring the environment will truly create awareness in their mind. And this will be the real way out….. Cause without public awareness through active involvement…..... Our dream of healthy, rich and vibrant life will be just fantasy.