How does technology pollute the environment?

Phones have become an extension of our hands, and an internet connection a daily essential. Today, new technologies are rooted in our daily life, our habits and our mores, however, the links established between technology and the environment are not very positive, because the manufacture and use of the latter remains a major source of energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore, one more glitch for the climate.

What is the relationship between technology and global warming? And then can we use it to precisely limit the damage of this problem?

The impact of technology on the environment

The industrial revolution gave birth to new technologies with immense power. This was the shift to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to 1840. It was followed by continued industrialization and new technological advancements in developed countries around the world.

The impact of this technology on the environment has resulted in the misuse and degradation of our natural land. These technologies have damaged our world in two main ways: pollution and depletion of natural resources.

The evidence shows how our desires for technology and the need for rare earth minerals affect the environment. Examples of environmental problems related to the supply of minerals and precious metals for technological devices and electronic equipment are everywhere one looks. Think cobalt mines in the Congo, lithium rampaging through the Chilean desert, and toxic mud lakes in Inner Mongolia. And these three examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

The environmental impact of technology does not stop at the raw materials and their origin. Manufacturers need massive energy to transform them into the complex electronics and technological products that we use. Transporting these products around the world also contributes to carbon emissions and air pollution.

Of course, the huge servers and databases that allow these technologies to operate also consume large amounts of energy each year. And much of this energy does not come from renewable energy sources. Global data center electricity demand in 2018, for example, was estimated at 198 TWh, or nearly 1% of global final electricity demand. Efficiency is increasing, and the use of renewable energies is on the rise, but we still have a long way to go.

The environmental costs of consumer technologies don’t stop there. These products also pose a problem at the end of their useful life. Globally, we throw away $62.5 billion worth of e-waste every year.

A small proportion of old electronics is recycled. However, the vast majority of them end up in landfills or burned in landfills. These landfills are usually located out of sight, around some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet. Obviously, this situation not only endangers human health, but also has a very negative impact on the environment.

Only around one-fifth of e-waste produced globally is currently officially recycled. It is estimated that millions of people around the world are working unofficially to recycle the precious materials that smartphones and other such devices need. These people are often exposed to hazardous work environments, which can have negative health effects and threaten the environment.

Digital technologies at the service of sustainable development

While digital technologies can have a negative impact on the environment, they can also contribute to solutions for more sustainable consumption and production patterns, as well as sound environmental management.

Recent advances in technology offer unprecedented opportunities to monitor and protect the environment, as well as the overall health of the planet. By harnessing them appropriately, the digital revolution can be geared towards combating climate change and promoting global sustainability, environmental stewardship and human well-being.

The examples are manifold, ranging from applications to prevent food waste, to the use of blockchain technology, to the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning to a wide range of sustainability issues. At the most basic level, digital technologies are also enabling people to connect, communicate and collaborate in ways that were never possible before. Data and information are essential for raising awareness of the state of our planet, for influencing consumer behavior, for informing markets and for reforming governance systems.

environmental technology

Environmental technology is also known as “green” or “clean” technology and refers to the development of new technologies that aim to conserve, monitor or reduce the negative impact of technology on the environment and resource consumption. .

For example, vertical farming is an eco-friendly technology as simple as its name. This is the concept of growing produce in stacked vertical layers rather than horizontally. The benefits of vertical farming are increased sustainability, and some vertical farming setups don’t even require soil and reduce water usage exponentially.

Green technologies range from affordable devices such as programmable thermostats and LED light bulbs to expensive wind turbines and solar panels, to electronic vehicles. Free solutions like composting are great places to start. However, there are tons of considerations to take into account, such as how renewable energy is stored. Addressing climate change requires a total societal upheaval, including the continued adoption of green technologies.

Technology can therefore have a positive impact on the environment through the development of environmental technologies such as renewable energies, “smart technologies”, even the elimination of carbon dioxide. Technology will always be a double-edged sword, but the creative use of new economic approaches to environmental management should help lessen its destructive side and hone its ability to do good.


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