In these times of rapid change, technology significantly affects how individuals and society function as a whole. Technological advancements continuously revolutionize the way we live particularly in the types of machinery and devices developed as an application of scientific knowledge. The impact of technology on the environment is also widespread. The so-called environmental costs of technology are what casts a negative shadow on technological developments.
The environmental impacts of technology, in actuality, are more varied than the negative impacts that are often highlighted. The impact of technology on the environment extends to the environmental technologies aimed at solving various environmental concerns.
The Impacts of Technology
The impact of technology on the environment is often associated with the negative aspects. Some of the negative impacts of technology on the environment include the following:
The contamination of bodies of water due to human activities results in water pollution. Among the most common water pollutants are domestic wastes, insecticides, pesticides, and industrial effluents. One of the water pollutants that results from technological advancements is the release of inadequately treated wastewater, from industrial developments to natural water bodies. Such release of wastewater can lead to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems which can negatively affect the food chain. Diseases like typhoid and cholera are also among the detrimental effects of technology on the environment in connection to water pollution.
One of the most well-known and talked about negative impacts of technology on the environment is air pollution. This occurs when excessive quantities of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, methane, and other harmful gases are introduced into the earth’s atmosphere. These gases are often traced back to technologies that were introduced after the industrial revolution. Technological facilities and processes like factories, power stations, mass agriculture, burning of fossil fuels, and vehicles have all contributed to air pollution.
Air pollution results in negative health impacts both humans and animals. The increased amount of greenhouse gas emissions lead to the trapping of thermal energy in the Earth’s atmosphere which consequently results in the rise of global temperature. This is what we know as global warming.
Natural Resources Depletion
Natural resources refer to all resources that exist without having been created by humans. They can either be renewable or non-renewable. The depletion of natural resources is among the leading negative impacts of technology on the environment. This means the rate of consumption of resources is far greater than the rate at which they can be replenished.
Different types of natural resource depletion typically result from agriculture, mining, water usage, and fossil fuel consumption – all of which are possible due to technological advancements. For instance, humans gather natural resources as raw materials for various productions at such fast rates the earth could not keep up. Among the most worrisome natural resource depletion are deforestation, aquifer depletion, excessive fossil fuel mining, and mineral mining. Add to that the contamination of resources as well as the overconsumption of resources.
The continuous global population growth also contributes to natural resource depletion. Moreover, the need to clear lands for agriculture and residential areas has led to the displacement and even the extinction of some animals and plants.
Technology indeed has various negative impacts on the environment. Environmental technology, on the other hand, represents a paradox in that it could save the Earth from the harm that has been inflicted on it by technology. Environmental technology, which is also known as ‘clean’ or ‘green’ technology, is the application of environmental sciences to develop new technologies that would conserve, monitor, and/or reduce the harm humans inflict on the environment as they use up its resources.
Environmental technology encourages the shift to more sustainable resource consumption, decreased carbon footprint, and overall protection of the environment. An array of options are provided that promote consumption while leaving fewer pollutants or doing so in a more sustainable manner. Such ways include:
Renewable energy refers to the energy gathered from naturally replenished resources or renewable resources. Renewable energy or ‘clean energy’ includes those collected from sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Environmental technology allows humans to gather these energies which will then be converted into electricity or useful heat. Such processes are possible due to devices like solar panels, wind turbines, water turbines, and the like thanks to technological innovations.
Smart technology refers to the usage of devices and appliances connected to the Internet of Things that can be monitored and programmed remotely. The Internet of Things is a network of internet-connected objects that collect and exchange data via embedded sensor technologies. One example is the smart thermostat that keeps the home temperature at certain levels during certain times of the day. This means more energy-efficient appliances and devices.
Yet another environmental technology that is becoming more widespread is the utilization of electric cars which consume energy stored in rechargeable batteries. The manufacturing of electric vehicles, like the other initiatives, is propelled by the desire to reduce negative impacts on the environment, particularly air pollution and the greenhouse effect. Electric vehicles are seen by environmental advocates as a staple in a greener and cleaner society.
Reduce Your Technology Environmental Impact
In this digital age, it merits mentioning there are ways with which people can reduce the environmental impact on the internet by doing the following.
Don’t Change Gadgets Too Often
The environmental digital footprint, in actuality, is caused primarily by the laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets that are utilized to connect to the internet. In the United States alone, people consume a huge number of tech devices. Oftentimes, it is not even due to the need to upgrade but only due to the ‘want’ to have the latest gadget. One way of reducing the environmental impact of the internet is to keep your gadgets as long as possible.
Don’t Over Consume Video Streaming
Streaming is one of the biggest energy consumers in connection to internet use. The real-time transfer of large amounts of data consumes much energy. As much as possible, refrain from streaming too many videos, or at the very least, don’t do so in HD.
Don’t Overdo The ‘Cloud’
Just like streaming, the ‘cloud’ or online storage consumes much energy. Think of all your photos, videos, and files that must be preserved in a server that is continuously powered. Multiply that by millions of internet users who opt for online storage. Instead, opt for local storage and be selective of the things you store online.
Use Your Devices Better
Bad use of devices and equipment also contributes to large energy consumption. For instance, avoid leaving your internet box on for the whole night or allowing your phone battery to completely drain. Being more mindful in handling your tech devices will significantly contribute to the reduction of the environmental impact of the internet.
Frequently Asked Questions About Technology & Environmental Impact
What is an example of environmental technology?
Environmental technology includes smart technologies utilized at home, smart vehicles, renewable energy sources via solar panels, and water and wind turbines.
What are some positive impacts of environmental technology?
Environmental technology, particularly the development of renewable energy, helps in the reduction of resource depletion like fossil fuels, minerals, and similar.
What is the relationship between the development of technology and environmental impacts?
As technologies advance resulting in the development of various equipment and devices, there also comes a significant environmental change like environmental degradation. Conversely, the very same technology has been utilized to develop ways to heal or at least reduce the environmental impacts of technology.
How can technology increase or decrease environmental impact?
Technology increases environmental impact as it enables humans to access and take advantage of more of the earth’s natural resources. The pollutants that result from technological and industrial processes are an excellent example. In terms of decreasing environmental impact, technology paves the way in the development of processes, gadgets, devices, and the like that significantly reduce environmental impact.
How can technology solve environmental problems?
Technology or environmental technology provides a means for humans to shift to more sustainable consumption and the reduction of pollutants, carbon, and digital environmental footprints.