Ecological Impacts of Technology

Thanks to technological development that occurred in the past few decades, we live in the age of rapid change and constant circulation of goods that – with every new day – continue to revolutionize our way of life. 

But, despite the numerous benefits of technology and the practicality it has introduced to our everyday reality, our planet seems to suffer and fight back more than ever. And for some time now, experts have been warning about the adverse environmental effects of technology. 

What happens to our old phones, laptops, and all the batteries and plastic once we get new ones? How does the carbon footprint of large industries affect our climate? Let’s look at some examples of how technology, however useful, has been less than kind to our environment.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is chiefly caused by the release of excessive quantities of different gases, such as carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, methane, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, into the earth’s atmosphere. 

Unfortunately, all the main polluters – factories, power plants, mass agriculture – are guilty of using various technologies – the burning of fossil fuels, exhaust gas from vehicles, production of waste, etc. 

The outcomes of air pollution are rather adverse, especially when it comes to health ramifications for both humans and animals, and the growing threat of global warming. The more greenhouse gases are released, the more thermal energy gets trapped in the atmosphere, which consequently leads to a rapid rise in temperatures.

Water Pollution

A further problem that concerns pollution is the (most frequently) humanly-induced contamination of lakes, oceans, rivers, and groundwater. The most prevalent water pollutants include domestic waste, insecticides, pesticides, and industrial effluents. 

With that being said, the worst contamination occurs when inappropriately handled wastewater is discharged into natural bodies of water, which then causes deterioration or eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems that are essential in the food chain. 

Also, water pollution is a significant health threat, as it can cause the spread of several diseases, such as cholera and typhoid.  

Resource Depletion

By now, it’s become apparent that nature is struggling to keep up with all of our technological gains. One of the main pieces of evidence for this is the increasing problem of resource depletion. 

Resource depletion refers to the disproportionate relationship between resource consumption and its replenishment potential. Natural resources can be divided on non-renewable and renewable, with the former existing in limited supplies, while the latter replenish naturally over time. 

Types of Resource Depletion

Among many sorts of resource depletion, the most damaging are deforestation, aquifer depletion, mining for minerals and fossil fuels, soil erosion, and contamination, and overconsumption of resources. All of these transpire in large part due to advancements in technology, which have made the exploitation of resources more accessible and more profitable. 

The impacts of deforestation, especially, have been quite severe as more than 1.3 million square kilometers of the global forest have been cut since 1990, primarily for agricultural purposes, but also for building residential areas and logging for fuel. 

Not only is this an ecological catastrophe because forests play an essential role in oxygen production and carbon dioxide reduction, but also numerous animals and plants have lost, and continue to lose, natural habitats.

Techno Trash 

The term ‘techno trash’ is an umbrella term for different types of waste that is produced when we dispose of electronics – phones, laptops, computers, and everything else that runs on a battery. 

The principal reason techno trash is hazardous for our environment is that it contains high amounts of toxic materials, especially heavy metals, which can end up in groundwater. 

Electronic devices like computers and laptops contain a cocktail of heavy metals and dangerous chemicals, and if they are inadequately dismantled for disposal, they can severely affect the environment and contaminate natural resources. 

After looking at these grim examples, it merits to point out that, in recent years, science has been increasingly turning toward finding and promoting eco-friendlier ways of using technology and employing it for environmental protection. Nevertheless, some of the ecological disasters are irreversible, and the reparation of those that are not will take decades.

[1] “Environmental Technology: Impact of Technology on the Environment.” Edinburgh Sensors [Online] Available at: https://edinburghsensors.com/news-and-events/impact-of-technology-on-the-environment-and-environmental-technology [Accessed on: 28 June 2020]

[2] “Impact on Environment and Society.” Digital Responsibility [Online] Available at: www.digitalresponsibility.org/environmental-and-societal-impact-of-technology [Accessed on: 28 June 2020]

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