The major scientific discoveries made over time and their applications in solving human challenges are turning against us today by destroying the very infrastructure they were meant to simplify and enhance. (Alison sec 2) Environmental degradation due to unregulated human activities continues to occupy the minds of activists, politicians, industrialists, and all friends of the earth.
Climate change has taken its toll on human life, the Indiscriminate use of harmful chemicals in agriculture and the attendant dangers, the Proliferation of arsenal including nuclear artillery and the potential hazards associated with it, or the Poor disposal of non-degradable substances like plastics into the oceans. (Alison sec 2) not to mention the lack of e-waste management framework for electronic gadgets like the Radio, Television, and Smartphones among others, in the hands of an ecstatic and naïve youthful generation.
Understanding this paradox is at the heart of developing strategic solutions to the challenges posed by our technological genius since many positives abound too. (Alison sec 2) However, the ugly side raises much concern as the environment is groaning for desperate attention which the world cannot afford to wish away. Evidently, if not properly and urgently addressed, technology may annihilate this civilization sooner than later.
Impact of Technology on the Environment
Human activities have been greatly amplified by the technological advances from the time of the renaissance. Subsistence production moved to mass manufacturing enabled by industries running on nonrenewable fossil energy like coal, petroleum, and other hydrocarbons. (Randal, 2020) These fuels cause an accumulation of carbon monoxide which engulfs the gaseous layer in the atmosphere called Ozone.
The Ozone is a natural sieve that filters any harmful radiation or other substances in space from reaching the earth’s surface and damaging living organisms. (Randal, 2020) Unfortunately, the renewable energy technology of fossil fuels produces a by-product that when released into the atmosphere, reacts with the Ozone thus depleting it and rendering its functions ineffective leading to the vulnerability of the earth.
Generally speaking, global temperature levels rise and the ice on the North and South Poles consequently melts causing untold human suffering in terms of heatwaves, droughts, and unprecedented floods as well as erratic weather patterns and submerging Islands. The devastating effects of droughts and floods have ravaged some developing nations in the world. (Randal, 2020) Livestock and people die of lack of water this month and others die in the coming month owing to floods. Absurd as it may sound, it is true.
Increased Use of Agrochemicals has Led to Pollution and Diseases.
The Industrial Revolution was responsible for the mass production of food and commercial crops which necessitated plantation agriculture. Mechanization and scientific research in the use of fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and other Chemicals enables the optimization of farm produce. (Bowmer, 2020) While for all intent and purpose the technological inventions were useful and noble, it is the residual effect of these substances that have wreaked havoc due to a lack of initiative or know-how by the users.
Some of these chemicals contain lethal elements capable of maiming or killing humans and animals alike hence destabilizing the biodiversity and ecosystem. (Bowmer, 2020) These substances wash into nearby water bodies through surface runoff and dissolve there awaiting their unsuspecting victims. A number of diseases and conditions have been traced and linked to these chemicals but the speed of destruction far outpaces that of meaningful remedial action.
Concerned companies in this business driven by profit motives have continued to manufacture poisonous and outlawed agrochemicals which ignorant farmers purchase and innocently use in their farming operations oblivious of the danger lurking in their hoods. (Bowmer, 2020) These are hidden disasters of damning proportions stealthily creeping towards explosion. But who cares? Everybody is engrossed in margins and gains.
The useful soil organism has been dying from heavy chemical presence in their habitat and farmers have to apply more ‘poisons’ every time they want to plant since the soils have no natural mechanisms to rejuvenate and sustain new crops. (Bowmer, 2020) Do not overlook the fact that livestock is also on an artificial diet so as to hasten their maturity and cut costs before they reach the market for their eggs, meat, milk, and fat.
Having ingested these chemicals, their products remain with them until the consumer eats them and also retain them in their system where they end up reacting with the human system to the health detriment of the individual in question. (Randal, 2020) Unfamiliar diseases and medical conditions thrive and more money is used in needless research while the patient hopelessly awaits the inevitable, death when the original culprit selling ‘animal feeds and chemicals’ laughs all the way to the bank.
The Proliferation of Nuclear Arsenal/Artillery
Scientific technology has bequeathed us with Weapon of Mutually Assured Destruction thanks to extensive discoveries on the Hydrogen atom. From a time when wars were fought one on one by individuals, it progressed to the AK 47 which unleashed considerable damage and humiliated many adversaries. (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021) It is the dreaded Nuclear Bomb however that has kept many politicians, activists, clergy, and friends of humanity a worried lot.
Treaties and Counter treaties have been made and broken but the existential threat still hangs on the heads of helpless humanity on the brink of self-extinction. (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021) Japan and other casualties of WW2 are still nursing bitter wounds from the effects of nuclear toxins administered to them. Just the thought of nuclear detonation by a despot sends chills and terror in the hearts of people which is enough discomfort.
What was dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an Atomic bomb and the devastation was of epic proportions whose effects people are still reeling from to this day 70 plus years later. The global arms race requires a resolute leadership that will curb this madness of amassing nuclear weapons and introduce tangible arms control measures respected and adhered to by all and sundry in the league of nations. (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021) The die is cast, and the Doomsday clock has been adjusted to a minute to ‘mid-night’ Unless humanity wakes up now, its goose is cooked.
The Poor Disposal of Non-biodegradable Materials in Water.
Tons upon tons of Plastic wastes are found below the sea and other water bodies gravely endangering the lives of organisms found there. These objects are derivatives of petrochemicals and have a way of releasing harmful elements into the water over time. Such elements compromise the habitat of the existing biodiversity ranging from fishes to corals. (Bowmer, 2018) When the intake is significant, and destruction of food sources, the spread of poisons as well as the suffocation of living things have taken place, death of organisms follows and an unsustainable ecosystem develops whose fate is extinction.
The death of fish implies loss of livelihood by fishermen and subsequently low living standards. Dangerous chemicals ingested by the fish also mean dreadful diseases like cancer to the primary consumers of the fish. For an already impoverished household, medical bills of this scale are unaffordable and thus death is inevitable for the unlucky one. (Bowmer, 2018) Other elements accelerate the growth of water hyacinth which blocks waterways in freshwater bodies leading to navigational challenges as is the case in Lake Victoria, Kenya.
Technological Advancement has Led to the Accumulation of e-Waste.
Electronic gadgets such as phones, Television, Radio, Computers, Fax-machines have dangerous components which are inbuilt to facilitate their functioning for example radiation and mercury batteries. (Alison, sec 4) In some developed countries, a policy framework exists to ensure used electronics are collected, systematically disassembled, and conveniently reassembled into the same or other products to be resold.
This is cost-effective and ensures the availability of raw materials besides mopping harmful substances to reduce exposure. However, in developing nations, such initiatives are minimal or totally non-existent. (Alison sec 5) This disparity is cause for alarm since a majority of the said products originate from industrialized nations. It is common to see children or youth playing or inappropriately handling used electronics unaware of the risk posed by such. This begs the question, ‘why are our politicians and technocrats unbothered?’
Could it be a conspiracy? Consider that the manufacturer’s mindset is hellbent on profits so, goods produced are either substandard or have a short life span. The implication is that if the product spoils, you buy another one thus promoting consumerism which prospers the manufacturer! (Alison sec 5) As a result, waste abounds in homes, hospitals, in hotels virtually every habitable area has e-waste exposing humanity to radiation and lethal substances like Mercury.
The smart mobile phone deserves particular mention for the capabilities it has availed. Imagine conversing in real-time with fellow classmates from all over the world via Zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, or Twitter, all at the touch of a button? Social networking is a game-changer in the world of telecommunication but on the same note, the dissemination of fake news, information, and malice has skyrocketed exponentially. (Alison sec 4) Pornography and other vices are propagated unabatedly as regulations on these social networking sites are weak. Hence the depletion of strong moral values.
Technology has arguably simplified the modern lifestyle. From mundane tasks like washing clothes to complex processes of automation in manufacturing industries, man seems to be advancing forward every day to discover even more staggering inventions. It is indeed commendable progress. Equally important also is the question; At what cost is the achievement of this development coming? (Randal, 2020) The manufacturing sector with its lackluster commitment to environmental pollution has gifted us with Global warming and Climate change.
Continued use of harmful agrochemicals has brought us to the shore of pandemics like cancer and lifestyle conditions. (Bowmer, 2020) Nuclear advancement has upped the threshold of modern warfare to Biblical Armageddon. (Council on Foreign Relations, 2021) Wanton disposal of plastics and other non-biodegradable materials has choked our seas and freshwater bodies (Bowmer,2020) leaving us thirsty and diseased from contact with dangerous chemicals besides eating contaminated fish.
In addition, the e-waste menace and erosion of social and moral values can not be overemphasized. Nevertheless, solutions are trickling in from the same Technology including, Green Technology, Geospatial and Space Technology to try and avert damages inflicted on the earth by unscrupulous individuals, corporates, and nations. (Alison sec 4)) Technology may save the Environment, after all.
Jackson, Randal. “The Effects of Climate Change.” Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet, 2020, climate.nasa.gov/effects.
Alison. “Environmental Technology/Impact of Technology in the Environment.” Environmental Technology/Impact of Technology on the Environment, edinburghsensors, 2020, edinburghsensors.com/news-and-events/impact-of-technology-on-the-environment-and-environmental-technology.
Kathleen Bowmer (2018) ‘Agrochemical Pollutants’ in Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science Ed. Ellen Wohl, New York Oxford University Press, 28 March 2018 DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199363445-009
Council on Foreign Relations. “US – Russia Arms Control Timeline.” Us – Russia Arms Control Timeline, 2021, p. 2021. JSOTAR, www.cfr.org/timeline/us-russia-nuclear-arms-control.