The human effect on our planet has been quite profound. Alongside the irreparable damage we have caused to our environment, we’ve also made huge advances in technology.
The damage we’re talking about is incredibly widespread and varied. There are simple problems and solutions like litter, which can be solved by simply getting it all cleared up, but what happens to it next? There’s recycling of course, but its actually a relatively expensive process for some materials, which is why much of the planet’s population still resorts to landfill.
While landfill sites may eventually break down and become less toxic, this process takes many thousands of years, so isn’t practical to support a multi-billion population. What’s more, much of the waste on a landfill site may not break down for much longer, as the materials we create or harvest are often anything but biodegradable.
To make things worse, there have been phases in recent history where materials have been used in construction which have later turned out to be harmful – and there’s no better example of this than the latter half of the last century when the fireproofing properties of asbestos were widely employed in cities like Nottingham. This takes a great deal more care to deal with safely, otherwise causes a serious health hazard to humans and animals on top of the longer term consequences of deciding where to dump it as hazardous waste material.
So, that’s a small sample of the damaging side of the human race, what can technology do to repair and rectify the situation? An obvious first thing to look at is the change in behaviour which is becoming evident across the world. In Europe, there is a push from Brussels for EU members to reduce emissions through the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms. The USA is starting to make great progress in similar areas, even if the targets are self set and self regulated unlike Europe.
In the poorer Eastern countries things are a little less co-ordinated. There are many densely populated cities in countries like China that are struggling to keep pollution under control, yet are progressing faster in their research because they do not want to lose economic ground to the West. It’s this which provides the great opportunity for innovation in technology to reverse the trends of recent decades.
The very countries that are responsible of the production of most of the world’s technology are most in need of solutions to eco problems, so the coming years will be fascinating to watch. Europe is now benefiting from cheaper solar panels than ever before, even though there is less funding available from green government initiatives today than there were a few years ago.
Could it be that the quest for progress and technology that caused much of the pollution in the past could ultimately be what saves our planet? Only time will tell.