Saffran Mihnar is a climate activist from Sri Lanka working with the Earth Lanka network. In this edition to the #CoolerPlanet series, he examines the effects of human created technology on the environment and how further advances could provide solutions.
The human species’ use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools. The prehistoric discovery of how to control fire and the later Neolithic Revolution increased the available sources of food and the invention of the wheel helped humans to travel in and control their environment.
Developments in historic times, including the printing press, the telephone, and the Internet, have lessened physical barriers to communication and allowed humans to interact freely on a global scale. The steady progress of military technology has brought weapons of ever-increasing destructive power, from clubs to nuclear weapons.
Technology has many effects. It has helped develop more advanced economies, including today’s global economy, with all the innovative and many technological processes that go with it. But it has also produced unwanted by-products, known as pollution, and depleted natural resources to the detriment of Earth’s environment. Various implementations of technology influence the values of a society and new technology often raises new ethical questions.
Today electronic waste has become a self-created threats to humans, which created it for their own comfort. The processes of dismantling and disposing of electronic waste in the third world lead to a number of environmental impacts. Liquid and atmospheric releases end up in bodies of water, groundwater, soil, and air and therefore in land and sea, animals both domesticated and wild, in crops eaten by both animals and human, and in drinking water
Presently we can witness a huge war that’s happening around the world with weapons that have highly toxic chemicals. This leads to the DNA mutations in the human body that lead to many diseases that we are yet to have the cure for.
How we fuel our transport is another factor that affects the Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere – all fuels are not equal. For instance, burning lignite emits nearlys nearly 100 % more carbon dioxide with respect to the energy content than burning of natural gas. Even natural fuels such as wood or peat have high specific emissions, if they are not used sustainably. Deforestation has a high impact on climate change but, if we only use as much wood as can grow again, it becomes carbon dioxide neutral because it binds as much carbon dioxide during growing as is emits during burning.
If fuels are used for electricity generation, carbon dioxide emissions increase with the reciprocal of the power plant efficiency. For example if a power station with an efficiency of 34 % burns coal, it emits 1.0 kg carbon dioxide for generating one kilowatt hour of electricity. Changing to less carbon dioxide intensive fuels reduces the emissions and contributes to climate protection in the short-term.
For a long-term climate protection the only alternative is zero-carbon energy resources such as sustainable-used biomass and other renewable types of energy. Let’s work hard to reduce these effects and save the world.