Technology is Not the Solution

Guest Blog Post by ARCC Student Andrew Ayim

As society rapidly approaches an irreversible and disastrous climate induced future, many different economic sectors have proposed unique solutions to solve the issue, especially the tech industry. Fortunately, these solutions provide hope for the future generations, which is vital if humans plan to overcome this challenge. More important than hope is the essential realization that humans need to drastically change their behaviors to save the planet. Furthermore, the only way humans can overcome climate change is by recognizing that technological innovation alone is not enough if they don’t fundamentally change their behaviors and combat the normalization of ecocide.

Overreliance on technological innovation guarantees a bleak future as the tech industry is ill equipped to handle the climate crisis. Furthermore, the tech industry’s primary goal is to maximize profits, which means sourcing materials and labor for as cheap as possible. For example, current electric vehicle batteries are dependent on Congolese cobalt mining as the country supplies 70 percent of the world’s cobalt (Campbell). Not surprisingly, cobalt mining “has significant environmental impacts ranging from habitat destruction to water and air pollution” (Buxton). Moreover, this highlights the contradictory nature of tech-based solutions because in this example they mitigate one environmental disaster (climate change) by contributing to another (environmental destruction in the Congo). Next, tech-based solutions often value short term gains and fail to recognize long term consequences. For instance, the Green Revolution rapidly changed agriculture by drastically increasing yields through technological advancements like GMOs, pesticides, fertilizers, and machinery, which subsequently lowered consumer costs and increased consumption. Not surprisingly, these same technological advancements have led to modern problems ranging from pollinator decline, carcinogenic pesticides, loss of seed diversity, hypoxic dead zones, soil degradation, and the collapse of family farms (Jackson). Also, depending on technology means enabling a delay in climate action until more sustainable forms of technology are created and distributed globally. This is a bad idea considering the massification of this technology would take years as fossil fuels account for “more than 80% of energy consumption” globally (Ritchie and Roser). It’s an even worse idea considering that some moderate climate models predict society will reach 1.5 °C of global warming between 2030 and 2032 (Hausfather). In short, relying solely on a tech industry plagued by negative externalities and poor future analysis of consequences to effectively mitigate the time sensitive climate crisis will not work.

The question that remains is how will society effectively mitigate climate change? Furthermore, the solution to climate change lies in the unsustainable obsession with blind materialism and overconsumption that normalizes environmental destruction. Additionally, people in global north countries must recognize how disconnected their relationship with the planet is because economic development has been prioritized over the health of the earth. Still, many people are oblivious to how their seemingly innocent actions have serious environmental consequences. For example, the jeans one purchased at their favorite retailer likely involved carcinogenic pesticides, fertilizer runoff, toxic chemical dyes, and extreme water pollution. Not surprisingly, this ignorance did not happen on accident as corporations, special interest groups, and bureaucracies have benefitted from legislation and marketing campaigns that have effectively indoctrinated citizens with lies that benefit their industries at the expense of the environment. To overcome this, society must deploy all its social, cultural, ethical, and spiritual resources to reconsider current operations and behaviors that are fueling the destruction of the earth. Fortunately, recent protest like those against the Keystone XL pipeline have shown that when people band together with this in mind, they can stop corporations from harming the earth. Notably, it is not easy work to fight against industries with immense economic power, but it is a fight that must continue to happen to ensure the preservation of the natural world. Importantly, it is not too late to change and create a culture that emphasizes the health of the planet alongside economic development. While the future is uncertain, the coronavirus pandemic has made one thing clear: humans are capable of drastically changing their behaviors on short notice and establishing a new normal, but now it’s for the planet and our collective future depends on it.

Works Cited

Buxton, Abbi. Mining Cobalt Better. International Institute for Environment and Development,29 Sep. 2021, https://www.iied.org/mining-cobalt-better. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021

Campbell, John. Why Cobalt Mining in The DRC Needs Urgent Attention. Council on foreignrelations, 29 Oct. 2020, https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cfr.org/blog/why-cobalt-mining-drc-needs-urgent-attention%3famp. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

Hausfather, Zeke. When Might the World Exceed 1.5C and 2C of global Warming?CarbonBrief, 4 Dec. 2020, https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-when-might-the-world-exceed-1-5c-and-2c-of-global-warming. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

Jackson, Christine. Why Seed Diversity Matters and How to Preserve It. Rewire, 14 Apr. 2017,https://www.rewire.org/seed-diversity-matters-preserve/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

Ritchie, Hannah. Roser, Max. Energy Mix. Our World in Data, 2020,https://ourworldindata.org/energy-mix. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

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