Technology and society #8

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Technological Fix: Can Technology Fix the Environment?
“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy – sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.”
— Thomas Edison, 1931
Can technology fix the human-caused environmental damage to the planet? “Technological fix” is the idea that most problems have a technical solution. Such a fix seeks “to use the power of technology in order to solve problems that are nontechnical in nature” (Volti, 2017, p. 30).
Such technological fixes for the environment can be quite controversial, as many of them are simply theories, and others are in an embryonic stage of development. There is also the criticism that proposing technological fixes for the environment will divert attention away from the “root cause of the problem: rising greenhouse-gas emissions” (Temple, 2019).
One technological fix concerns geoengineering. Geoengineering is defined as the “deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change” (Wood et al., 2013).
An example of geoengineering involves injecting sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Nature has provided clues to why this form of geoengineering (in theory) could work. In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo on the Philippine island of Luzon erupted. More than 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide were thrown into the stratosphere. In the next 2 years, the earth cooled down by 1°Fahrenheit. This one “volcanic eruption practically reversed, albeit temporarily, the cumulative global warming of the previous hundred years” (Levitt & Dubner, 2009). A much earlier volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1815 achieved similar results, creating the “Year Without a Summer” in 1816. In that year, North America and Europe experienced an abnormally cool and wet summer. Scientists have concluded that 1816 was probably the coldest year in 250 years (Schurer et al., 2019).
For many years, the idea of spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere as a fix to climate change was viewed as a fringe idea, nothing more than science fiction. But it has been gaining adherents in the last 20 years or so. Atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen made an argument for this fix as a possible last resort to the dangers of global warming. Crutzen is highly respected within climate circles, as he shared the Nobel Prize in 1995 for helping to explain the depletion of the ozone layer. He maintains that the best solution would be if “greenhouse gases could be reduced so much that the stratospheric sulfur release experiment would not need to take place. Currently, this looks like a pious wish” (Crutzen, 2006). So, if human activity will not change, maybe technology could offer a partial solution. In a recent study on this topic, coauthor Professor David Keith of Applied Physics at Harvard University maintained that “there is the possibility that solar geoengineering could really substantially reduce climate risks for the most vulnerable” (Holden, 2019). Other climate experts believe the world is fast approaching the time “when nothing other than geoengineering” can prevent the impending environmental crisis (Pearce, 2019).
The controversy and naysaying will continue, though proponents will continue to advocate (with caution) for geoengineering as one of many possible solutions to the danger of climate change.
There are many other potential technological fixes when looking at the environment (even subsets within geoengineering). In this project, you will examine one such technology to see if, based on your analysis of the evidence collected, it is a solution to the climate crisis.
For this assignment, you will write a 500-word expository essay on the topic of technology as a possible solution to environmental damage. Your essay should have a clearly established and sustained viewpoint and purpose. In addition, your writing should be well ordered, logical, and unified, as well as original and insightful. Following are the content requirements of the essay:
Although you may use additional academic articles obtained from the Purdue Global Library, here are some notable sources:
MIT Technology Review:
https://www.technologyreview.com/
Nature:
https://www.nature.com/
Smithsonian Magazine:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/
Scientific American:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/
United Nations Environment Programme:
https://www.unenvironment.org/
EPA:
https://www.epa.gov/
National Geographic:
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/
Discover:
https://www.discovermagazine.com/
USAID:
https://www.usaid.gov/
· Select one technology that may help correct an environmental concern.
· What is the environmental concern?
· Did humans cause this environmental concern?
· What do proponents of the technology claim?
· What do its critics say?
· Is the technology currently in use?
· If not, what is the potential future use?
· How costly is this technology?
· What, if any, are the drawbacks of this technology?
· Based on your research, do you believe this technology could be an effective technological fix?
Your paper should also meet the following requirements:
· APA format
· Title page
· Introduction
· APA citations
· Double-spaced sentences
· 12-point Times New Roman font
· Conclusion
· Reference page
· Three sources minimum (including the class text)
· Standard English grammar conventions
· Correct grammar
· Correct punctuation and spelling
· Logical, well-ordered sentences

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