Environment

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Published on 16 Jun 2011
School
UTSC
Department
Sociology
Course
SOCA02H3
Professor
Technology and the Global
Environment
TECHNOLOGY: SAVIOUR OR FRANKENSTEIN?
-On August 6, 1945, the United States Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb killed
about 200 000 Japanese, almost all of them civilians.
-We may call the period before Hiroshima the era of naive optimism. During that time, technology could do
no wrong, or so it seemed to nearly all observers.
-Technology was widely defined as the application of scientific principles to the improvement of human life
- the world’s first nuclear bomb exploded at the Alamagordo Bombing Range in New Mexico.
-The bomb was the child of J. Robert Oppenheimer
-Having witnessed the destructive power he helped unleash, he wanted the United States to set an example
to the only other nuclear power at the time, the Soviet Union. He wanted both countries to halt thermo-
nuclear research and refuse to develop the hydrogen bomb. But the governments of the United States and
the Soviet Union had other plans.
-The term normal accident recognizes that the very complexity of modern technologies ensures they will
inevitably fail, though in unpredictable ways
-You experience normal accidents when your home computercrashes” orhangs.”
-German sociologist Ulrich Beck also coined a term that stuck when he said we live in a risk society. A risk
society is a society in which technology distributes danger among all categories of the population.
-in a risk society, danger does not result from technological accidents alone. In addition, increased risk is
due to mounting environmental threats. Environmental threats are more widespread, chronic, and
ambiguous than technological accidents.
-Neil Postman (1992) refers to the United States as a technopoly. He argues that the United States is the
first country in which technology has taken control of culture. Technology, he says, compels people to try
to solve all problems using technical rather than moral criteria, although technology is often the source of
the problems
- latest concern of technological skeptics is biotechnology
Technology and People Make History
-Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev was the first social scientist to notice that technologies are invented
in clusters
-Kondratiev subscribed to a form of technological determinism, the belief that technology is the major
force shaping human society and history
-James Watt invented the steam engine in Britain in 1766
-Gottlieb Daimler invented the internal combustion engine in Germany in 1883
-John Atanasoff was among the first people to invent the computer in 1939 at Iowa State College
-if we probe a little deeper into the development of any of the technologies mentioned above, we notice a
pattern: They did not become engines of economic growth until social conditions allowed them to do so.
-technology and society influence each other. Scientific discoveries, once adopted on a wide scale, often
transform societies. But scientific discoveries are turned into useful technologies only when social need
demands it.
How High Tech Became Big Tech
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-turning scientific principles into technological innovations was going to require not just genius but
substantial resources, especially money and organization. Thus, Thomas Edison established the first
invention factory” at Menlo Park, New Jersey, in the late 1870s
-Only governments and giant multinational corporations could afford to sustain the research effort of the
second half of the twentieth century.
-Because large multinational corporations routinely invest astronomical sums in research and development
to increase their chance of being the first to bring innovations to market, the time lag between new
scientific discoveries and their technological application is shrinking
-military and profit making considerations now govern the direction of most research and development
-Personal interests, individual creativity, and the state of a field’s intellectual development still influence the
direction of inquiry
-a growing number of scientists and engineers recognize that to do cutting-edge research, they must still any
residual misgivings, hop on the bandwagon, and adhere to military and industrial requirements and
priorities. That, after all, is where the money is
Environmental Degradation
-The side effect of technology that has given people the most serious cause for concern is environmental
degradation. It has four main aspects: global warming, industrial pollution, the decline in biodiversity, and
genetic pollution
Global Warming
-The accumulation of carbon dioxide allows more solar radiation to enter the atmosphere and less heat to
escape. This is the so-called greenhouse effect. Most scientists believe that the greenhouse effect
contributes to global warming, a gradual increase in the world’s average surface temperature.
-Many scientists believe global warming is already producing serious climactic change. For as temperatures
rise, more water evaporates. This causes more rainfall and bigger storms, which lead to more flooding and
soil erosion, which in turn lead to less cultivable land
-It seems that global warming is causing the oceans to rise. That is partly because warmer water expands
and partly because the partial melting of the polar ice caps puts more water in the oceans. In the twenty-
first century, this may result in the flooding of some heavily populated coastal regions
Industrial Pollution
- Industrial pollution is the emission of various impurities into the air, water, and soil through industrial
processes
ohousehold trash, scrap automobiles, residue from processed ores, agricultural runoff containing
dangerous chemicals, lead, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone, nitrogen
oxide, various volatile organic compounds, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and various solids or
particulates” mixed with liquid droplets floating in the air
-Canadas biggest toxic dump is in Sydney, Nova Scotia, where waste from unregulated steel production has
created the infamous Sydneytar ponds.”
-Pollutants may affect us directly. For example, they seep into our drinking water and the air we breathe
-They also can affect us indirectly. For instance acid rain. Another example: CFCs used to be widely used
in industry and by consumers, notably in refrigeration equipment. They contain chlorine, which is
responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer
-There are five active commercial nuclear reactors in Canada today. One hundred and three nuclear reactors
are now generating commercial electricity in the United States. These facilities run on enriched uranium or
plutonium fuel rods. Once these fuel rods decay beyond the point where they are useful in the reactor, they
become waste material. This waste is highly radioactive
-In 2002, the United States government announced plans to bury its 77 000 tonnes of nuclear waste deep in
the Yucca Mountains of Nevada, 145 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of Las Vegas
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Document Summary

On august 6, 1945, the united states air force dropped an atomic bomb on hiroshima. The bomb killed about 200 000 japanese, almost all of them civilians. We may call the period before hiroshima the era of naive optimism. During that time, technology could do no wrong, or so it seemed to nearly all observers. Technology was widely defined as the application of scientific principles to the improvement of human life the world"s first nuclear bomb exploded at the alamagordo bombing range in new mexico. The bomb was the child of j. robert oppenheimer. Having witnessed the destructive power he helped unleash, he wanted the united states to set an example to the only other nuclear power at the time, the soviet union. He wanted both countries to halt thermo- nuclear research and refuse to develop the hydrogen bomb. But the governments of the united states and the soviet union had other plans.