Feb 2 ENV222 lecture format.doc.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
School of Environment
Kenneth Mac Donald

ENV222 Feb. 2 Technology Lecture format 1. Defining technology From Jan. 19 lecture notes: • P. 160: “means whereby humans use nature for their own benefit” • Machines + means of using them (organization) • P. 107: “enabler” – “underpins” growth of population and per capita consumption Note that Ehrlich and Ehrlich give a broader definition of technology, p. 110, as including "the social, economic and political arrangements that determine what is consumed, how, and by who"; for purposes of the ENV222 course we are using the narrower definition above (machine plus organization) and addressing the other factors as institutions, anthropocentrism and power. We are defining "enabler" as: machine + energy = expanded human impact on nature; particularly as previously noted with the Industrial Revolution access to fossil-fuel energy. Ehrlich and Ehrlich also present technology as "chooser" - technology has a strong influence on social activities; eg motor vehicle and low-density, urban-sprawl land use; digital communication technologies which facilitate information spread and thus influence governance (Arab spring, Syria today) 2. Technology as cause of environmental problems 2.1 as enabler: eg, 18th c. steam engine powering pumps to drain mines allowed expansion of coal mining, which provided coal energy to power industrialized production (resource consumption) and produced all the environmental impacts attendant on burning coal eg, 19th c. internal combustion engine, powered by diesel or gasoline, combined with assembly- line factory system, resulted in motor vehicles, airplanes, etc. with all attendant environmental impacts eg, 19th c. chemical industry development new synthetic toxic substances eg, 20th c. nuclear energy: attendant problems, military and civilian electricity production problems 2.2 as source of accidental risk - reader pp.; 136-138; risks of human error or machine failure in large, centralized systems; eg, Chernobyl nuclear accident, 1986; Walkerton 2000 drinking water pollution; Japan Fukushima nuclear accident, 2011 2.3 by promoting an anthropocentric view of nature - the "machine in the garden"; organization of nature to meet human needs through conversion of wilderness to farm or factory; technology reinforces anthropocentrism by increasing the human-controlled nature we see 1 3. Technology as solution to environmental problems The basic choice for almost any environmental problem is whether we address it by: 1) continuing the behaviour which is causing the problem, but reducing our impact by using different technology; 2) or, by changing our behaviour eg: we continue to travel as much each year, but increase motor vehicle efficiency and change from private motor vehicle to rail transit; or, we reduce total amount of travel. eg, reader p. 113; conservation = change behaviour to reduce energy use; efficiency = same energy use, with reduced fuel input Almost always to date we have chosen the first option. However, there are limits to the extent to which technology can provide solutions. 3.1 limits to increased efficiency as solution - efficiency is defined as the ratio of inputs to outputs; do the same thing, with fewer inputs and waste outputs - but there are limits to efficiency p. 124; motor vehicle increased gasoline efficiency per kilometre undercut by fact that (1) each year there are more cars (population plus per capita consu
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