Chapter 22: Technology and the Global Environment
TECHNOLOGY: SAVIOUR OR FRANKENSTEIN?
− The application of scientific principles to the improvement of human life.
− normal accident
− The very complexity of modern technologies ensures that they will inevitably fail, though in unpredictable ways.
− risk society
− A society in which technology distributes danger among all categories of the population.
− some categories, however, are more exposed to technological danger than others are
− moreover, 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
− they are therefore more stressful
− When technology takes control of culture.
− first, is technology the great driving force of historical and social change?
− we argue that technology is able to transform society only when it is coupled with a powerful social need
− people control technology as much as technology transforms people
− second, if some people do control technology, who exactly are they?
− the military and big corporations now decide the direction of most technological research and its application
− third, what are the most dangerous spinoffs of technology and how is risk distributed among various social groups?
− we focus on global warming, industrial pollution, genetic pollution, and the decline of biodiversity
− we show that although these dangers put all of humanity at risk, the degree of danger varies by class, race, and country
− in brief, the socially and economically disadvantaged are most at risk
− fourth, how can we overcome the dangers of environmental degradation?
− we argue that the market and technological solutions are insufficient by themselves
− in addition, much self-sacrifice and cooperation will be required
Technology and People Make History
− Russian economist Nikolai Knodratiev was the first social scientist to notice that technologies are invented in clusters
− technological determinism
− The belief that technology is the major force shaping human society and history.
− greenhouse effect
− Ever since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning increasing quantities of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline, natural gas, etc.) to drive their cars,
furnaces, and factories. Burning these fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The accumulation of carbon dioxide allows more solar radiation to
enter the atmosphere and less heat to escape.
− global warming
− A gradual increase in the world's average surface temperature.
− many scientists believe that 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
− people suffer and die all along the causal chain
− industrial pollution is the emission of various impurities into the air, water, and soil through industrial processes
- acid rain
- A form of precipitation whose acidity eats away at, and eventually destroys, forests and the ecosystems of lakes.
- ozone layer
- A form of oxygen that blocks ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun.
The Decline in Biodiversity
- The enormous variety of plant and animal species inhabiting the earth.
- biodiversity changes as new species emerge and old species die off because they cannot adapt to their environment
- this is all part of the normal evolutionary process
- however, in recent decades the environment has become so inhospitable to so many species that the rate of extinction has accelerated greatly
- examination of fossil records suggests that, for millions of years, an average of one to three species became extinct annually
- genetic pollution