Environmental Impacts of Technology

Contributor

Issac Lavitt ‘25

Many people think that technology like solar panels, electric cars, and most so-called
“green” technologies are ecofriendly. With these technologies, we see the future of the Earth as cleaner, greener, and more sustainable. However, many of these same technologies have a dark undercurrent that is far from their promises. The question is: are modern technologies green or are they hiding behind a mask?

To address this question, we must first understand where these technologies come from. The material to create these technologies must be extracted from the Earth. This requires enormous use of fossil fuels, land, and resources. Mining industries contribute five percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to one third of the emissions from cattle in the world. Canada, for example, acquires its precious metals like gold and lithium from mines in South America. Organizations like Barrick Gold, Teck, and Yamana acquire these metals to make lithium-ion batteries for e-vehicles and gold-plating for solar panels. Yet while mining, they devastate Argentine and Chilean terrain with poisoned lakes, sinkholes, and extensive environmental damage. This portion of our technologies is far from green.

The creation of these technologies is not good for the environment either. They are produced in factories, adding to 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the factories often dump waste into water supplies, nature, and anywhere they can put it. These mines and factories are usually located far from the Canadian, the consumer, so we don’t have to look at the impacts of our purchases.

We use the product for a while. However, this time is limited. Eventually, we lose interest in the product and move on. Then comes one of our largest problems: disposal. Technology can’t be thrown in your everyday trash can. The components used are dangerous towildlife and nature. Unlike our household waste—which, although bad, is not deadly— technology is made with many potentially dangerous materials. For one example, take a battery. When you put these in your bin, and the garbage truck takes it away, they dump it in a landfill. In this landfill, the battery decays, releasing all the dangerous chemicals inside straight into our Earth, water, and air. These chemicals can kill wildlife and poison our environment. Again, our green technology may not be as green as we think it is.

We all hope for a greener future. Objects and devices such as electric cars, solar panels, and wind power, all have uses that lead us to a greener future. However, all of them require us to expend some of the environment for their fruition. The adage, “you must spend money to make money,” can be modified to fit the current environmental crisis: “you must sacrifice the environment to save the environment.” However, we must be wary, for many corporations beguile us, putting green-tinted glassed over our eyes.

But not all hope is lost. I ask you, do you need the new laptop, or the new phone, or the new car? Our end of the line cannot prevent climate change until the other end changes its ways. A reduction in consumption, though difficult, is necessary to tackle the climate crisis. And climate change will not end until both consumers and producers change their ways.