Green technology: enviromentalism's frenemy?

Posted by Ms. Gadget
Ms. Gadget
Megan Ellis is a New Media student and young journalist at Rhodes University.
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on Sunday, 06 May 2012
in Digital Blogs

The technology industry continues to wow and amaze with projects which are underway or planned for the future. However, besides their price tag, many of these technologies come with another catch - their carbon footprint. 

Although the 'green' movement continues to gain a foothold in global industries, some might say that decision-makers and officials are simply not doing enough. If climate change and damage to the environment continue at their current rate, tech developers may find serious resource shortages and other obstacles in the future. 

The answer some have come up with in response to the need for increased environmental awareness is the development of 'green technology'. 


One of the most marketed products in this industry is the hybrid car. Pseudo-environmentalists and actual environmentalists alike bought into the idea of the Toyota Prius - a car with low fuel consumption which was supposed to be both eco-friendly and user-friendly. 

But soon after people indulged in the idea of modernity and environmental awareness, critics pointed out that the Prius has a larger carbon footprint than most normal cars due to the special materials needed for its production.

Anoher popular 'green' technological innovation was the advent of the e-book reader. Kindle's became a sign of an eco-friendly intellectual. Of course, having one tablet which could dowload hundreds or even thousands of books would surely be more more eco-friendly than books made from paper (and therefore trees). 

But once again, this innovation came with a catch: only when one reads a certain amount of books per year will their carbon footprint be outweighed by someone who prefers actual books. This was discussed in a article by The Millions, which compared paperback reading to the use of Apple tablets. 

It takes years of regular ebook reading before one can actually claim their use of a tablet is more eco-friendly than reading paperback books. Once again, our eco-friendly technolgy bubble is burst. 

So the question of your mind might be: "Is there actually any technology that is actually green?"

The answer? Probably, developers just need to try harder. 

Of course, when your salary is paid by corporations who only look at profit margins, most attempts at creating quality green technology will be half-hearted.

Fuel cells are one source of alternative energy which are being increasingly developed. 

A more unusual suggestion for sourcing minerals has come with the pursuit of space mining - where asteroids will be mined for extremely valuable minerals. 

South Africa has taken one more step towards green energy through the proposal to generate electricity using the city's sea currents

However, it is going to take a lot more commitment from developers and scientists, and a lot less greed from certain industries, to create technology which is truly viable and environmentally friendly. 

To see my curation of stories relating to green technology, follow my Scoop.it page.

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