Technology will save the planet?
I came across an article on my feed the other day on the topic of technology and why it won’t be what’s saving us from climate change. If I’m being honest it really struck me. There are so many brilliant minds on this planet bursting with new ideas and innovations for how technology can tackle climate change. Everything from renewable energy and solar alternatives to upgraded computer technologies that allow for smart solutions. It’s incredible what technology has done for us, and continues to do for us. So what I am missing here?
After doing more research on the matter two opinions stood out to me. The answer was simple to some, “of course, technology is the only way out of this mess”, but to others technology alone doesn’t seem to provide too much hope. To these people, technology represents a promise of salvation that raises expectations and enables inadequate action as we put all our eggs into this one basket.
Could this be true? Could an over-reliance on the prospects of technology actually be hurting effective and sustainable climate action?
Humans tend to strike at any opportunity to shift blame, and in doing so we like to shift responsibility. Putting the responsibility onto a giant as big and supposedly as promising as technology puts our mind at rest. It’s easier to feel less guilty about our own personal lack of action or anti-climate friendly habits when we have the god of technology to come save us.
I certainly never assumed technology would be the only way we do things, but I see where these people are coming from. Whether it was intentional or not there is quite a lot riding on the promise of technological solutions to our current climate problems.
I don’t think it’s objectively wrong to place a lot of attention onto technological solutions, I mean science and technology continue to be really revolutionary in our era of climate driven issues — but I do wonder what else is going on when we put too much focus on tech. Having goals, meeting targets, and continuing to think big all make use of technology somehow, but what we cannot forget is that none of this exists in isolation. Climate action must also rely on changing social norms and behaviors. As much as technology can give us the tools for a way forward, if none wants to use them or know how to properly use them, it’s useless. So technology + positive attitudes and behaviors= saving the planet? Maybe. But I fear it’s still not that simple.
What we all can agree on is that there is no one overarching experience of climate change. Yes the planet is warming, and yes that is indeed a universal fact, but each city, each country, each coast has felt the impacts a little different. With each climate issue there are varying degrees of experience, and possible outcomes based on a number of factors from socio-economic to political to geographical. It’s imperative therefore that solutions take into account the nuances of culture and society, and make sense for the unique context of the different people and places that it will be apart of. This makes it especially important for climate action to remain focused on cultural, social, and political transformation which makes it possible to enact more effective behavioral responses, and lay a strong foundation for appropriate technological responses.
What does a zero carbon future look like across different industries, and how will it work in practice? Keeping a holistic approach to policy, practices, and ideas will ensure that questions like this are answered well. The triumph of tech should not be oversimplified or sprinkled around as a one size fit all solution. There must be equal attention towards more human solutions, ones where people make changes, in conjunction with the tech. A partnership between technology and humans will be what saves the planet. It’s not just technology working here, but humans too.
So I’m afraid shifting responsibility isn’t going to cut it. We must all continue to push our governments and demand more transparent, equitable, and effective climate policies. Moreover, we need to keep holding each-other accountable to practice more responsible climate positive behaviors, and actions. Change happens from the ground up, and sure technology will play its role, but so will we.
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