Welcome to the blog of the Broad Curriculum course Living Sustainably: A complete guide to surviving a changing planet. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Technocentrism: The Bee All and End All for Sustainable Living? (See what I did there...?)


 Sustainable living, to some, may seem like nothing more than a pipe dream and indeed it’s hard to imagine achieving a truly ‘sustainable’ lifestyle without being regressive to some extent. However, with the continuous advent of new and more advance technologies is it now conceivable that progressive technocentric approaches will hold the answer to all our environmental problems?
Global warming is perhaps the greatest environmental problem we face today and in light of recent socio-economic adversity it’s easy to lose sight of this issue. In addition to the ever increasing amounts of greenhouse gases that are industrially produced each year, logging operations exacerbate the problem. One of the biggest driving forces of deforestation is the production of cardboard and paper but with environmentally friendly alternatives now available is the 30% of remaining forestland safe from destruction? Polyart (Link), a completely synthetic and 100% recyclable paper, is just one simple example of how technology can be conducive of a more sustainable lifestyle and ultimately promote environmental mitigation.
Moving on to more extreme examples, the innovation of technologies that allows us to exploit renewable energy more efficient continues to increase the allure of these renewable energy sources and large scale implementation of these technologies becomes more viable. With more people now opting to install geothermal heating systems, solar panels and wind mills at home, does this reflect the early success of the environmental movement promoting sustainable living or merely represent a remnant ‘trend’ from the glory days of the economic boom? With over 3 million exajoules of energy being radiated by the sun each year (3 orders of magnitude more than the annual global energy consumption), solar energy certainly has the potential to alleviate our energy crisis. With solar panel efficiency increasing ever year it becomes more and more feasible that solar energy will do for us in the future what oil did in the past.
With so much technology at our disposal it’s hard to image what life in 10 years will be like, inevitably “big things have small beginnings” and the technology that is readily at our disposable may ultimately displace regressive anthropocentric approaches to environmentalism and sustainable living. 
Eoin Mac RĂ©amoinn

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