How technology can reduce energy usage

Technology Saving Environment

The author of this response has been asked to write an argumentative essay that centers on whether human technology can save the world when it comes to things like climate change. The question is not an easy one to answer. There are those that say that even if the data set known to humankind is not complete, this cannot persuade us not to act because we should not wait until it is too late. There are others that suggest that the planet will impose its will on humankind no matter what humans do or do not do and the presence or use of technology will not change that. However, most people fall somewhere in the middle or perhaps even believe that the way to save the planet is already known and just needs to be implemented. While it sounds good to suggest that humans can plot the future of the planet and its health, the knowledge and skill sets available to humans are probably not up to par as of yet.

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One idea on the subject is forwarded by Rene Kemp. Kemp notes that there is a bit of good and bad when it comes to the current arc of the planet. Kemp notes that while economic growth is not nearly as damaging and negative for the planet as it once was, there is still the problem of increased greenhouse gas emissions and resource usage both increasing. Beyond that, Kemp notes that a lot of countries are “retracting from environmental policies, certainly in developed countries” (Kemp, 2015). As far as solutions and possibilities, Kemp points to what is referred to as the “social economy.” While the world is nearly a fifth of the way into the 21st century, the precepts and facets of the social economy are not new and have been around for nearly half a century, dating back to the 1970’s. Indeed, Kemp points to eco-villages that are full of green-minded people. There are also “transition towns.” Kemp describes this as “normal towns” but places where “people do communal things like urban gardening” (Kemp). While it may not be realistic to many people for this to pick up steam in any majorly developed country on a widespread basis, Kemp is realistic to a great degree. Kemp notes that while technology is great and all, it is not nearly as useful as it could or should be if the underlying governance and environmental policies do not wield and use the technological solutions available in a meaningful and effective way (Kemp).

Another voice out there when it comes to technology and what it can (and cannot) do for the world and its fate is Jennifer Kho. Her focus was on the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, often referred to as the IPCC. The subhead for Ms. Kho’s article makes her point quite clear. Indeed, it says “if the UN’s panel on climate change is right, the greentech industry has its work cut out” (Kho). It is clear that Kho is not outright dismissing the assertions and mandates of the UN IPCC. However, she also seems to be giving at least some credence to the idea that climate change science is probably not settled, just from the subhead alone. She is also quick to point out that the IPCC’s predictions when it comes to climate change effects is less than happy. Indeed, she notes that the IPCC is pointing to potential or probably events such as “floods, heat waves, storms, fires and drought, leading to severe food and water shortages for millions of people, as well as the spread of disease” (Kho). Kho makes an absolutely valid point when she notes that the “green” technology fraction of the wider energy and related markets is a mere sliver of the whole. Kho makes another great point in that “green tech” is not generally profitable and thus must be subsidized and forwarded in large part by government efforts and initiatives. Of course, private industry is not going to carry the “green” flag if there is not a profit for them to glean and harvest. A final and extremely prescient point that Kho makes is manifested in the form of a quote from Rob Day, who is a venture capitalist that is involved in the green energy industry. He notes that the best way to make a kilowatt hour is not to make one in the first place. Expecting people to use less is perhaps not realistic but the emergence of greener consumer technology and efficient appliances will lead to an energy usage cut of nearly a fifth by 2020 (Kho). The rhetoric and terminology used on the NASA website is extremely similar to what Kho describes from the IPCC (NASA).

The third source used for this report poses the precise question that the author of this report is trying to answer and it makes some points that are rather alarming. Indeed, the Leo Schlesinger points out that the arc of total population going on right now is not sustainable and something very bad will happen if something does not change. Indeed, he notes that the world population will balloon to nine billion by 2050 and about three billion of that total will be new “middle-class consumers.” This is a bad thing, in Schlesinger’s estimation, given some assertions by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the Global Footprint Network. They assert that “we have far exceeded the Earth’s capacity to sustain our current levels of consumption and that in very short-term we are on track to consume the equivalent of more than twice what our planet can regenerate; the United States is consuming up to five times that level” (Schlesinger, 2014). However, the news presented by Schlesinger is not all doom and gloom. He notes that the reuse and repurposing of what was previously discarded can be of huge help to the environment and perhaps help stem the tide that is mentioned above. Indeed, Schlesinger notes that the total amount of value chain waste in the consumer goods sector is roughly eighty percent. The cash value of this waste is about $2.5 trillion a year. The figure could actually be as high as ninety percent given that packaging is often thrown away. Savings are also easy to find and generate in the food sector, according to Schlesinger. He notes that that food that is lost or otherwise ruined before it is eaten amounts to three quarters of a trillion dollars. Schlesinger is rather scathing when it comes to this one when he says that this is “also an insult to humanity when over 840 million people go hungry every year” (Schlesinger).

There are many sources out there that suggest that technology should absolutely be leveraged to, at the very least, minimize and mitigate the energy that is indeed being used. Buzzfeed published an article that suggests a number of technology options that exist already and/or that could be developed to help minimize and bring down or flatten energy use much like is already being done with energy-efficient appliances and LED televisions. Indeed, the LED televisions of today consume a mere fraction of the energy of older CRT televisions. Some newer and fresher suggestions by Buzzfeed include solar grass, solar lamps, increased use of LED’s, thorium reactors, algae/biofuel expansion, osmotic power, capturing of carbon and others. The thorium reactor is quite fascinating as it really kills three proverbial birds with one stone. While the reactor itself has to be fed and run by uranium-223, just like a regular nuclear reactor, the rest of the reactor is free of such material and uses hot salt and some other substances to create energy. An interesting byproduct, the third bird as it were, is that the energy creation can happen concurrently to the desalinization of water. If this was done on a wide enough school, the world could be in a place where fresh water was never a concern again and energy would be easy to harness at the same time that the water is treated. While the technology would need some time, the promise of it is huge. As stated by Buzzfeed, “integral fast reactors promise to turn radioactive waste into power, traveling wave reactors promise to provide zero emission power for 100 years, and thorium reactors promise to quash nuclear safety concerns” (Chivers). The technology has some private industry might behind it including former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and General Electric (Chatsko)


The author of this report will gladly and openly admit that humans are most certainly influencing the planet and its climate and most to many of those results are bad. However, any solutions, technological or otherwise, that are forced upon the people under the guise of saving the world when perhaps the real plan is to control and tax people will not go over well. Rather than trying to control and manipulate people, there should instead be a focus on advancing green technologies and habits as they organically grow and become self-sufficient. Forcing things out into the playing field before they are ready will only hurt the poor the most. Beyond that, it is obvious that proper family planning and the shortfalls of developing countries when it comes to lack of food and clean water need to be addressed. The best efforts should be made to maximize the efficacy of society and technology while at the same time not jarring or upending societal norms too much. Change should be the natural order of things but businesses and society will glom onto things that save their money and improve their lives. They do not need to be forced into doing so.

Works Cited

Chatsko, Maxx. “Bill Gates’ Dream For A Nuclear-Powered Future Is Almost Here — The Motley Fool.” The Motley Fool. n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

Chivers, Tom. “12 Technologies Which Could Save the World.” BuzzFeed. n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

Kemp, Rene. “World Environment Day: Can Technology Save Us? – Our World.” n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

Kho, Jennifer. “Can Technology Save the World?.” n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

NASA. “Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet: Causes.” n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

Schlesinger, Leo. “Can Technology Save the Environment?.” World Economic Forum. n.p., 2016. Web. 6 June 2016.

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