The Industrial Age, which covers the period between 1760 and 1840, catapulted mankind into new heights that were only dreamed of by our ancestors. The Industrial Age was marked by the transition of hand production labor to machinery, iron production processes, and chemical manufacturing. It also marked the use of steam and water power, the progress of machine tools, and the emergence of the mechanized factory system.
In other words, the Industrial Revolution was the start of our modern tech-centric society. In fact, virtually all aspects of our everyday lives are influenced by the Industrial Age in one way or another.
THE HEAVY PRICE OF PROGRESS
However, the mass introduction and use of machinery meant that they needed huge amounts of fuel to run them. The extraction and burning of fuels placed a heavy toll on the environment. For example, before fossil fuel became available, machines were run by whale oil. The demand for whale oil almost caused the extinction of many species of whales.
Petroleum-based fuels became available later, halting the hunting of whales. However, without the technology to filter pollutants plus the absolute lack of environmental laws at that time, the extraction and burning of fossil fuel heavily polluted the air and water.
Mechanized factory systems mass-produced goods faster, cheaper, and in colossal volumes. But this generated an enormous amount of trash that has become a serious global environmental problem.
Finally, the mechanization of labor, the development of trade, and the increasing number of new businesses during the Industrial Revolution gave rise to massive employment and a huge improvement of everybody’s standard of living. But with higher incomes, people began to purchase and use goods and services to the excess. The result of this is overconsumption resulting in more energy consumption, excessive fuel use, more pollution, more trash, as well as depletion of natural resources.
RISE OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL REVOLUTION
That price has to be paid. Gradually but surely, the world started to experience the effects of global warming. Species of plants and animals disappeared at an unprecedented rate. Famines and food shortages became biblical in proportion. Overconsumption causes our natural resources to dwindle to unsustainable or even irreversible levels.
Concerned by the effects of human activities on the environment, scientists turned to science and technology to gather the information that could be used to preserve and protect the planet. The consummation of this data resulted in the Environmental Revolution.
The Environmental Revolution, which started in the late 19th century, is an ongoing social, economic, and political process of ceasing the use and development of technologies that cause pollution, climate change, and overall environmental degradation. In their place are technologies that produce clean yet efficient energy, reduce the consumption of raw materials, lessen pollution, and avert or reverse climate change.
Thanks to the advancement of science and technology, for the first time in centuries, humans now have the potential capability to actually protect nature and avert environmental disasters.
USING GREEN TECHNOLOGIES
What are the common technologies used to protect the environment? Here are some of them:
Big data is a way to systematically extract, process, and analyze very large and complex data using sophisticated computers and AI. With big data, we can accurately monitor shocking recycling statistics, track correlations between production and pollution, reveal more accurate predictions, improve inventories, and more.
Using big data, we can create more practical, concrete, and doable solutions rather than relying on guesswork, insufficient numbers, or localized data.
People and organizations have rapidly embraced the digital lifestyle. The use of digital technology means that the production and use of paper have drastically lessened. Coupled with advanced apps that help in computations, the reduced need for paperwork is a great break from the environment. Thousands of acres of trees – the main ingredient for paper – are spared. Subsequently, more natural habitats will be preserved. Lesser paper production also means lesser air and water pollution.
Uber, Netflix, and other similar services help lessen pollution and wastage. For example, you don’t have to buy a car and add to the traffic and pollution; just book an Uber. You don’t have to buy DVDs that would someday end in the landfill; just subscribe to Netflix.
The internet plays a critical role in the development and continuation of the Green Revolution. Through the internet, we become aware of the effects of human activities on the planet. We begin to recognize environmental threats and concerns, changing our mindsets from indifferent to being concerned.
But at the same time, through the internet, we know that we can do something positive to help the environment. We can join environmental organizations that organize activities and processes that heal the world. We can donate to environmental advocacies. We can air out our complaints on those who violate the sanctity of nature. We can communicate with like-minded individuals who are bent on making the world a better place.
Manufacturers of many of the devices we use every day are using innovative technologies to maximize performance at a fraction of the required power. As a current master’s degree in product and interior design nicely explains, environmental economics should be among top priorities when designing products. LED lights, CFL bulbs, inverter-type HVAC systems, and power-saving computers are just some of the goods that save a lot of energy. Expect that these devices will become even more energy-efficient as technology advances.
Clean energy sources
Scientists know that fossil fuels are unsustainable, non-renewable, and a finite source of energy. Thus, the race is on for finding better, cleaner, and more sustainable sources of energy. We have seen the fruits of these technologies, with electricity-generating windmills, geothermal plants, hydroelectric dams, and solar farms being the most ubiquitous. However, there is ongoing research on generating power from sea waves, the trapped heat in the ocean, biofuels, and more.
Houses and business establishments are using technologies that help lessen their carbon footprint. For example, many green buildings install solar panels and wind motors to generate extra electricity. Better insulation is used to save energy or reduce its consumption. Some even have paint that absorbs carbon dioxide. Many homes, stores, offices, and other facilities have installed smart systems that shut down when they’re not in use. As technology advances, we can expect more smart systems to become mainstream.
Plastic pollution has become one of the world’s most dire environmental banes simply because petroleum-based plastics don’t decompose. But scientists are now finding ways of creating plastics out of plants. These bioplastics are biodegradable, eco-friendly, and sustainable.
Scientists have been looking at graphene as a revolutionary material that can help the environment immensely. Because of their unique physical properties, scientists believe that they can be used to make incredibly efficient water filters. Or it could be the material for a new type of superconductor that could transmit energy over long distances with minimal loss. It could also be used to make more efficient solar panels.
The proper use and application of technology can really make the difference between a better world and a dying planet. As science, engineering, mathematics, and technology open more and more doors, these disciplines will be at the forefront in protecting and preserving the environment.