Today I would like to elucidate the relationship between technology and the environmental crisis. I will outline the three stages of the technological birthing process. I will then explain why there are two categories of environmental problems, which are delineated by the role that technology plays in solving environmental problems.
In my philosophy I refer to technology as a ‘package deal’. When life on a planet becomes technological it gains immense benefits but it also has to endure a painful period of technological birthing in which technology brings a great number of harms. These harms are the ‘price to pay’ for the much greater immense benefits which technology brings. We can think of the technological birthing process as having three stages.
In the first stage technology brings both widespread benefits and harms which affect both humans and non-human life. These are very varied; the benefits include medical technologies which can save the lives of human and non-human life-forms and telecommunications technologies which enable humans to communicate more efficiently; the harms include illness caused by technological pollution and the deaths of multitudes of human and non-life-forms due to the operations of, and accidents involved in, the use of cars, buses, airplanes and a plethora of other technologies. In this stage it is not clear whether overall technology is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
In the second stage the technological birthing process reaches its fruition and the immense benefits of technology for planetary life manifest themselves. It is now clear that overall technology has immense benefits.
In the third stage the harms caused by technology are reduced as humans learn to reign in the dangers of various technologies through greater understanding, better design and wiser deployment. These three stages can be thought of as the unfolding of the technological ‘package deal’.
The environmental problems that constitute the environmental crisis can also be thought of as a ‘package deal’. This is because when life becomes technological a vast array of environmental problems will arise, and these problems have the same (technological) cause. However, there is a widespread tendency to mentally package all environmental issues into a single category and assume that they all have the same kind of solution. At one extreme there are a great many people who believe that, when it comes to environmental issues, technology and human intervention are both wholly bad; for these people the solution to all environmental problems involves reducing technological deployment/human intervention. You will hear these people say things like: “How could the solution to a problem possibly be more of what caused the problem?!” At the other extreme are those who believe that technology provides the solution to all environmental problems; for these people the solution to all environmental problems is more of what caused the problem in the first place.