Technology has come a long way in the past century, and scientists all over the world are discovering and inventing new technologies and more convenient ways to go about our everyday lives as humans. Although most of us see this as one of the most fascinating parts of life and are always very intrigued to see what will come next, there are some negative aspects of new technologies, such as what they do, or what they will do, to the environment. Most people do not consider how their new technology will affect the environment when they purchase the new product; instead they are more concerned with how the new product will improve their lives. Technologies such as cars, electricity, home appliances, and other technologies that people use regularly contributed to nearly eighty-two percent of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere in 2013 (EPA 2015). Today, that number is probably much higher because as the number of electronics increases, usually the amount of energy needed to power technologies also rises. One of the best solutions that scientists have come up with to help solve the pollution problem is through the use of renewable energy, such as the sun and wind.
Renewable energy has been around long before electricity powered by fossil fuels came about. People of ancient civilizations used wind mills and eventually energy from the sun to power their civilizations. It was not until the eighteen hundreds around the Industrial Revolution time period that people started to use fossil fuels to power their electricity. At the time, people used natural resources such as coal and natural gas to power their machines and means of transportation because it was so abundant and they had not yet realized the harm it was doing to the environment. Today, as most people know, there are several problems with using fossil fuels. One problem is that they are very limited because humans used up so much of them back in the Industrial Revolution days when there was an abundance of them, and because almost everything runs off of electricity powered by fossil fuels in this day in age. The other main downside of using fossil fuels is the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that is causing the atmosphere to thicken.
The increasing amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has caused the layer outside of the earth to become thinner, producing greenhouse gases which are causing an increase in global warming. Global warming is a topic that has been broadcasted all over the world for decades now. Environmentalists have realized that the earth is becoming hotter each year, which has caused several problems all over the world. One major problem is the melting of glaciers, which has made the sea level rise, and continue to rise over the past several years. The reason the earth temperatures are getting warmer is because more and more carbon dioxide is getting trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Heat is supposed to be able to escape into outer space through the atmosphere, which has kept earth much cooler in the past centuries. This problem worsens every year as people do not care to change their ways or because investing in other sources of energy is too expensive. In order to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere, people need to use less energy fueled by fossil fuels. One type of energy that is a solution to this problem is solar energy.
Solar energy had its first major breakthrough back in the later 1800s and has come a long way since then. People are now able to install solar panels on the roofs of their houses and this is supposed to give them about seventy-five percent of the electricity they desire, and it is also supposed to be much better for the earth and its atmosphere (Vaughters 2014). Solar energy is not only better for the environment, but it is also more efficient in terms of cost. In recent years the price of oil, coal, and other natural resources has sky rocketed because of scarcity. With this increase in prices of natural resources, energy companies had to increase their prices as well, which then caused the price of electricity used in homes and buildings to increase. By installing solar panels, people are able to use the amount of electricity they desire without having to pay a fortune every month in their electricity bills. However, the initial installation of solar panels can be very expensive. Typically the cost of installing solar panels to a residential home is around $20,000, but in some states the government will actually pay for half the cost of installing the solar panels, which makes installing them much more affordable. Research has also proven that within three to five years of installing the solar panels, they will pay for themselves because the electricity bills will be cut down to less than half of what they were before the installation of solar panels. Solar energy is not only powering electricity in homes, scientists are also working on solar powered automobiles.
In the past year, Ford has come up with a concept model of the solar powered car. Ford is currently trying to create an everyday car for families to depend on, that also does not emit harmful gases into the air. According to the article “Ford Develops Solar Powered Car for Everyday Use,” this car should be able to constantly gather energy from the sun through a special concentrator that acts as a magnifying glass and from the solar panels on the roof of the car (LeBeau 2014). It is the automakers’ hope that this car will be able to run primarily on solar energy instead of the usual gasoline, or fossil fuels. The solar powered car is still a work in progress, but in the future the automakers hope the car will run without any gasoline or without having to plug into an electrical outlet. At this point the car should be able to run primarily on energy from the sun, but they are also unsure of how many miles the car is able to travel without needing to charge up again. Automobiles are one of the primary sources of pollution, and if automakers are able to create a car that does not need to run on gasoline, the global warming effect should be able to slow down.
Another renewable source of energy that has been around for centuries is wind energy. Wind energy was used in early civilizations, but took a turn in the 1800s to become one of the most widely used renewable energy sources around the world. In the 1800s wind turbines, which are the windmill looking machines attached to a tower that are used to gather the energy from the wind, were used mainly by farmers to pump water to irrigate their crops and to power electricity in homes. Today wind turbines are typically used by electricity companies to provide power to their customers and for pumping water (Renewable Energy World 2015). The turbines that are placed closely together are the ones that are usually used to power electricity in homes because they are more efficient when placed closer to each other than they are when they’re spaced out. Sometimes people will have just one wind turbine, and when this is the case, they are usually only used to pump water. Like solar energy, people use wind energy in order to cut down the costs of electricity; however, the cost of installing a wind turbine is much more than installing solar panels. The average cost for a ten kilowatt wind turbine, which is the size most people need to power their homes, can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $80,000. There are other incentives to installing these wind turbines, such as lower electricity bills and there are also tax incentives depending on where the person lives. Although the cost of installing solar and wind energy is expensive, it is often worth it for the lower electrical bills and for the safety of the environment.
As technology and innovations have increased throughout time, the environment and nature have been severely affected. The readings from Concrete Jungle that were analyzed in class discuss how humans now view “nature” and how nature has been culturally and socially constructed. Nature is no longer just the naturally living plants and animals, nature is now the environment around what humans have built and conquered over the centuries. Over time humans have destroyed much of the beautiful nature and environment that used to be pure and healthy. In today’s age humans have invented different technologies that have not been ideal for the environment in many ways. One of the biggest problems is the pollution problem that the world now has and how it is affecting living organisms, whether they are plants or animals. The big problem with this is that humans are selfish individuals, and as long as humans are not affected in an extremely negative way, they will keep their same habits until they are actually forced to stop or until they are negatively affected. Plants and animals have taken the brunt of the pollution problems and other environmental issues, but people continue their lives as usual. In the book Concrete Jungle the authors mention that people worship the little natural wildlife left in the world, but take it for granted when they realize that they can make a profit off of it, which is another reason why humans are selfish and care less about the environment than they should.
It is safe to say that humans in this day in age are more concerned with themselves than they are about the environment. Most people complain that they simply do not have the time to recycle or take care of the earth in other ways. However, through scientists’ new inventions, people are better able to care for the environment by installing solar panels or wind turbines into their homes. By installing these devices, people do not have to worry about not having enough time to help the environment; instead they can just continue their lives as normal, but positively impact the environment by polluting the air less. Technology has come a long way, especially in recent years, and hopefully in the next few years to come the solar powered automobile and other new technologies will be around and safer alternatives for the environment.
LeBeau, Phil. “Ford Develops Solar Powered Car for Everyday Use.” CNBC. 2 Jan 2014. Web. 26 Apr 2015.
“Overview of Greenhouse Gases.” EPA. 14 Apr 2015. Web. 26 Apr 2015.
“Wind Energy.” Renewable Energy World. 2015. Web. 26 Apr 2015.
Vaughters, Al. “Are solar panels on your roof worth the expense?” WIVB. 24 September 2014. Web. 26 Apr 2015.