Can technology bring about environmental stewardship?

This week in our class we have been reading about and discussing contemporary environmental concerns.  Many years ago when I was vacationing in Hawaii, they were working on passing a bill about plastic bags.  When they showed photos and video from the dump, all you could see was a large amount of plastic bags that were whipping around in the wind, many blowing out and possibly ending up in the ocean.  They have since passed bills banning against stores using and giving out plastic bags.  Has this made a difference?

 

When I was on Vancouver Island a couple of weeks ago, one of our instructors talked about picking up trash on the beaches and that sometimes the garbage had Japanese writing on it, this plastic has travelled all the way across the ocean, in salt water and sun, and still has not broken down.  The STAP report (2011) reports, “Because of their buoyancy and durability, plastic items can travel substantial distances. Plastics from cargo lost from ships have, for example, been reported over a decade later more than 10,000 km from the point of loss” (p. 7).

One lab we did made a huge impact with me, it was about Sea Birds and Plastics.  We learned about certain kinds of birds, and recorded data about what was found in their stomachs when they were found dead on the beaches in the area.  There was so much plastic in some of those birds stomachs!  The birds see it shining in the water and think it is plankton and so eat it, filling their stomachs, but giving them no nutrition, eventually killing them.  Prior to going on our trip I had watched this video: Plastic swallowed by Albatrosses in the Pacific Ocean – Hawaii: Message in the Wave.  It came across on my facebook page.  Being a huge bird fan, I was outraged and the visuals have stuck with me since.

 

Can we begin to use social media, and other technology to make others more aware of environmental concerns in the world?  What is the best way to utilize our networks and work towards a better world?  Global issues can be passed around the world in seconds and minutes, photos, video, writing so quickly.  Can technology help to move the world to a more sustainable future?  I think awareness is the first step, and utilizing technology can easily spread this.

 

References:

 

BBCEarth (10/29/2009). Plastic swallowed by albatrosses in the Pacific ocean – Hawaii – Message in the Waves.  Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yom6zlm5VqE

 

Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel. (2011). Marine Debris as a Global Environmental Problem.  Retrieved from: http://www.thegef.org/gef/sites/thegef.org/files/publication/STAP%20MarineDebris%20-%20website.pdf

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One Response to Can technology bring about environmental stewardship?

  1. Your notion of using strong visual images and video through social media to move people to action is a good one. I also think another powerful way to force change is to hit people in the pocketbook. If stores were taxed (as in a carbon tax) for passing out plastic bags would that make a difference?
    “A carbon tax puts a monetary price on the real costs imposed on our economy, our communities and our planet by greenhouse gas emissions and the global warming they cause. A shift by households, businesses and industry to cleaner technologies increases the demand for energy-efficient products and helps spur innovation and investment in green solutions.” If every aspect of our daily life was subject to a tax of this kind, would that force the biggest change in our behaviour?
    What about a fee for recycling? Should we all pay a substantial recycling fee up front when we purchase any electronics as well as other recyclable materials? Perhaps in assessing charges for the way we live, we are admitting that our actions have “real costs.” Otherwise it’s too easy to pass the buck.

    Carbon tax or cap-and-trade? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/climate-change/science/climate-solutions/carbon-tax-or-cap-and-trade/

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