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Some of the global environmental changes include local extinction of species associated with natural ecosystem change, degradation of groundwater resources, health impacts of changing disease patterns, forest cover change. Technology has impacted the environment in various ways over the last few centuries. According to Brauch et al (2009), there are two opposite scientific standpoints that exist when it comes to views on environmental issues. This paper discusses in detail the different views the technological pessimists and optimists have of the global environmental change and gives examples to support the technology-optimism school of thought.
The optimists believe that human progress, increase in knowledge, and breakthrough in science and technology can cope with those challenges. Technology has greatly improved human daily and continues to do so in the future. They argue that the human systems are basically different from other natural systems because of human intelligence. They claim that Malthus’ dire predictions about population pressures have not yet happened and the late 1970s energy crisis is behind us.
The current problems in the society, according to the optimists, are energy, pollution, resource which limit the growth. These paradigms suggest that the abovementioned problems could be reduced as they appear by use of deployment of modern technology and intelligent development.
The view of the pessimists are opposing to the optimists’ thoughts. They believe that the Earth has a limited carrying capacity to feed the growing population. They are worried about the impact the modern technology has on humanity and believes that it caused more problems. It means that more advanced technology is going to bring up new problems because it inevitably leads to unforeseen consequences and threats. They assume that the technology will be unable to outwit the fundamental energy and that economic development will stop. Mostly, it has been the ecologists and other scientists that have taken this stand as they conduct researches on natural systems which invariably stop growing when reaching resource constraints. If an ecosystem keeps a stable level we can call it healthy. According to this view, unlimited growth is not healthy; it is cancerous (Brauch, 2009).
The recent debates on genetically modified foods are an excellent example of technology changes. Whereas these foods’ main advantage is that they multiply faster than the indigenous foods, they cause many dangers to the environment. For instance, in 1989 dozens of Americans died and 1500 more were disabled by a genetically modified version of a food supplement known as L-tryptophan after it was released without safety tests (Batallion, 2009).
The recent earthquake in Japan caused enormous numbers of deaths. After the quake, infrared emissions emitted from one of the leading explosion that lasted for some few days from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in early March may have been twice large than the previous estimates, meaning the problem was graver than previously estimated (NY Times, 2011). This shows how the human knowledge may not be enough to save curb technological effects in future, which will potentially cause disaster.
The technological pessimists argue that most natural systems (including humans themselves) also possess intelligence that means they can develop new organisms and behaviors. Hence, humans are not apart from nature; they are a part of it. As long as humans have been able to overcome the local artificial constraints of resource in the previous years, does not signify that they can outwit the basic ones that they will face. Malthus’ predictions, as pessimists would argue, have not yet come to pass for the whole world, but currently many countries of the world are already trapped in the Malthusian predictions, and more parts of the worldare likely to get subject to it. Based on the large uncertainty that exists about the long-term impacts of the population and growth of resource use on global sustainability accompanied by the enormous cost of guessing wrong, people should at least tentatively assume the worst.