Answer is clear. Depends on how it is used! Let’s discuss the issue on the axis of sustainable technology.
It is the technology created the Anthropocene Age, let humans ‘destroy’ the planet, triggered climate crisis, fire up global warming, floods, wildfires, droughts, etc.
Since the industrial age, for more than 150+ years, production models and technology hand in hand has fattened, consuming various sources loutishly, giving harm to the planet; environment, the animals and for sure the humans in the context of justice, equality, humane life, democracy, gender equality…
But, it is also the technology, increased average human lifespan, created the ‘civilized’ life, opened distant horizons for humankind. But maybe above all, it is the technology which can now solve the tragic problems that it has caused.
Today, as for the healthy future, sustainable technology can play a major role in creating some concrete solutions.
AI to fight against wildfires!
Data is critical to manage climate change effects. AI (artificial intelligence) can be a robust tool as a sustainable technology, for the fights against wildfires.
Cal Fire, for example, has started rolling out a Wildfire Analyst Enterprise tool that analyzes weather conditions, moisture content of ground vegetation, satellite images, and more data. Wildfire Analyst Enterprise utilizes machine learning techniques that compare current fires against historical fire behaviors to predict where a fire might be headed and when it is likely to arrive. The tool also allows officials to create simulations based on potential changes in conditions or incident responses and assess risks based on future weather conditions.
According to Cal Fire, wildfires in California have burned more than 3.8 million acres in 2021 alone, leading to many firefighting efforts in the state. New models supported by AI can facilitate the management of new fires.
A plant capturing CO2 from the air!
Another technology implemented in Iceland gives hope for managing carbon emissions. The world’s biggest direct air capture (DAC) plant named ‘Orca’ has now begin to facilitate in Iceland. It is named after the Icelandic word ‘orka’ meaning ‘energy.’ The Orca plant is located about 30 kilometers southeast of the capital of Reykjavík and uses large industrial vacuums to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
A Swiss startup called Climeworks is behind the effort and claims that at its full capacity, the plant can remove 4,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere, powered by hydrothermal energy. This is equal to the removal of 870 cars. Not sufficient yet but at least a beginning.
The machine has big fans that draw air through filters. Those filters collect CO2, and once they’re full, they are heated up to release the gas. It is collected, mixed with water, and then injected 1000 meters below the surface of the Earth into basalt rock, where it is harmlessly mineralized.
It is, at the moment, so costly and expensive. Also needs to be scaled up dramatically to make a solid impact. But, again the technology can overcome this challenge. Canadian company Carbon Engineering is building a facility in Scotland that will capture between 500,000 and 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. We’ll see more initiatives like this in the coming period.
Urine as a fuel?
This is one of the endpoint applications made with the support of technology: Pee Power!
This technology uses organic material found in urine as a fuel to generate electricity. The waste water is channelled through a series of microbial fuel cells to create enough electricity to power lighting outside the toilet block and, via motion sensors, inside its cubicles.
Further trials are now being considered at sites with different geographies, climates and populations to rigorously test the robustness and impact, as well as the limitations of the technology.
A list of locations across sub-Saharan Africa, India and Nepal, Nairobi, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Sierra Leone and South Africa are already considered in scope to execute this technology.
Buildings that breathe like trees?
Large panels attached to buildings suck in unfiltered and polluted air from the street. The algae capture the CO2 and other pollutants and releases photosynthesized oxygen back into the street or the building interior.
The company claims that two square meters of PhotoSynthetica panels can absorb as much CO2 as a mature tree.
Silent wind turbines without blades?
Spanish startup Vortex Bladeless has come up with a turbine design that harnesses wind energy without needing moving blades.
The company’s 3m tall bladeless turbine is fixed vertically into the ground with an elastic rod. It’s designed to oscillate or sway within the wind range and generate electricity from the vibration.
The main benefit of these bladeless turbines is in their potential to be used in urban or residential areas as it has a space advantage than the traditional wind farms.
The noise the turbine creates is at a frequency virtually undetectable to humans. So, it’s unlikely to disrupt those living or working nearby.
Sustainable technology is giving hope!
Sustainable technology is one of the important tools we have in hand against the fight towards climate related problems and environmental issues.
On the top of that, it can play a great role on creating much fair models for humans via the support it will provide in terms of access to information and valuable platforms such as financial inclusion, qualified education, etc.
The critical issue here is the fact that technology is just a tool; an enabler. People cannot delegate or escape from their responsibilities for all these issues.
Let’s go back to the first question. Is technology evil or angel?
I personally choose to depend on technology as an angel on sustainability issues…