s415.c06.fa10 - SOCIOLOGY 415 Technology and Society...

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Unformatted text preview: SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa , Fall 2010 Textbook: Volti, Rudi. 2009. Society and Technological Change. 6t h edition. Worth Publishers Inc. REVIEW, PT. III: HOW TECHNOLOGY AFFECTS THE HEALT H OF THE EARTH AND ITS INHABITANTS. CHAPTER 6: TECHNOLOGY, ENERGY, AN D THE ENVIRONMENT (97-117) The most obvious and long-lasting consequence of tech nological advance — the alteration and destruction of the natural environment. There is a strong possibility that environmental problems will worsen as more nations make greater use of indus trial technologies. Today, the U.S. (with less than 5% of world’s population) consumes about 25% of the world’s resources. And by 2030, China, India, and other developing countries will acco unt for an 85% increase in worldwide demand for energy, according to the U.S. Dept. of En ergy. The deleterious consequences of technological advance can be grouped into two broad ca tegories: DEPLETION POLLUTION (Harmful Substances) loss of resources polluted skies deforestation acid rain extinction of plant species contaminated water extinction of animal species climate change (97) Read: “greenhouse effect” (99-100). Effectively addressing climate change will require development and application of new technologies — and technological fixes usually need complement ary political actions if they are to be effective (101). Wherever it occurs, deforestation contributes to the extinction of plant and animal species through the destruction of their natural habitats. Also , deforestation can contribute to global warming when carbon stored in wood is released into t he atmosphere as the trees are burned and, depending on how farmers/ranchers manage the land after is has been cleared, the soil itself can become a large source of carbon emissions (1 01). portion of which is hazardous. Industrial societies generate massive amounts of refuse, a significant p Restoring contaminated sites is expensive. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cleaning up existing and yet-to-be-disco vered hazardous waste sites may cost as much as $280 billion over a 35-year period (102). Fossil fuels — essential to process of industrialization since at least the middle of the 19th C. Petroleum-based fuels — basis of world’s transportation systems. The amount of oil that can be economically extracted from a known reservoir depend s on prevailing market prices as well as on the technologies available (102). Page 1 of 2 SOCIOLOGY 415: Technology and Society University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Fall 2010 Another vital resource is the earth’s topsoil. Between 24 and 75 billion tons of soil are being lost annually around the world. New land is unavailable; erosion and land degradation are removing about 1% of existing arable land annually. Severe loss of topsoil has converted some regions into deserts, resulting in widespread famine. And the continual growth of the world’s population calls for the production of more food (102). These environmental ills pose multiple threats to our standard of living, and perhaps, even to our continued existence: Reliance on fossil fuels .....Leaves atmosphere contaminated by various pollutants. Agricultural pesticides .......Have poisoned groundwater and depleted topsoil. Industrial processes ..........Produce thousands of tons of toxic wastes. Nuclear power plants ........Leave radioactive waste — potential health hazards for 1000s of years. (103) Read: Some Technological Fixes of the Past (103-105). Beginning in the 1950s, nuclear energy was thought to be the next stage in the evolution of energy sources, but it is far from certain as many problems still attend its widespread use (105). Nuclear wastes present serious disposal problems that will only intensify with expansion of nuclear power. If global production of nuclear energy went from current annual output of 350,000 megawatts to one million megawatts, resultant waste material would fill a disposal facility the size of Yucca Mountain in only 3½ years. Alternatively, nuclear plants could use a “close cycle” process through which nuclear wastes are recycled into nuclear fuel — but this entails additional costs. More ominously, it results in production of large quantities of plutonium that could be the basis of a nuclear weapon if only a small amount fell into the hands of terrorists or hostile states (106). Solar energy — large source of potential energy. Solar power will likely become more significant as technologies improve while conventional sources become increasingly costly (106). (Source: Anti-Nuclear Alliance of Western Australia) Wind power — use will increase as more efficient turbines are developed and the costs of carbon-based sources steadily rise. The most efficient wind turbines can produce electricity for 4 to 7 cents per kilowatt-hour — a price competitive with conventional power plants (107). Many other sources of energy might become significant as reserves of fossil fuels are depleted and their environmental consequences become intolerable but, for the immediate future, none can rival petroleum as a relatively cheap and convenience source of energy (107). Much of the expansion of production (and consumption) that has taken place since the Industrial Revolution has come through the development of technologies dependent on external sources of energy. Instead of substituting one source of pollution for another, a better course of action is to try to reduce pollution by cutting back on energy use. New technologies along with better management of heating, lighting, and ventilation systems have reduced energy costs by billions of dollars. Example: Today’s refrigerators use only 25% of energy used by 1974 models (108). Even greater savings follow when fuel consumption of private vehicles is reduced. It is likely that new automotive technologies will be able to at least partially compensate for diminished fuel supplies (109-111). Read: Economic Systems, Government Policies, and the Environment (111-114). Page 2 of 2 ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/15/2010 for the course SOC 415 taught by Professor Swift,d during the Fall '08 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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