The trend in technological evolution since the dawn of industrial capitalism indicates that faith in a technological solution to our pending ecological crises is at best dangerously naive. Generally, technological “quick fixes” that promise to resolve ecological issues while allowing unchecked economic “growth” to continue demonstrate a poor comprehension of ecological systems. While it might yield fewer carbon emissions at the point of production than coal, the use of radioactive materials to generate electricity involves the careful regulation of an extremely dangerous reaction that creates biologically hazardous byproducts with extremely long environmental persistence. This is why one of the first things that we need to recognize is that the ecological crises facing humanity at the dawn of the 21st century go well beyond climate change. We are also facing, inter alia, severe shortages in viable freshwater, the loss of much of the planet’s biodiversity, and continued poverty and social injustice. In many of these crises, technology is clearly not the issue. Our current production technologies allow us to produce more than enough food to feed every person on the planet, yet in 2008 nearly 1 billion people went hungry. Similarly, many technologies, if implemented immediately, would allow us to at least ameliorate some of the pending impacts of global climate change. Instead, private power industries continue to invest in oil and coal, i.e. Carbon-based power. In human systems, technology itself is largely a neutral factor; the issue is how the technology is being employed and by whom. By participating in activities like Green Week, students created an atmosphere where issues like this could be raised, and reminded us that it is the people, and not an elite cadre of engineers and the inventors, who will ultimately build a sustainable society.

Brian Napoletano

Graduate student

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