Technological advancement reduces waste


The Daily Illini File Photo

Students work on the fourth floor of Grainger Engineering Library late at night on Feb. 20. Columnist Skylar looks to a future in which our technological advancements will surpass our environmental destruction.

By Skylar Bouchard, Columnist

On Friday, students and locals alike gathered on the Main Quad to participate in the climate strike, carrying signs reading bleak messages such as “We’re all going to die.” 

These sentiments don’t seem out of place as nearly all of the recent news surrounding climate change has been extremely discouraging. As the U.N. warns we may only have 12 years to cut our fossil fuel emissions, the president continues to weaken environmental regulations and diminish the power of the EPA. This kind of news regarding environmental issues can make it feel that no matter what pollution and climate change will continue to get worse and worse until nothing can be done about it.

However, there is some good news presented in the concept of dematerialization, stating as society continues to advance, the world becomes more and more environmentally efficient. 

It may feel as though capitalism and the large emphasis put on economic growth makes it impossible to deal with environmental issues, but recent information has shown businesses may become more efficient due to economic influence. Even businesses that are completely indifferent about environmental issues will have an incentive to use fewer resources due to their need to cut costs. This is what could help society become more efficient in its use of natural resources.

Recent technological advancements have made it possible for economies to grow while also lessening the amount of resources they consume. This can be seen in a consumer product such as the smartphone. This singular device has reduced the amount of things people must buy by replacing things like alarm clocks, CD’s, phone lines and newspapers. The production of all of these things contributed to some environmental damage and resource depletion that has been eliminated. 

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This concept seems to already be presenting itself in the developed world. The United States’ total energy use relative to economic growth has been steadily declining. And due to technological advancements, underdeveloped countries can grow with less harm to the planet than in the past. New technology has made it possible for future economic growth to be far less damaging.

Sadly, dematerialization’s effect on the environment will be far too slow to have any major impact on climate change. A lot of conscious effort will have to be put into decreasing carbon emissions, and even then it is likely people will face some of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.  

No matter how bleak the news regarding climate change may be, the future of this planet is not set in stone. This is why it’s important to continue to fight to lessen the impact we have on the environment as it is not too late for anything to be done.

Skylar is a sophomore in LAS.

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