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Is Technology Killing Us?

climate change

How We are Damaging The Earth by Trying to Save Ourselves

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we have until 2040 to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees celsius until there’s no turning back. If we don’t, there can be severe consequences such as droughts or massive floods. These consequences will cause the yield of crops to diminish — thus leading to famine. This is a reality we must all face.

Twenty-one years might seem like plenty of time, but the truth is that it’s nearly around the corner. This leaves us with two options. Either we focus all of our time in developing technology, such as space travel or climate change prevention, or focus on resuscitating our dying planet by addressing environmental concerns.

Space Exploration

With the climate changing faster and faster, we have a tough decision to make. Do we reach for the stars or do we put that on hold? Of course it’s becoming seemingly more possible to travel across planets with the rise of technology. We have things today that at the start of the 21st century didn’t even seem imaginable. For instance, we have smartphones that make the entire world accessible by just looking at our phones.

Advancements in technology of course brings a gleam of hope, but that still leaves us with one question. Will we be able to complete a voyage to another planet in twenty-one years? If we aim to travel to a planet near us, it does seem increasingly possible.

For example, SpaceX has plans to make Mars habitable by reconstructing its atmosphere by melting polar caps, which have frozen carbon dioxide trapped in them. But is this even possible?

According to NASA, the release of CO2 would construct an atmosphere; however, there is not enough CO2 to completely terraform Mars. NASA also said that the technology that would be needed to completely terraform Mars is still aways away.

NASA’s skeptivism raises a lot of questions, including: How confident our we that our technology will advance at a fast enough rate? Even if we do manage to make it to another planet, we still have a wait time. For instance, if we do manage to terraform Mars, it will still take a significant amount of time for the planet to produce enough plants to sustain life. In the meantime, we still have to face the fact that our home planet is dying.

The Cost

Even with the possibility that we can complete this feat, there are concerns. For example, we still have to take into account all the greenhouse gases and chemicals that can destroy our ozone. It’s unknown how much greenhouse gases and chemicals are released into the atmosphere after each launch and return of a rocket that would go to Mars.

What scientists do know is that debris, soot, and alumina alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere and cause it to deplete. According to Martin Ross, a senior project engineer for civil and commercial launch projects at The Aerospace Corporation, soot in the atmosphere absorbs sunlight, causing the atmosphere to heat up and change the chemical reaction rate. This change causes the atmosphere to deplete.

However, this reaction is just part of the equation. We need to account for production. For instance, rockets are made of aluminum or titanium because they are both lightweight and resistant to the heat. According to Greener-Industry.org, production of 1 metric ton of aluminum can produce 1.5 metric tons of carbon emission. One of NASA’s rockets was approximately 130 metric tons. Just the production of the rocket itself will contribute 195 metric tons of carbon emission.

NASA has already four planned rocket launches for this year. Calculations show that this will produce 780 metric tons of carbon emission from just the production of the rockets. This type of carbon output further contributes to climate change.

So we have to ask ourselves, is finding another home through space exploration worth the risk of killing our planet at a faster rate?

Technology As a Whole

Space exploration is just one piece of the puzzle. Industry is constantly developing technology, some of which addresses climate change. For example, Tesla is at the forefront of the automobile industry’s move towards green energy.

However, technology uses power. In order to run everything from our spaceships to our flashlights we need power. Even in the process of creating technologies that provide green energy, like solar panels, we use power.

Where does this power overwhelmingly come from? It is from electricity produced with coal. Coal currently contributes to 65% of our total carbon admission according to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA). This means that in order to develop technology designed to either reverse or stop further damage, we will have to first damage the ozone and thus contribute more to climate change. So we have to ask ourselves, is developing better technology in order to combat climate change worth the risk?

The Alternative

The other option is to focus directly on protecting the environment. This means taking drastic measures to revive our planet. Even if that means putting on hold on our venture through space. Tom Crowther, a climate change ecologist at Swiss University ETH Zurich, states that the earth has room for 1.2 trillion trees. He also states that planting these trees has a greater effect on removing our carbon emissions then any other climate change plan.

Plans like Crowther’s mean we can start to reverse the effects of climate change. However, we can’t stop there. After we plant these trees, we will have to start living “green” lives. For instance, we will have to come up with alternate solutions to producing aluminum. Our attempt to reduce carbon emission has to rely on production of electric cars and our reduction of gas usage. Further, according to Crowther, we will have to stop cutting down 15 billion trees every year. This might seem like a lot to change but it’s the price we have to pay if we plan on being here any longer.

The Trade Out

I’ll be the first to say that I want to be a colonist on our first planetary leap. However, I don’t want to leave behind a planet that is dying with all my family and friends slowly meeting their own demise on it. This is why I’m advocating for the revival of the environment.

However, there’s still changes to be made before we can even start. According to Planetary.org, the USA is currently allocating 21.5 billion dollars to NASA. Where as the EPA, according to The Washington Post, is only getting a mere 6.2 billion. This is a significant difference. If we were to flip these numbers that would be 15.3 billion more dollars going to the efforts of preventing climate change and protecting of our national forests.

Climate change will be an important factor in the upcoming election. If we don’t push for change in the environment and continue to fund money to NASA at this rate, it could be our doom.

Conclusion

Is it worth advancing our technology at the sacrifice of our planet? Or is the planet our top priority? These questions is something we all must ask ourselves moving forward. If we choose technology, we need to keep in mind we might be sacrificing our planet. If we choose the planet, we need to keep in mind we might be sacrificing our technology. Whichever we do choose, we just need to make sure we don’t get caught with our pants down.

Original story from Medium