I really enjoyed Gary Smith’s lecture this week: “Hardware and Software Development in the Modern Age.” Some of the products of the future he showed us seemed a little farfetched but I wouldn’t put it past today’s inventors to create such innovative products. I completely agree that technology has crossed a huge amount of boundaries and has invaded the worlds of many disciplines and truly, that’s one of the things I love about technology today.
When he discussed the materials that go into creating the technology we use on a daily basis, it truly peaked my interest. I’ve always had a slight interest in making products that were healthier for the earth as well as more efficient and healthy power supplies. His lecture gave me a much better understanding of what truly goes into making these products and it worries me that we use such rare minerals in stuff we throw away every two years or less. Our upgrading society is living an extremely unsustainable lifestyle. Which leads me to these questions; 1) What happens when we run out of the fuel to power the huge processing strength our technology has today? 2) What will happen when we run out of the minerals to even create these products? As much as I enjoy having a better understanding of the continuously wasteful practices of the world’s industry, it makes me extremely uncomfortable thinking about the health of our world decades from now. Just driving today, I could see the nasty yellow smog looming in the sky. After this lecture I feel a little overwhelmed because “saving the Earth” goes so much further than recycling a few bottles here and there. I don’t know where to focus. I already knew about the emissions from factories and vehicles. I already knew about the chemicals we’re releasing into a world that can’t use it and now I know about the minerals we are continuously taking from an emptying source.
I would love to hear more about the minerals that go into our products and what today’s creators are doing to minimize the rare materials we have to use. I’ve heard about “graphing” where they use graphite to power low powered technology but what about a larger scale? Is there something akin to windmills and solar power when it comes to the TV’s and cell phones we’re constantly buying as a society?
That’s another issue too that I have a huge problem with: a continuously upgrading society. For example, I just upgraded my cell phone at my two year contract mark and have done so since I first got a cell phone. I couldn’t tell you where all of my old ones have gone but I can tell you they probably weren’t recycled or disposed of properly. Now, phone companies have just introduced no contract – upgrade whenever you want plans to the public and who’s to say that the average lifespan of an everyday smart phone won’t shrink to one year or even a few months if you have the money? I think the general public should have a better understanding of their products lest they continue adding to the waste of the world.
Most of what Dr. Schultz said I already knew of. I myself worry that the choices we make as a species risks the existence of our descendants. When he spoke about Tobacco companies in particular, this subject hits me hard. My parents themselves are long time smokers. I know that they are bad for a person and are extremely dangerous to one’s lifespan. He spoke about how these huge tobacco corporations paid money to convince their customers that their tobacco products have nothing to do with cancer. However, from my occasional research, I have found that tobacco products can not only be a direct cause to diseases like Lung Cancer, Throat Cancer and Oral Cancer but it can also raise a person’s risk to any type of cancer. Now I love my parents, and I’m sure anyone who is related to a smoker loves their relatives too. I’ve told my parents this and have tried to get them to quit but in order to be successful, not only do I have to defeat the addiction that comes with lots of these products but I must reverse all of the beliefs produced by the Tobacco campaigns.
He also mentioned the new ordinance in Los Angeles that banned plastic bags from being distributed at grocery stores. This was due to the 500 mile object in the ocean created out of shredded plastic from these shopping bags. Another thing he mentioned was the chemical Chlorine and the damage it’s doing on our Ozone. It reminded me of a piece called “The Creation of Waste” by Paul Hawken. It discusses the disastrous consequences of wasteful nations. One part in particular though discusses Chlorine more in depth. Schultz discusses the damage we’re doing to ourselves and this is a wonderful example of that. Chlorine does damage on an individual level as well. Chlorine is a man-made chemical that cannot be recycled and instead combines with other chemicals to create poisons that can lead to tumors in animals that exist in the wild. In a similar fashion, we absorb this chemical much like the wild animals but instead we show no symptoms until it is too late. This then has led to people being sterile/infertile but can also lead to more serious problems like babies having serious health issues. This makes me particularly angry because even though I’m only twenty and have no plans to have children in the near future, I’d like to be able to have kids, and healthy ones for that matter. To add fuel to the flames, big corporations feed off of these fears by releasing things like electric cars or eco-friendly items, at a higher charge of course because they know they and their affiliates are losing money on the back end if their customers are saving money. While this gets rid of consumers creating as much waste, these companies still create massive amounts of waste with their machinery and chemicals even though they are making these “eco-friendly” products.
When he spoke of ancient civilizations, it also brought to mind the chapter “Waste Equals Food” in Cradle to Cradle by William McDonoungh. Schultz mentioned how ancient civilization’s tools are very different from today’s. Easy enough to understand but when you truly think about it, the things they made were very different and reacted in a more positive way toward our ecosystem. Those objects were bio-degradable but often than not, our man-made products create true waste. Our ecosystem cannot reuse this waste and instead this waste takes up space in our environment. We are simultaneously growing as a population while we consistently shrink our environment. I found Schultz lecture extremely relevant and I hope to hear more about it and ways to improve these issues.