Technology and the Environment– how Technology can Help our Planet

Technology and the Environment– how Technology can Help our Planet

Phrases such as sustainable practices and environment-friendly are being used extensively these days.  This is being driven by the fact that Earthis undergoing rapid changes that areboth influenced by and posing a threat to the way welive. Today, it is more important than ever for the world to join forces in ways both big and small to do something about this, and we are not merely talking of the threat of plastic here.

While erosion of our environment is attributed to developments in technology, it is undeniable that technology also offers multiple solutions to address it[1]for the sake of our future generations.

The question, of course is, how and why technology?

Let us start by looking at the why first – technology has the bandwidth to identify, measure and evaluate the different resources that our planet provides us with and create a platform from where we can optimize the use of theses resources. Case in point: usage of renewable sources of fuel and energy to mitigate the threat of the depleting fossil fuels at hand[2].

How technology can help: Well, that is a much larger story.

We have innovative ideas coming in from all over, with some even becoming industry-grade. Innovations are driving plastic made from captured carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases, bioplastics made from food waste and so much more in the offing. Big names across industries,such as PepsiCo and Sealed Air,are already working on compostable PHA-based bags and Plantic, a blend of plastic-based resin and post-consumer plastic[3].Philips is focussing on reducing waste by using digital technologies to study their product lifecycle[4]. Innovative technologies are coming into play with Internet of Things (IoT)-embedded systems that can effectively manage waste in a city, without the need for constant human intervention[5]. Even for global warming-led climate changes, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are being leveraged to find solutions.

Researchers are finding different avenues such as solar geoengineering, CO2 removal and energy production for the prediction of extreme climatic catastrophes. ML algorithms assist governments equip themselves with better climate policies and contingency plans, which could also percolate down further into the ability to reverse some of the side effects of these changes[6]. Environmental scientists are using GPS to track the changes in wildlife in an effort to mitigate the threats to their existence. Livestock biometrics and robotic farming have reached the testing phase in laboratories while drones are already remotely sensing monitoring the environment to enforce environment protection laws and to protect ecologically sensitive areas[7],[8].  Crowdsourcing is also being utilized as an ideal public-engaging tool to allow citizens to create maps and analyse forest trends, thus spreading the message via social media.

The solution to a myriad environmental issue lies at the cusp of digital expertise and sustainable practices. To a very large extent, a lot of work is already underway; Industry 4.0 has ensured that digital improvements are being made at the heart of organizations to commit to sustainable practices[9]. Not just organizations, entire countries are also going every step of the way to find sustainable solutions. Norway-based hydropower group is finding use in AI and the cloud to prepare the country for the changing energy conditions[10]. World governments are also focussing on electric vehicles, while organizations are also doing their bit to optimize their raw material usage and processes using tech such as Internet of Things (IoT) and AI. We are surrounded by news every single day about how natural systems around the globe are failing. Despite the fact that several bits and pieces of technology are now being deployed to create a more sustainable ecosystem, and companies and individuals are striving to do their bit toward the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 17), it becomes crucial that we have a sustained and consistent overall approach and commitment to saving the environment[11]. That can happen only when there is a symbiotic relationship between technology and its users, both individually and collectively, one that is built on ethics and responsibility as it is focused on saving our planet.