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Impact of Technology on the Environment

Ever since the beginning of time, humans have tried to adapt to their environment. Controlling nature is an almost impossible task to perform, so humans began relying on technology to achieve their goals. Technology can maintain the well-being of humans, but at the same time, have negative side effects. Humans who created technology may end up being controlled by it. Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist, discusses the negative effects of petrochemicals on humans in her essay, “War”. Her essay also discusses how the period of war led to the country having a war mindset. Gregory Stock, a scientist who researches the potential of genetics, discusses the use of germinal choice technology to better the future generations, in his essay, “The Enhanced, and the Unenhanced”. Stock also mentions that GCT is inevitable and that we must prepare for it. David Abram, an anthropologist, discusses the role of magicians and how they are important for connecting humans with their surroundings. Abrams idea of a magician is not the same as the one understood in Western culture, in which the magician performs tricks and illusions. He says that a magician plays an important role in the ecological function by connecting the human world and the “more-than-human” world that we live in. Abram’s essay, “The Ecology of Magic”, focuses on the definition of magic and that every living, and non-living, thing in the world is a form that can experience interactions with other forms. These three authors seem to talk about totally different topics, but they share one point. An over dependence on technology has lead to a negative impact on the relationship between humans and the environment.

Technology is taken for granted most of the time, which can lead to a change in the way we interact with the environment and a change within ourselves. Steingraber wants to bring to our attention the fact that many chemicals were released without being tested thoroughly after World War II. Steingraber argues that many of these petrochemicals were known or possible carcinogens, and that is a direct relationship with the rise in cancer rates. Steingraber says, “Thus, many carcinogenic environmental contaminants likely remain unidentified, unmonitored, and unregulated. Too often this of basic information is paraphrased as “there is a lack of evidence of harm,” which in turn translated as “the chemical is harmless” (608). This shows that humans’ dependence on technology has led to a negative effect on both their health and their environment. Humans trusted technology so much that they did not think of testing it as being important. Stock is an example of these types of humans. Stock believes that GCT is inevitable and that it is coming whether we want it or not. Stock does not give much thought as to the negative effects of GCT, just as long as it is released to the public. Stock says, “The coming choices will force us to confront our attitudes about what constitutes as a meaningful life, our responsibilities to others, our prejudices, and what we mean when we say that all potential lives are equal and deserve protection” (635). This supports the thesis in which, technology has changed how humans interact with one another and with their environment. Here, Stock is saying that the choice to use GCT or not will define us as human beings or not and it will change the way we look at our environment and how we value it. Abram’s essay is based on this point. Humans’ interacting with other multiple intelligences is his sort of definition of magic. Abrams believes in the idea of multiple intelligences in which every form can experience another form. Therefore, this is related to the point Steingraber is trying to make in which we do not value nature as highly as we used to when we did not have technology. Abram says, “We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human” (17). This ties up the point that technology has changed the way humans interact with their environment. An over-dependence on technology has led to a change in the way people treat living, non-living things and their environment.

Stock feels that GCT is a representation of the true human, instead of a danger to the human within, while Steingraber thinks that we will cause ourselves more harm with the production of petrochemicals. Stock does not look at nature and technology as two different things, but that humans are a part of the natural world. Stock says, “That humans are a part of the natural world, as are the technologies we create. Furthermore, Stock feels that the development of germinal choice technology is “the ultimate expression and realization of our humanity” rather than a threat to what is “human within us” (Stock 630). The important idea here is that Stock believes that GCT is what humans are all about and it is something we must do. The irony of improving human lives lies in the fact that modernization often produces unintended negative consequences, or as Steingraber calls them, petrochemicals. As said by Steingraber, whenever we make synthetic molecules to solve one problem, they create another. Steingraber said, “Thus, synthetic organics easily interact with the various naturally occurring biochemicals that constitute our anatomy and participate in the various physiological processes that keep us alive. By design, petroleum-derived pesticides have the power to kill because they chemically interfere with one or another of these processes” (Steingraber 601). Basically, what Steingraber is saying in this quote is that the petrochemicals we make to solve our problems easily interact with the biochemicals in our body and have negative effects on us. Steingraber believes that our attempts to move forward are actually bringing us back. Abram expresses this same idea but through a different example. Abram believes that our dependence on technology has made us less connected with the natural world, and therefore we cannot truly experience all forms of life. Abram says, “As humans, we are well acquainted with the needs and capacities of the human body—we live our own bodies and so know, from within, the possibilities of our form” (10). In this quote we can see that Abram points out one of the reasons we depend on technology as we do today. We know our possibilities yet we want to go beyond them and explore our surroundings. We use technology to break the barrier between our goals and our limits. This usage of technology has made us less dependent on nature, and more curious about the unknown.

The irony of improving human lives lies in the fact that modernization often produces unintended negative consequences. Steingraber gives an example of an attempt to better human lives, but ended with negative consequences, that affected her personally and affected the country for years to come. DDT, or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, which at first had no use, was first used to halt a typhus epidemic in Naples. The effectiveness of DDT on the insect carriers of the disease led to the approval of the U.S. government to use DDT for civilian use. Steingraber says “It is one thing to fumigate war refugees falling ill from insect-borne epidemics and quite another to douse the food supply of an entire nation not at risk for such diseases” (Steingraber 603). This demonstrates the over-dependence on technology and how it can lead to negative effects. The DDT chemical easily attached to organs with high fat content and caused a rise in cancer rates. This is synonymous with Stocks use of germinal choice technology to alter any little imperfection we have. Stock not only wants to use GCT for curing diseases but also to alter any unwanted physical attribute. Stock says “Safety aside, though, why shouldn’t we try to give our future children the talents we did not have or eliminate deficiencies that held us back? If we could make our baby smarter, more attractive, a better athlete or musician, or keep him or her from being overweight, why wouldn’t we?” (Stock 639-640). This shows the new human attitude toward nature, in which, we use technology to change what we do not like. Stock makes it seem like it is normal, or it is inevitable, that you can choose how your future child will come out. Abram does not approve of this because it leads to a disconnection between humans and nature. Abram and Steingraber both believe that we do not have to use technology for everything, because there is always a natural alternative. For example, Steingraber mentions that plastic used to be derived from plants rather than petroleum. Also for example, instead of taking pills for a headache, one could sleep it off.

In conclusion, an over-dependence on technology has lead to a negative impact on the relationship between humans and the environment. Sandra Steingraber, Gregory Stock, and David Abram discuss totally different topics but they all have one major common point. Steingraber discusses the way we use technology for a good use, but end up with negative effects. She also talks about how technology has changed the way we value nature. Stock talks about the inevitability of advanced technology to change our physical appearance, but at the same time, this technology will widen the gap between human beings themselves and the environment. Stock does not see technology and nature as two separate things but that humans are a part of the natural world. Abram shows that relying on technology has severed our connection to the natural world and to the many forms that inhabit it. Also Abram discusses the theory of multiple intelligences in which every form can experience another form, which is something that the West lacks and the East thrives in. They show that technology can change us just as we used it to change our surroundings.