Waste Solutions: technological

Section
10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
Page
10.9

In some ways technology is its own greatest enemy. Its very quickness, its shiny cleverness, its neat problem-solution dynamic is irresistible. It has solved, and at least can, ‘solve’, or contribute to, solutions to a whole range of world environment problems, but the larger and more complex problems, such as climate change, become, the less likely it is that technology will ‘save us’, and slavish adherence to its narrow and simplistic path will often condemn us to ignoring wider, more fundamental aspects of a problem. More seriously still, it can make matters worse through unintended and unanticipated side-effects.

It is into this world of technological fixes that Elizabeth Kolbert steps, in her fascinating ‘Under a White Sky’1. She ranges across all types of issues, both waste/pollution issues and non-waste, including:

  • River pollution and flood management (the Chicago River, as per 10.1, and the Mississippi, USA);
  • Threatened species management (desert pupfish species in the American desert of SW USA);
  • Coral reef protection and regeneration from solar bleaching (Great Barrier Reef, Australia);
  • Introduced species management (Cane Toads, Australia, and Carp, USA);
  • Carbon capture and storage (Iceland, see also 8.4, and Greenland);
  • Solar geoengineering to ‘shade’ the earth (hence the book’s title).

Kolbert marvels at both our ingenuity and, sometimes, our idiocy, as she explores the people and the thinking behind these projects, but what is consistent is that they are clever in their own way, but often lacking in perspective and sophistication. The more aware amongst the proponents admit that they are treating symptoms, not deep, driving causes, but say that there simply is not time to bring sweeping societal changes into effect, and so must act now, in ‘emergency’ mode.

Read the book and make up your own mind as to whether the case studies represent hope, or desperation, displacement, and delusion. Sadly, I mostly see the latter three, but I am not a technological person and live at its margins, unskilled in its language and mostly unresponsive to its charms.

 

1 Kolbert, E. Under a White Sky. Bodley Head, London, UK.

Explore Other Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation

10.1 Introduction

Elizabeth Kolbert’s absorbing ‘Under a White Sky’1 (see 10.9) begins with a boat trip down the much-abused Chicago River in the USA. ‘Down’ doesn’t have much meaning here; just what is ‘upstream’, or ‘downstream’ on this poor river is a...

10.2 Pollution: Status and Context

“Industrialization, use of pesticides and nitrogen-based fertilizers, crop residues in agriculture, urbanization, forest fires, desert dust, and inadequate waste management have intensified environmental health risks and pollution, especially in l...

10.3 Greenhouse Gas Pollution and Climate Change

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is unequivocal in its identification of the tight and close relationship between anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and global warming; and from this spins forth a whole r...

10.4 Climate Change and Fire

In Section 7 and elsewhere in T10 I have talked about fire and its profound impact upon the natural world (e.g. see 7.6). The use of fire deliberately and directly to clear or alter habitat has been discussed, as well as its egregious use as a too...

10.5 Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation

Previously in T10 I have discussed solutions to the various problems thrown up in each section at the end of that section, but as climate change is being treated in Section 10 as a special case, with webpages 10.3 and 10.4 devoted to it, I thought...

10.6 Solid Waste: domestic

Moving from gaseous wastes/pollution, to solid wastes, I covered in webpage 6.7 the television program ‘War on Waste’ and commended it for covering this important, but ‘unsexy’, topic in an interesting and engaging way for the general public; it w...

10.7 Solid Waste: oceanic

This strange odyssey certainly has some of the rambling eccentricities of the more famous ‘Moby Dick’, but the similarities end there as this is a modern tale of plastics pollution in the ocean and one man’s quest to find the story behind thousand...

10.8 The Human Dimension

‘Waste’, ‘rubbish’, ‘trash’, are, sometimes literally, the ‘shitty’ side of the shiny consumption dream, the grubby end of the capitalist process that no one wants to recognise. Similarly, we don’t want to know the people who have to deal with our...

10.9 Waste Solutions: technological

In some ways technology is its own greatest enemy. Its very quickness, its shiny cleverness, its neat problem-solution dynamic is irresistible. It has solved, and at least can, ‘solve’, or contribute to, solutions to a whole range of world environ...

10.10 Solutions: other

Feeling a little flat about all things environment, the other week I was lucky enough to visit a nearby seaside town, Robe, and call in on Brad and Narelle at their little ‘factory’ out the back of town, called Transmutation. It has to be said tha...

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1. Build the Nature-Human Relationship 1.1 Articles 1.2 Art Installations 1.3 Books 1.4 Buildings 1.5 Film, Documentaries, Podcasts 1.6 Music 1.7 Paintings 1.8 Photographs 1.9 Poems 1.10 Spiritual Responses
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10. Reduce Wastes to the Rate of Natural Assimilation
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