Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Will Technology Save Us from Air Pollution?

According to my computer's built-in dictionary, technology can be defined as "the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry". Of course, depending on your view of Angry Birds, social networking, memes and other "technologies" that seem to waste so much of our time, the argument can be made that we don't really care if our technology is practical anymore.

But speaking of technology, what more practical use of it could be found than the improvement of human health? Or the saving (or extending) of human life? For these reasons, we've long looked to science or technology to save us from ourselves.

In the context of preventing or improving air pollution, technology is a mixed bag. Some really smart people are doing some amazing things to help with pollution. Check out Tesla's video on how their Model X uses Bioweapon Defense Mode (how's that for a name?) to lower the air pollution inside the cabin:
But for every one of these success stories on technology solving problems, there's one or more stories of how it caused that problem in the first place. Few would argue that the automobile was a technological improvement over the bicycle, but does that it make a car better than a bicycle? Not if you consider the environmental angle; automobiles continue to be one of the biggest offenders when it comes to air pollution sources.

As another example, NASA and the Republic of Korea's National Institute of Environmental Research are making use of aircraft, satellites, ships and ground stations to monitor air quality across South Korea. An impressive use of technology, to be sure, but all of that technology is produced by industry. And, rightly or wrongly, what is industry famous for? Air pollution!

Am I saying that we shouldn't use technology in the fight against air pollution? No. Camfil APC uses all kinds of cool technology to make it easy to reduce pollution and keep employees safe in the workplace. But technology isn't a good substitute for human integrity. Until we as a society perform the mental shift needed to quit putting short-term goals ahead of long-term gains, technology will be of limited use.

We all have to do something if we don't want skies like this to be a thing of the past.

So let's not expect technology to make up for our poor environmental choices. Let's make smart short-term choices, like walking or riding a bike instead of using our cars for short trips. In short, let's do something about helping the environment, instead of waiting for technology to save us.