Category: Technology and The Environment

Ethics and Electronic Waste, Part 1

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Want to play a game, and take little a trip down memory lane? Grab a piece of paper, or start a running tally in your head: we’re going to go through all the electronic devices you’ve owned in your lifetime.  Ready? Here goes:

Take a moment and think all the way back to the first cell phone you ever had –perhaps chuckle as you recall how the clunky device compares to the sleek, multitasking gadget you have now– and go through all the cellular phones you’ve had since then. Count them up — how many have there been in total?  Is it 3? 5? 7?  More? Take note.

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Ethics and Electronic Recycling Part 2

Throwing IpodsIt’s pretty easy to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality about old electronics, especially because we live in an age preoccupied with constant updates and upgrades.  Sleeker, faster models of our favorite electronics emerge each month (an average of 16 new types of cell phones come on the market each month) — and for many, it can be hard to be left in the 20th century dark ages with technological gadgets that don’t perform the newest and slickest tricks. But in a flurry to buy new electronic items, we often forget about what happens to the old ones.  We embrace these new gadgets, say out with the old and in with the new, but in the process we often fail to give proper attention to all the old items we leave behind.

Santa Clara University Recycling Intern Kaelin Holland works at Santa Clara University to promote awareness about this issue — and to encourage people to recycle the items they no longer have use for, including electronics.  In her post below, she discusses the global e-waste epidemic and the moral problems it presents, and then she outlines some ways to make sure we stop it.  She also identifies the best places in Santa Clara and beyond to recycle all of your old electronics.  Make sure to check it out the next time you’re in the market for an upgrade.

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“Natural Happiness” By Paul Bloom

There is something primal about our need for nature — for time in the out doors, for sunshine, for fresh air.  Psychologist Paul Bloom writes, “Our hunger for the natural is everywhere…People like to be close to oceans, mountains, and trees.  Even in the most urban environments, it is reflected in real estate prices: if you want a view of the trees of Central Park, it’ll cost you.  Office buildings have atriums and plants; we give flowers to the sick and the beloved and return home to watch Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel…And many of us seek to escape our manufactured environments whenever we can — to hike, camp, canoe, or hunt.”

Yet on the heels of a study that just came out last week saying that teenagers spend up to 7.5 hours per day on digital devices — up an hour from the previous year — one wonders what is happening to our individual relationships to the natural world as a result of technology.  My previous post explored some of the broad ethical relationships between technology, human behavior, and the environment; today, I’m featuring an article which raises an important and related question: Is nature important to our happiness?  And if so, then why do we spend so much time attached to our technologies, and detached from nature?

In his article “Natural Happiness,” for The New York Times Magazine’s Green Issue, Paul Bloom, a psychologist from Yale University, asks us to ask ourselves these questions.  Read Bloom’s article, ahead.

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Do We Need New Ethics To Handle Modern Technology?

Black earthModern technology

Owes Ecology

An Apology.

-Alan Eddison

Each year, we lose over 38 million acres of rainforest as a result of deforestation; rainforests used to cover 14% of the earths surface; now, they cover less than 6%, and are depleting more each year. Our 800 million+ cars in the world emit carbon emissions at such a high level that they erode the atmosphere and are contributing to drastic changes in our weather patterns.  The trash we have discarded – including, of course, man-made non-biodegradable plastics– accumulate in landfills throughout the world and leach toxic chemicals into the land and water, greatly affecting the survival of animal and plant life.

And in a pursuit to feed the ever-growing world population, agricultural biotechnologists are altering the genetic make-up of food and plants, splicing the genes from fish into the genes of tomatoes, for example, to increase the amount that we can grow and the “nutrient content” they possess —  a type of species cross-breeding that has heretofor never occurred, and never would occur, naturally in nature.

Thinking about modern technologies of the past 100 years, one can’t help but see how they have radically transformed our planet.  The cars we drive, the massive amounts of waste we discard, the agricultural techniques we employ, among many other examples: each has led environmental aftereffects such as climate change and depletion of natural resources that have altered the biosphere in which we live in very significant ways.

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Using Technology to Build Greener Homes by Preet Anand

Earth RecycleWhat does it mean to be green?

Just ask Team California, a group of undergraduate students from Santa Clara University and California College of the Arts who were recently awarded 3rd place in The Solar Decathlon competition in Washington D.C. for their tremendous achievements in building a sustainable, solar-powered, energy-efficient home. Today’s post is written by Santa Clara student and Team California member Preet Anand, who has been working on this project along with his team for over 20 months.  In it, Preet describes the technologies utilized in the award-winning Refract House, the experience of competing in The Solar Decathlon, and the message driving Team California’s success: Green living doesn’t have to be a compromise.  Preet’s post, ahead.

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Technology and The Environment: What Is Our Ethical Obligation To Nature?

1035588_nature_buttons_11Global climate change, sustainable energy, being “green.” These are terms we hear everyday – but what do they mean, and why are they important? 

Historically, ethical frameworks have rarely considered our moral obligations to “nature”– the planet was too vast and seemingly unalterable to be considered in our decision-making. Concerns for destroying the food chain, changing the climate patterns, or poisoning soil that would affect people for thousands of years to come were simply not considered because the planet seemed impervious to mankind’s actions. 

But technology has changed everything. From nuclear power to genetic engineering to global warming, humans now have the ability to Read more »

Welcome To The Technological Citizen!


The Technological Citizen is a forum to explore and exchange ideas about the issues that arise from modern technologies. A wide variety of topics will be explored, including the ethics of cognitive enhancement, genetic testing, and biotechnologies, as well as the way in which technology impacts our relationship with other people, the environment, and ourselves.

Postings will fall under five basic categories:

Technology and Society
Technology and The Environment
Ethical Issues in Health and Biotechnology
The Future of Technology

If you are interested in seeing all the posts on one particular topic, please click on that topic heading under “Categories”.

Thanks for checking out the blog! I look forward to hearing your ideas about these topics.

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