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.
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.
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.
Welcome to The Technological Citizen! This blog is meant to promote awareness, reflection, and dialogue about ethical issues in modern technology. The discussions are ongoing, so please feel free to share your views on these topics in the comments sections of each post, regardless of when it was posted. Thanks for stopping by!