Are environmental problems best solved through technology or living simpler lives?

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Some people believe that development in technology leads to environmental problems, and that environmental protection can only be achieved through everyone living simpler lives. Others believe that it is technology that will solve these environmental issues.
Discuss both views and give your own opinion.

No creature has wantonly damaged the environment more in a single century than mankind did in the 20th. The mass use of inventions such as the automobile, the aeroplane, refrigeration, advanced weaponry and the electric grid left a footprint upon the Earth that many see as irreversible. The paradox, however, is that whilst simplifying lives will help humans reduce their negative effects on the world, the genie is out of the bottle and it is probably technology – used intelligently rather than destructively – that will be the greatest tool in reestablishing equilibrium.

A return to simplicity is still worth considering: a reduction in consumption and the advocacy of environmentalism are already taking effect in some quarters, and there can be no doubt that lessening the hedonistic and selfish use of natural resources would reduce the stress and scarring upon the planet. However, with the global population continuing to rise, financial clout spreading wider than a few superpowers, and people’s continued reliance on energy, ‘less is more’ alone cannot be a reliable backbone to improving conditions.

It therefore makes sense to consider technology as a potential solution. The obvious first step is to readdress how this field is used, replacing previous selfish attitudes of convenience and environmental dominance with more progressive and constructive ideas. Efforts at minimal energy use are already happening – the electric car, waterless toilets, and efficient agriculture practices – but the required step may be to utilise technology to cure the ills already inflicted. Tentative solutions are being tried, such as animal re-introduction and beginning to clean ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, and more will be needed.

In conclusion, accepting the potential of technology may be mankind’s best option in tackling the threat human life causes to the environment. It is not saying ‘you got us into this mess; you get us out’, but rather accepting the reality that, when used in a noble manner, the scope for innovation remains huge. Directing this power at solving environmental problems, rather than creating more, could be a viable route out of the current predicament.