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Environmental Studies: Green Technology Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Apr 27th, 2020

Green Movement

The Green Movement can be summed up as a political ideology whose main goal is the creation of an ecologically sustainable society where conservation and sustainability are everyday practices rather than isolated rarities in an increasingly consumerist global population. The main concept that drives the Green Movement is the idea that the finite resources available on Earth cannot hope to support the potentially infinite expansion of humanity1.

It is a belief that states that the Earth itself is a closed off ecosystem with no resources entering into it, as such its surface can only support a certain population of species, both human and animal alike, before the ecosystem inevitably collapses in on itself as a result of a severe strain on the planet’s natural and ecological resources2.

It is this exponential proliferation and the resulting unmitigated consumption of natural resources and the pollution that it creates that the Green Movement is trying to fight against through the use of environmentalism, social liberalism and various kinds of grassroots democracy. On the other hand it must be noted that skeptics of the Green Movement have continuously stated that the various assumptions made by the movement itself have all been grossly exaggerated.

For example, the case of global climate change over the past decade has been attributed by the Green movement to the rapid proliferation of fossil fuel burning power plants and cars which has in effect raised global temperatures as a result of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Skeptics on the other hand state that such an assumption is inherently fallacious in that it has been shown by various studies that the oceans and the rapid proliferation of algae have in effect enabled the absorption of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. The increased heat they state is all due the solar cycle of our sun which goes through periods of dormant and active states wherein the current increase in temperature is actually due to the sun entering its active state.

Furthermore such pundits have created the argument that an increased population should not be considered a bad thing since it encourages economic growth and technological development.

Based on this it can be seen that both arguments presented by both sides are can be boiled down to one indicating the potential doom of the Earth through the overconsumption of resources and the rapid population growth while the other argument states that the current state of society is indicative of a trend towards unparalleled growth and development previously unseen in other ages of humanity. It must be noted that while both arguments do present valid cases the ideas presented by the Green movement are not without merit.

It is due to these facts that various organizations that are part of the Green Movement have campaigned for the use of green technologies such as renewable energy resources, the creation of caps on carbon emissions and the use of environmentally sustainable corporate practices in order to ensure that an apocalyptic future for the Earth can be averted.

In fact events in 2008 showed that there was a large consensus within Washington that truly wanted to advocate a bill implementing a cap and trade program on carbon emissions with both Barack Obama and John McCain campaigning on platforms that advocated the use of Green technologies3.

Going Green

The term “green” means that utilization of technologies, ideals or concepts that put environmental stewardship at the forefront of one’s actions. In other words it is an attempt at modifying one’s behavior towards a more environmentally “friendly” course of action. The means pursuing strategies involving the utilization of recyclable material, conserving resources rather than wasting them through negligent use, and finally advocating the pursuit of methods of environmental stewardship both in technologies used and in social action.

In a way going “green” can be described as a form of ethos, the concept of ethos can be described as a form of guiding beliefs that are an inherent part of a community or nation’s character. It is used as guide that influences a person’s behavior to such an extent that by examining the ethos behind a culture you can determine how they will react based on a given situation.

It is based on this that it can be assumed that going “green” is an ideology that one attempts to follow due to it possessing characteristics that are appealing to a person’s inherent character and set of ideals. What must be understood is that in terms of defining “what is green” science has actually taken a back seat to defining what is “green” and what isn’t in lieu of popular culture influencing the attitudes of various individuals.

In fact going “green” has become a part of modern day popular culture to such an extent that term “green” has become ubiquitous with so many items and processes that it is hard to determine what is “green” and what isn’t. For example, various stores sell vegetables that the deem as being “green” due to the fact that they were grown utilizing only natural fertilizers yet in order to grow them an entire forest was clear cut in order to make way for farming land.

It is due to this integration with modern day popular culture that the definition of “green” has given way to the concept of “green washing” wherein the terminology has been used by companies to indicate actions that are supposedly environmentally conservative but in fact aren’t in essence.

When examining the compatibility of definitions of “green” technologies with non-green technologies it can be seen that technologies within the same category are often labeled for the exact same purpose yet “green” technologies are supposedly more environmentally friendly.

It is due to circumstances such as this that term of “green washing” comes to mind once again wherein due to the inherently similar definitions company’s sometimes state their products as being green when in fact there is little about them that is “green” in the first place.

Green Speak

“Green speak” is a method utilized by the Green movement in which they attempt to convince people of the righteousness of their cause through the portrayal of a grim future for humanity wherein farmlands have turned into deserts, fresh water is nonexistent, the climate is hellish and natural disasters abound as a result of the ill advised nature of the voracious human exploitation of the planet’s resources. They point to the fact that as the population of humanity grows so too does the strain the human species places on the planet.

This strain can be seen in the increased consumption of water which has drained underground water reservoirs, formerly lush plains turned into arid deserts and the very sky itself filled with CO2 gases as a result of humanity’s rampant consumption of fossil fuel based products and resources. Based on this it can be seen that green speak is not addressed to one particular social or ethnic group but rather to society as a whole.

This is due to the fact that each member of society through their inherent actions contribute to either preserving nature or ensuring its degradation. This can be seen in either the proliferation of wasteful habits among the general population or the spread of ideas related to environmental conservation, environmental stewardship and greater awareness for the various nuances that need to be accomplished in order to ensure that the environment continues to remain viable for future generations.

In a way green speak attempts to both inform and control people due to the way in which it is phrased. It informs people through the use of statistical and scientific data regarding the current environmental challenges occurring on Earth yet it also seeks to control through the aggressive portrayal of possible futures where environmental degradation has in effect made the Earth unlivable for the human species.

Hydro Solar Technology

When examining the various arguments of the green movement one cannot help but see numerous references towards the use of green technologies with renewable energy resources usually at the forefront of the debate. Renewable energy technologies are methods of energy production that utilize naturally replenishable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal heat and tides.

Unlike fossil fuel based methods of energy production renewable energy technologies are nonpolluting and are a source of potentially limitless energy since they are not dependent on a finite source of power. One type of renewable energy technology that is currently gaining both commercial and private interests is the use of hydro solar technology to power homes and cars.

A typical solar hydrogen system consists of solar panels attached to the top of the home to collect energy, an electrolyzer (a device which is roughly the size of a washing machine used to break down water into its component parts namely hydrogen and oxygen), storage tanks to contain the extracted hydrogen gas and finally a Plug Power fuel cell stack (a device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to create electricity and water).

The system works by harvesting solar energy from the sun, using it to separate water in the eletrolyzer, storing the separated hydrogen gas into containers and finally combine hydrogen and oxygen back together to create a reaction which produces electricity and water at the same time. Such a system is self-sustainable with a semi-regular input of water from outside water resources thus making it a long term viable solution for domestic households to be independent from utilizing fossil fuels.

Not only that a hydrogen refueling kit can be utilized in order to make privately owned vehicles use hydrogen rather than fossil fuels as its main energy source. Utilizing this type of technology is not only cleaner for the environment but over the course of a lifetime more affordable since it enables consumers to enjoy a virtually unlimited source of energy for their needs.

Hydro Solar Technology as an Ideological Replacement

An examination of hydro solar technology reveals that while the technology itself is feasible it does have certain drawbacks. For one thing an average setup can range from $50,000 to $100,000 depending on the size of the home. With domestic households spending an average of $1,500 per year on electricity it would take 50 years or so for some households to effectively gain any savings from the amount put into the installed system.

Another factor to consider is that stored hydrogen gas, while safe within containers, is still highly flammable. If the containers were ever ruptured the resulting explosion can and will turn the house and anyone in it into flaming cinders.

In fact other adaptations of hydro solar technology in the form of hydrogen cell powered cars seem feasible at first glance but currently there are no realistic methods for actually adopting the technology for commercial use since gas stations don’t provide hydrogen power cells and if a hydrogen powered car should run out of power anywhere it would be effectively stuck.

Various online articles and documentaries have cited the use of solar hydrogen as part of the “new wave” of green technologies yet based on the facts presented it can be seen that the technology itself is more or less an ideological rather than a practical replacement for traditional non-green technology based methods of power and fuel.

Can the Technology be Adopted by Everyone?

The prior installation of such a system in a home would drive up the price significantly and as such would be cost prohibitive to a large majority of families. In fact based on the earlier estimate regarding potential savings it wouldn’t be practical, affordable or even convenient since it would take 50 years for the technology to pay for itself.

Traditional methods of fuel and power generation such as petroleum and fossil fuel burning power plants are comparatively far more convenient, affordable and practical when compared to this particular type of green technology.

To whom is the Technology Aimed At?

An examination of the adoption of hydro solar technology for a particular group shows that it is aimed at the middle class, namely various homeowners living in suburbs close to the city. The reason behind this particular population group being selected is due to the fact that middle class homeowners are perceived to be the group most likely to utilize this particular form of technology since it supposedly saves them money in the long run due to expenditures in relation to electricity costs.

For example, small solar hyrdogen systems for average domestic home use can produce capacities ranging from 25 to 40 kWh per day with a percentage of the produced power going into stored battery generators or the production of hydrogen for storage. Such systems can thus produce 90,000 to 144,000 kilojoules of power. Based off current domestic consumption estimates of 17 to 31 kWh per day the energy production capacity is more than sufficient to meet the needs of an average domestic household.

Examination of Forces

Nicholas Carr in his article, “IT doesn’t matter”, which examines the use of technologies and their implications on society states that technologies and their widespread use only become cheaper once they reach their build out completion. The term “build out completion” refers to a point in technological development wherein a type of technology has already reached commercial viability and can be effectively replicated and mass produced.

Carr explains that so long as certain forms of technology have not reached a point of build out completion they will most likely never be adopted due to their prohibitive costs and the uncertainty attached to the technology itself.

This is reflected in the fact that when examining the case of economically well off countries such as Australia (90% of its energy production is reliant on fossil fuels) they still prefer to use fossil fuel energy resources as a means of energy production due to that fact that this form of technology has already reached its build out completion and is thus economically viable.

The view of Carr is supported by the concept of diffusion as defined by Everrett Rogers in which he states “the concept of diffusion is defined as a process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among members of a social system”4.

When combined with the ideas of Carr a new concept emerges where it can be seen that the adoption of certain ideas regarding particular technologies and concepts can only occur over time and that their implementation in society cannot fully occur till the technology or concept itself reaches its build out completion and removes uncertainties attached to it.

Taking this line of thought even further it can be surmised that with the nature of communication being a process of convergence and divergence the possibility of convergent or divergent thoughts regarding a particular technology or concept can and will occur. Thus this explains the current situation wherein two separate viewpoints have occurred both for and against green technologies with the potential for a particular technology or concept reaching its build out completion being the main focus of the argument.

Barriers to Implementation

The main issue with hydro solar technology is that as of yet it is an unreliable form of main energy generation for a city. There are three reasons behind this: hydro solar technologies from a commercial energy standpoint are as of yet an unproven method of reliable energy production, the means by which hydro solar energy is produced requires a high initial startup cost and finally in terms of overall reliability fossil fuel powers plants from all standpoints seem to be far more economically viable5.

Thus it can be seen that the main barrier in the adoption of this particular technology is from an economic standpoint due to the high costs of construction and lack of public belief in its reliability. Commercially speaking when comparing fossil fuel burning power plants to other methods of renewable energy production most energy producers would choose to construct a fossil fuel burning plant rather than a renewable energy production site6.

The reasoning behind this is simple, fossil fuel power plants simply require less space and produce more power compared to solar or wind generated energy sources. In order to prove this point the example of Egypt and its attempt at utilizing renewable energy resources should prove to be an adequate example. In its attempt to expand into the renewable energy industry in order to supply an energy starved populace with more electricity Egypt introduced both solar and wind energy into its electricity producing infrastructure7.

The result was the wind turbine installations in the Red Sea produced only 230 MW while the solar energy array only produced 30 MW8. When taking into consideration the fact that Egypt requires 36GW within the next 10 years in order to keep up with demand indicates that renewable energy technologies at the present currently do not have the needed capacity to keep up with an ever increasing demand for electricity9.

Consequences of Adoption

The problem with the approach towards hydro solar technologies for large scale or even domestic household energy consumption is that the initial setup cost is far too large compared to other viable sources of energy production. While governments may say that they think that the use of renewable energy is a goal that they must reach the fact remains that harsh economic realities still force them to use traditional or cost effective methods of energy production.

As mentioned earlier, harsh economic realities are among one of the current prohibitive factors influencing the decisions of governments and companies alike from adopting green technologies. Various studies examining the aftereffects of the recent financial crisis reveal that corporations are more interested in economic survival rather than adopting costly methods of environmentally sustainable practices10.

Conclusion

Based on what has been presented in this paper it can be seen that going “green” is being portrayed as a necessity by the Green Movement yet based on the current economic cost of going “green” through the use of renewable energy technologies such as hydro solar it can be seen that it is economically infeasible to actually be done by the average person.

While it is true that society should pursue methods of environmental conservation it cannot actually do so if the methods proposed are beyond the means of ordinary citizens. As such it can be concluded that environmental stewardship can only be pursued such as the use of renewable energy technologies only if the costs are within a reasonable level.

References

“Egypt embraces the age of renewables.”2008. Middle East no. 386: 44-45. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.

Huesemann, Michael H. 2003. “Recognizing the LIMITS of Environmental Science and Technology.” Environmental Science & Technology 37, no. 13: 259A-261A. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost.

Kirby, Jason, and Colin Campbell. 2009. “WHY THE RECESSION IS HERE TO STAY.” Maclean’s 122, no. 39: 36-39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.

KLYZA, CHRISTOPHER McGRORY, and DAVID SOUSA. 2010. “Beyond Gridlock: Green Drift in American Environmental Policymaking.” Political Science Quarterly 125, no. 3: 443-463. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.

Rogers, Everett.2003.”Diffusion of Innovations.” Free Press, no 5: 1 – 38.

Zhongxiao, Zhu, and Zou Chengxiao. 2010. “On the Issue of “Green Expression” of Environmental and Social Technology.” Asian Social Science 6, no. 9: 34-38. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.

Footnotes

  1. Zhongxiao, Zhu, and Zou Chengxiao. 2010. “On the Issue of “Green Expression” of Environmental and Social Technology.” Asian Social Science 6, no. 9: 34-38. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.
  2. Ibid
  3. KLYZA, CHRISTOPHER McGRORY, and DAVID SOUSA. 2010. “Beyond Gridlock: Green Drift in American Environmental Policymaking.” Political Science Quarterly 125, no. 3: 443-463. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.
  4. Rogers, Everett.2003.”Diffusion of Innovations.” Free Press, no 5: 1 – 38
  5. Huesemann, Michael H. 2003. “Recognizing the LIMITS of Environmental Science and Technology.” Environmental Science & Technology 37, no. 13: 259A-261A. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.
  6. Ibid
  7. 2008. “Egypt embraces the age of renewables.” Middle East no. 386: 44-45. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.
  8. Ibid
  9. Ibid
  10. Kirby, Jason, and Colin Campbell. 2009. “WHY THE RECESSION IS HERE TO STAY.” Maclean’s 122, no. 39: 36-39. Academic Search Complete, EBSCO host.
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