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Techno-Optimism in a Sustainable World

April 22, 2013

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Techno-optimism in modern society is not only unwarranted based on the ability of new technology to improve our lives, but it has also proven to be harmful in the long term due to the law of unintended consequences. Indeed, Michael Huesemann insists that most new technology is never designed with long-term solutions in mind. Instead, they are “techno-fixes,” whose main goal is to patch a broken ecological system, increase a corporation’s short term profits, or fulfill the gluttonous needs of a consumer society. Huesemann surveys technology across society from labor savers that waste time to medicine that doesn’t heal to food that spreads hunger. I find much technology nowadays is heavily consumerized, the latter of which extends out to include the internet. I feel that Huesemann destroys the myth that science is the answer. When looking at ever major discipline within the science world today, each has a political or economic motivation outside of the obvious benefits: physics is aimed largely at enabling more advanced weaponry, chemistry serves the likes of agricultural mongols, and biology is mostly in thrall to big pharmaceutical companies. Just look at who funds the research. Then look at what they do with it.

Techno-fixes seem to be our answer for environmental sustainability but “environmental” sustainability is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the true meaning of sustainability. Far from being merely a social “ideal” left over from the 1960s’
back to nature movement, the authors demonstrate that sustainability has a profound and unifying, interdisciplinary scientific basis. Perhaps that is why over 70 institutions of
higher learning now have curriculums in “Sustainability Studies.” Sally, Goerner states that long term social and economic vitality come from…the same laws nature uses to create sustainable vitality in living organisms and natural ecosystems.  I feel it is relatively easy to translate from this general approach to sustainability to one’s particular lifestyle. This seems like a much easier and systematic approach to the problem of sustainability that could result in long term progress.

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