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Can Technology Deliver Global Sustainability?

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Christine Kil

on 14 February 2014

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Transcript of Can Technology Deliver Global Sustainability?

Can Technology Deliver Global Sustainability?
Christine Kil
Table of Contents
1. Background
2. Technology supporters
3. Technology critics
4. Yes: wind turbine development in China and India as an example
5. No: mini-hybrid off-grid systems in South Africa
The ultimate result: the attempted renewable energy system was not sustainable. Off-grid renewable energy was determined to not meet South Africa’s MDG standards for poverty reduction.
The nontechnical components of creating a sustainable system were overlooked, resulting in a lack of trust between the community, government, and technology developers.
The system was too complex, leading to a mismatch between the human and natural systems.
The technology required skills and equipment understanding that was not available in the traditional social structure of this developing nation. This type of renewable energy systems are still very new to rural areas.
The technological interventions did not fit within the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.

South Africa’s model for assessing the sustainability of technological innovations includes a life cycle perspective, reducing complexity of systems to clearly address cause and effect, and evaluations of the feasibility of new technologies within enough time, finances, and institutions.
The South African National Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) held a renewable energy project in the rural Lucingweni Village to test off-grid renewable energy models.

No by Brent and Rogers

India and China house several of the top 10 leading wind turbine manufacturing companies in the world.
India has supported wind energy since the 1990s and the Ministry for Non-Conventional Energy sources (MNES) exclusively focuses on renewable energy.
Early policies in wind include the National Guidelines for Clearance of Wind Power Projects from 1995, but currently policies encourage local wind turbine manufacturing.
In China, the “Ride the Wind Program” in 1997 encouraged wind turbine manufacturing and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) has provided subsidies in wind energy R&D.
Bottom line: both countries have a long way to go in implementing wind energy to the rest of their land but have great potential.

Energy technology leapfrogging: a strategy for developing countries to skip traditional fossil fuels and develop advanced, clean technologies for energy.
This is overly optimistic as most developing nations would find it difficult to implement the complex objectives of alternative energy sources.

Yes by Lewis

Much of the focus on technological innovations tends to be on the technology itself instead of on its positive effects.
: GM of crops increases their yield, requires less pesticides and herbicides, and makes them able to grow in brackish water.
: Produced from renewable energy sources such as wastes and agriculture, biofuels can replace fossil fuels to reduce pollution, are energy efficient, and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.
Green chemistry
: Green chemistry and engineering researchers are working to develop alternative energy sources, create solvent-free chemicals, and use renewable raw materials.
Life cycle changes
: nanotechnology and sustainable materials management can create industrial production processes that track products from origin to expiry.

Technology supporters

Techno-optimists: Green technology should be present in social, economic, ecological, and political policy using existing economic models.
Supporters of technological solutions such as hybrid/alternative fuel vehicles, genetically modified (GM) crops, geo-engineering, and de-salinization technology.
Created certification programs such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program as incentives for sustainable architecture.
Techno-skeptics: Local networks should govern natural resource commons.
Tend to be cautious in technological innovation.
Believe that technology erodes human values and causes materialism and misery.
Advocate for personal lifestyle changes away from materialism to ecological sustainability and organic farming.

Background Info

“Basic Information: Why Is Sustainable Technology Risk Management Research Important?” United States Environmental Protection Agency. <http://www.epa.gov/nrmrl/std/basic.html>
"Climate Outlook." Centre for Environment, Technology, and Development Malaysia (CETDEM). <http://www.cetdem.org.my/climate_change/climatenews.html>
Taylor, Robert W. Taking Sides: Clashing Views in Sustainability. New York: McGraw Hill Companies, 2014. Print.
The Right to Water: Politics, governance, and social struggles
. Ed. Farhana Sultana and Alex Loftus. New York: Earthscan, 2012. Print.
Tom Fishburne Marketoonist. <tomfishburne.com>
Vergragt, Philip J. “How Technology Could Contribute to a Sustainable World.”
GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition
. Boston: Tellus Institute, 2006.


Technology cause unethical issues in health, privacy, democratic involvement, and social and cultural changes.
Transcendentalists, such as Henry David Thoreau, have warned of the “increasing materialism, complexity, and misery” that has increased since the Industrial Revolution.
Technology used wrong by overzealous companies in developed nations can encroach on natural resources, such as disrupting the flow of water by building structures like dams.
Advocates for ecologically focused, local community efforts without excessive use of modern technology state that a collective “ethic of solidarity” will encourage conservation and lessen wasteful behavior.

Technology critics

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