How to Use Technology to Solve Environmental Problems

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Ironically, technology can often solve the environmental problems caused by technology. During the last 100 years, the Earth's surface temperature has risen 1.2 to 1.4 degrees, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This increase coincides with the surge in human activity and industrialization. Many environmental problems are complex, requiring equally complex solutions. As technology made the lives of humans better, so can it improve the environment and air it impacted.

Things You'll Need

  • Baseline data
  • Test kits for soil and water
  • Identify the environmental problem. The first step in developing a solution is to define the problem that needs to be solved. Identification is necessary to understand the impacts of the problems and the facets that need to be addressed.

  • Find the source of the problem. To harness the power of technology, identification of what is causing the problem is necessary. Testing of water and soil can identify pollutants and help pinpoint a source. Armed with this information, the course of solving the problem can be determined.

  • Collect baseline data. Baseline data is necessary to determine if progress is being made on environmental problems. Data can include surveys and inventories of plant and animals species, water and soil chemistry analysis, and local statistical data on human health effects.

  • Replace old technology with new. Many abandoned mines sealed in the 1930s used simple seals that did not prevent water flow from the mine, thus allowing acidic mine drainage (AMD) into the environment. Newer technology involving use of bulkhead seals prevents AMD.

  • Examine current methods for possible alternatives. Scientists are developing bio-pesticides to replace synthetic ones. These pesticides use naturally-occurring substances and micro-organisms to control pests rather than toxic chemicals that can pollute the environment.

  • Use the cause of the environmental problem to solve another. Agricultural runoff including animal waste is a major contributor to water pollution according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, those same cows affecting water sources have shown potential as a source of energy as demonstrated by the Central Vermont Public Service.

  • Develop cleaners to install on smokestacks to lessen the effects of fossil-burning energy plants. Emissions from fossil fuels have been identified as sources of environmental problems such as acid rain. Installation of scrubbers significantly reduces the amount of sulfur emissions.

  • Use biochemical reactors for large-scale pollution clean up such as abandoned mines, which will remove toxic heavy metals and neutralize acidic waters. EPA scientists have reported success with demonstration projects that are also cost effective.

  • Prevent pollution from creating environmental problems. In cases of non-point source pollution (NSP) when a clear source cannot be defined, construction of barriers or filters can prevent contamination of soil or water resources.

Tips & Warnings

  • To ensure success with any solution, always get the input of all stakeholders.
  • Continually monitor the affected area to measure progress and possibly tweak a solution, if necessary.
  • Never proceed without identifying the source. Without knowing the source, an environmental problem will always remain a problem.

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