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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 42

Technology and Environment

MARY TILES

The “Inconvenient Truth”1 we face in the twenty-first century is that our reliance on fossil fuel technologies for the previous two centuries has had an impact on our global environment. Combustion of fossil fuels has increased the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere to the point at which the occurrence of global warming has had to be acknowledged even by determined skeptics in the White House. The publicity given to this issue, and the politicization of the science surrounding it, means that it has come to frame many discussions of the relationships between technology and the environment. In the mid-twentieth century, during the period of the Cold War, the hazards of nuclear technology and of the widespread use of insecticides (such as DDT) in agriculture occupied similar roles. In the nineteenth century it was the transformation and degradation of landscapes by steam-powered industrial technology, as reflected in, for example, the work of William Blake (“England’s dark satanic mills”), that framed the context of debate.

These are the contexts of environmental politics, of the clash of values between enthusiasts viewing technological development as an essential indicator of human progress and detractors who have seen technology as a vehicle of domination over both the natural environment and large sectors of humanity. When the terms “technology” and “environment” are juxtaposed in such contexts there is a tendency ...

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